Whenever someone asks me, "How was Sundance?" I always wonder, What do you mean by that?
When I mention I'm going to the Sundance Film Festival, most people say, "Oh, that sounds like fun" -- until I tell them that I see four or five movies a day, every day. Then "That sounds like fun" turns into "How can you do that?" (Years of conditioning, is the answer.)
So how was Sundance? Well, I feel as though I had a successful festival. By that, I mean that I achieved my main goal: I saw a lot of films that made me want to share them with the film clubs I program.
Which, to be honest, is my first priority when I go to Sundance or Toronto, the two festivals I travel to: I'm scouting for movies for my film clubs. Once upon a time, when I was primarily covering the festivals for publications, I had a different agenda: looking for news (or gossip) trying to be the first person into print praising (or slagging) the films I'd seen.
Which meant arriving in time for the first day of the festival and racing from film to film -- and line to line -- to get into the most buzzed-about titles. This year, however, I tried something different, opting to attend the last half of the festival instead of the first. Most of the same titles were still being shown, minus that "me first" pressure that seems to guide so much coverage.
Did I see everything I wanted to? Of course not -- nobody can. There are literally hundreds of films at a festival like Sundance and, inevitably, schedules never line up to allow you to get to all the films you'd like to see. Even if you went for the whole festival -- something I've done and have no interest in doing again -- you couldn't see everything you wanted to. Even if your list was limited, you inevitably hear about things you hadn't considered and try to fit them in, as well.
As I said, schedules simply don't allow it -- and if schedules do, logistics often don't. It's sometimes as simple as not having enough time to get from one side of Park City to the other in time for a curtain.
So there were movies I wanted to see that I couldn't, but that I still hope to.
This commentary continues on my website.