Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pondering Park City





About this time in 2002, travel plans gelled for my Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympic adventure. It seems like just yesterday (not 13 years ago) when I packed up for Utah and a week crashing on couches in a chilly Park City basement and Salt Lake apartment.

Listening to NPR's report on the Sundance Film Festival brought back some mountain village memories, and I do still intend to attend the movie event with ties to Robert Redford.

Scanning the 2013 Sundance site, it looks like this year's event includes three films with direct or indirect Olympic connections. The most direct: The Crash Reel, a documentary on the daredevil lives for elite snowboarders -- specifically Kevin Pearce -- who nearly died on the slopes in the months before Vancouver 2010. A preview clip on the film's official website features a family member's reaction when Pearce weighs post-recovery return to competition: "I don't want you to die." Looks good for a pre-Sochi screening, and if you're not wearing a helmet when you should, here are some big reasons to don skull protection even if snowboarding isn't your thing.

Another look at high-stakes elite sports comes from The Netherlands with the gymnastics short film "Magnesium." Though the trailer and official site feature only details in Dutch, looks like this feature follows the twists and turns of a top female gymnast who gets some career-changing news on the eve of big competitions. Could this be "Nadia meets Black Swan" on the big screen? Does the title allude to the brilliant light of burning Mg, or to the strength this element offers via alloys (as in prosthetics)?

And the third sports film entry, "Linsanity," may not feature a past Olympian, but I suspect Jeremy Lin may make a future team, so it might be worth a look-see.

The main Sundance entry getting press this year seems to be the covertly-filmed "Escape From Tomorrow." According to the New York Times report on this potential release, the filmmakers shot a lot of it on Disney theme park properties in Orlando and Orange County, Calif.

The brouhaha and buzz is whether this film will ever make it to the big screen outside of Park City, with questions floating around: When will Disney shut it down with with legal red tape? Will Disney comment on the film, only to add to the mystique of how it was created? Will any other studio dare to distribute "Escape From Tomorrow" and risk going up against Big D?

With my P.R. hat on: There are a lot of options for Disney with regards to this little film that could. The most interesting that came to mind so far is this one -- How about Disney buys the distribution rights, then puts it in mainstream release to celebrate the "small world, after all-ness" of the project (as a celebration of creativity, spinning the film as "another creative project inspired by and made possible via Walt's vision ... etc.")? In doing so, Disney would certainly stun its critics, and also Disney could learn how these filmmakers pulled off filming on property (so they could minimize the ability for future film crews to replicate the process). How about turning the crew into frenemies? In doing so, this might dismantle the "Goliath" factor to "Escape From Tomorrow's" David story angle. Or at least minimize it.

Looking ahead to future Sundance Film Festivals, here's hope that more features with five-ringed story lines will make it to downtown Park City. It's like to again visit the mountain resort and it's great, historic theatres, bars and shops. It's a small town, after all.

Photos via the film publicity shots posted to the Sundance Film Festival site



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