Sundance Film Festival
The Sundance Film Festival opens today in Park City, Utah. If you are like me and have never attended a film festival, that shouldn't stop you from having one in your own home! Many films you may have missed are easily accessible now, often free from the public library. January is the perfect time to hole up with some blankets, hot chocolate, popcorn, and a couple of good movies. Here are some recommendations for a "Do-It-Yourself" film festival experience.
Start your evening with an short animation or two. Pixar has released two collections of their short films, and both are delightful. Some shorts feature well-known Pixar characters, like Buzz Lightyear. My favorite shorts, however, are stand alone stories, like "Partly Cloudy" on Pixar Short Films Volume 2.
Scene from a Pixar short - "For the Birds"
Follow your short films with a documentary. Since documentaries can be scarce in theaters, this is a good time to catch up on some you have missed. Any of the documentaries listed below are suitable for family viewing.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams movie poster
In the "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," Werner Herzog takes you inside the Chauvet cave in France for an intimate look at ancient cave art. The film crew was granted incredible access for only a few days to this amazing collection of cave images. Although theatrically this often played in a 3D format, the 2D version is also beautiful.
One of my favorite paintings from the Chauvet cave.
"Waiting for Superman" was the 2010 Audience Documentary Award winner at the Sundance Film Festival. Filmmaker David Guggenheim follows five students as they try to get in to a charter school via a lottery system. "Waiting for Superman" explores the failings in the public school system, as well as the potentials of educational alternatives like charter schools. Guggenheim blends the stories of the five families with statistics on the American educational system. I have not yet seen this movie, but it is on my list for my own film festival!
Waiting for Superman movie is about the failings for public education.
"First Position" is another documentary about students competing for an opportunity, only this time the arena is the world of ballet.
First Position poster
The description on the poster summarizes the film beautifully - "6 dancers, 5 minutes on stage, 1 chance to make it." "First Position" follows 6 young ballet dancers, male and female, who are preparing to compete in the Youth America Grand Prix. Competitions such as the Youth America Grand Prix provide an opening to ballet companies around the world, and young dancers from all over the world compete in hopes of attaining scholarships and positions with ballet companies that may lead to a career as a professional dancer. The hours spent training and preparing are incredible, and the dedication of these children is amazing. This is a beautiful film, and you will find yourself rooting for these kids to make it. I would gladly see this one again.
Image from the documentary "First Position"
Buck Brannaman worked as a consultant on the film "The Horse Whisperer." He travels the country 40 weeks of the year teaching horse clinics and helping others learn to work with their animals without using "punishing" methods.
Promotional image for the documentary "Buck"
The film, "Buck" follows Brannaman on his clinic circuit, and also tells the story of his rough past with an abusive father. When his football coach becomes aware of the beatings Buck is taking at the hands of his father, he notifies law enforcement, and Buck spends the rest of his growing up years with foster parents, the Shirleys. Brannaman manages a good relationship with his own family despite his time away on the road each year. His work with horses will amaze you, and this film is a must-see. Horse training techniques and life lessons mix easily in this wonderful documentary. This gentle man points out we all make choices in life, and he is to be commended for not following in the footsteps of his own father. "Buck" won the Documentary Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011.
Check out Create Your Own Film Festival - Part 2 for some great dramatic feature films to round out your festival experience.