As I walked up the steps to the Walter Reade theater, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of triumph, my first day back on campus. Everyone was there! In line, tired, clutching cheap coffee and festival badges. Some people got haircuts. Even the grumps were buzzing, happy to finally have some place to be.
There were days where I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be able to sit with loved ones and share these first-time viewings in real time, and others when the combination of quarantine cabin fever and less-than-stellar runs of films made it seem like everything would be mediocre. A privilege and, 32 movies, shorts, and episodes later, a pile-up.
If there was any tangible loss in a virtual Sundance, it wasn’t the loss of celebrity sightings and frostbitten extremities; it was the loss of a shared narrative on what the week had provided.
I frequently took my mental temperature after this year’s Sundance screenings, searching for symptoms of that dreaded ailment, festival fever. I’ve fought mightily to maintain critical detachment, but it bears acknowledgement that the following assessments were made during one of the most emotionally tumultuous weeks I can remember.
There’s a question that has long been my personal riddle of the sphinx: what is “a Sundance movie”?
Our humble festival correspondent on Uncut Gems, Honey Boy, The Laundromat, Waves, The Report, No. 7 Cherry Lane, and the second half of TIFF 2019.
I told the almost comically friendly customs agent that I’m in Canada for business and not pleasure, so in the interest of not getting apprehended by the mounties, my top priority remains the almighty cinema.