Live from Park City: Redford, Raimi & Big River Man

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Alex McDonald wrote:

Never in my wildest dreams would I think I would see Robert Redford just standing on the side of the road. Never would I have thought I would have the opportunity to see World Premieres, or attend parties as the celebrities I see in Entertainment Weekly. So far to me this film festival has been an unbelievable experience, and it’s only just the beginning.

Prior to my arrival I really had not the faintest idea of what was to come or what to expect. The Sundance film festival is like another country, another world within a world and I observed that within my first 24 hours. So far I have seen several movies, starting with Big River Man, which entails the incredible story of overweight alcoholic, swimming the Amazon for a cause greater than himself. Myself alongside several of my classmates had a strong desire to see the film after reading several blogs and hearing about through word of mouth. We were so intrigued that we decided to waitlist, which is an experience in itself.

The term wait listing, means you show up to a film hours before the showing and receive a # which determines your likeliness to gain access to the film. It sounds like a pain in the ass, in reality its not. Being “Waitlisted” is a chance to interact with fellow sundancers, about their experiences so far. It’s a social network, a film forum, and more importantly a true Sundance experience. I eventually got in having the #4 only to find myself looking backwards at a screen 2 feet in front of me. Nonetheless the movie it self was absolutely spectacular with some aspects being left to speculation. Big River Man was my first real movie experience and I was not let down. The filmmaking was amazing and it truly depicted the complexity and hardship of the journey. I also appreciated the Q and A aspect after the film; for it gives you a personable experience that seeing regular movies does not.

Big River Man
  • Big River Man

Ali McKenna, who also saw Big River Man, wrote:

Big River Man was the first film I saw at Sundance, only because during a box office visit, members of the crew practically pleaded with us: "Go see Big River Man! It's Wonderful! Great! Do it!" So we did. And it was AMAZING! It follows 52 year old Martin Strel of Slovenia, the only man to ever swim the Mississippi, Yangtze, and Amazon rivers. Not your typical athlete by any means, he is overweight, old, and drunk most of the time. He regularly drives at high speeds while intoxicated, multitasking by learning English on tape and expanding his lungs with some weird breathing contraption. But you know, if he was a Michael Phelps-type swimmer, this story would be nowhere near as mind-blowing. He's just a regular guy with a big dream.

I can't explain how many times my jaw dropped and eyes grew wide during this movie. It's truly incredible... This guy is hilarious and down to earth, but at the same time it's like he's from a whole different world. After watching one of the most inspirational stories I've ever heard, I couldn't believe I got to walk down and shake his hand! (Not to mention his son's hand as well as the navigator's)... I almost cried I felt so lucky, meeting the greatest swimmer in the world.

Tom McGrath wrote:

I’ve only been here five days now and I’ve already seen more actors and directors than when I spend time in New York City...Macaulay Culkin, the greatest child actor of our generation was spotted dining in Pizza and Noodles Saturday afternoon. I saw Sam Raimi of Evil Dead and Spiderman fame walking up main street last night by 4th Street. Kevin Smith stopped to take pictures in the main box office on Friday in his customary Silent Bob coat. Tom Arnold, the host of CMT’s Big Redneck Weddings stopped to take lots of photos with fans and was very nice and patient even though he had somewhere to go, later he was spotted leaving the Rock Band lounge with a nice new Rock Band goody box....seeing Zooey solidified my celeb crush on her as her eyes are nothing short of mesmerizing....I came within 5 feet of director Antwon Fuqua before leaving the theater....I think Julie Delpy, of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset fame asked me where she could find 8th street. Even if it wasn’t her, she was still very nice and had a cute French accent.

Lulu and Jimi
  • Lulu and Jimi

Lila Lupetin wrote:

I am not a morning person. Any movie I have to wake up at the ass-crack of dawn for (excuse my lewd expression but 7:15 am deserves to be degraded) is not worth seeing. I don’t have a good track record with mornings; by the end of my senior year of high school I had 18 tardy detentions because I came to class fifteen minutes late without fail. I slept through fifteen dollars and what looked like a badass movie the day before, so Lulu and Jimi (a subtitled German film about an interracial romance) wasn’t in my good graces when I woke up after a 2:30am bedtime. Oh, Lulu and Jimi… from the first scene I was awake and damn glad to be, a true testament to what, by the end, proved to be a lifetime favorite movie for yours truly....From the very first scene the lead unknown actors, Jennifer Decker and Ray Fearon exuded such charisma and sex appeal that I literally fell in love with them both instantly. I love me a good chick flick, no doubt, but for most romantic comedies the main characters just don’t have the certain spark that makes the hopeless romantic in me go “I want!!!!!” But Lulu and Jimi, though often conventional in their fight for love, were such daring, dynamic characters that I believed that they could hear each other when they called to each other from miles away.

For more information and for more blogs from Sundance, see our website.

We've been in Park City four days and while the novelty is starting to wear off and we are getting used to how things are done, it's still a lot of fun.

Sundancers Ali, Sam and Alex with the Big River Man himself (Martin Strel and crew)
  • Sundancers Ali, Sam and Alex with the Big River Man himself (Martin Strel and crew)

The first weekend is always the most crowded, the most difficult time to get into movies, and the most likely time to face rude celebrity gawkers shoving their way through crowds on Main Street in an effort to catch a glimpse of Lil' Wayne or Ewan McGregor or Denise Richards.  Now that it's Monday, things have settled down a bit and its much easier just to hang out and watch films.

One thing I've been consistently surprised by is that the people who are here to see films or to show their own films are remarkably friendly.  Over breakfast yesterday I struck up a conversation with one of the founders of Slamdance; this morning at the screening of Old Partner I got to know one of the programmers of the Thessalonika Film Festival; I've chatted with critics from L.A. Times and Variety; I've had intriguing discussions with several filmmakers, including the director of the hilarious Black Dynamite and the very engaging No Impact Man.  There's something about the atmosphere of this festival — maybe it has to do with the fact that everyone is wearing snow gear and no one stands out as they would in L.A., or maybe because almost everyone rides the shuttles, or just because of the common bond of the love of film — but, apart from a few of the celebrity stalkers, almost everyone is extremely friendly and personable.

Here's what a some of the other sundancers had to say about their first few days:

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