Snow on the Mountains, Swag on the Streets

By staff January 22, 2007



Reporting from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City.


By Charlie Huisking


When you're watching a screening at the Sundance Film Festival, you have to worry about things you don't need to consider at the Sarasota Film Festival.


Like, where are my gloves and cap? I think they fell under the seat and the guy next to me kicked them.


Also, fitting into the seat with the Michelin Man-sized ski parka I borrowed can be difficult. And during some opening credits, I'm still stamping my feet so the feeling will return in my toes.


For a Florida boy, though, I think I'm adjusting pretty well to the Park City, Utah, weather, which has been sunny but very cold for most of the week. By cold I mean lows about 7 or 8, and highs in the 20s.

That's particularly daunting in the mornings, when I catch the shuttle outside the condo I'm staying in on the outskirts of town. It belongs to some friends who, smartly, are in their winter home in Naples this time of year. They were kind enough to invite me to stay in their comfortable home, which looks out at the snow-capped Wasatch mountain range.

Main event: Looking down Main Street, where sponsors set up tents during the festival and skiers mingle with film fans and celebs.


Thank God they did, because you need to book hotels or condos months in advance. And during the festival, rates start at $300 a night and escalate to $700 at the posh Stein Erickson Lodge.


Because of the weather, this is a decidedly dressed-down festival. Everybody is wearing jeans, parkas, long scarves and funny hats. Now, you will find some women in what I'd call slutty starlet attire at some of the parties. But there's not a tuxedo in sight.


I love the atmosphere in Park City. It's particularly fun to stroll down Historic Main Street, with its brightly colored 19th-century buildings, which now house cafes, vintage clothing stores, sushi restaurants and boutiques.


At some intersections, tents have been set up, where festival sponsors pass out free stuff, ranging from shoes and hats to computer gear. There's a ski lift that ends right in the center of Main Street, so it's common to see skiers and snowboarders trudging down the sidewalk next to film crews from CNN and Access Hollywood.


Celebrity central is the Heineken Green Room at the lower end of the street, where stars come by for their gift bags. Yesterday, 50 photographers and three times as many onlookers converged on the spot to see Teri Hatcher, Kyra Sedgwick and the other actors I mentioned in a previous blog.


All this celebrity mania is a sore spot for the organizers of Sundance.

They are sensitive to criticism that the event has become too Hollywood and has strayed from Robert Redford's original intentions. A visit by Paris Hilton last year was considered a Sundance nadir.

So this year, Sundance volunteers are passing out "Focus on Film" buttons, which seems as stupid an idea as Jerry Ford's "Whip Inflation Now" buttons in the '70s. If you really have to remind Sundance audiences to focus on film, something's very wrong.


Of course, the essence of Sundance still survives. Most of the filmmakers here are unknowns creating innovative, far-from-the mainstream works. But the cheapening of Sundance is definitely something to worry about. In fact, I heard a horrible rumor that Britney Spears was here at a party last night.


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