When I entered the Competition Dinner on Wednesday night, the snow falling outside only made the dinner's venue at The Shop feel warmer. Filmmakers from the Festival's four Competition sections (U.S. Dramatic, U.S. Documentary, World Cinema Dramatic, World Cinema Documentary) filled the room. Weaving through the crowd, I overheard filmmakers raving about one another's work and swapping stories of audience responses, crazy schedules, and tips for surviving the stress of introducing a film to the world for the very first time.
As Festival days go, Wednesday is traditionally a bit quieter – a half-way point in the 10-day Festival marathon of film presenting, panel listening, film discussing, snow shuffling, film going, late nights, early mornings, and lots and lots of hors d'oeuvres eating. For filmmakers, it's often the day of an adrenaline crash, when the excitement, anxiety, and frenzy of Opening Weekend gives way to exhaustion. And the extent to which those experiences are shared among filmmakers created a very real sense of community in the room – as if the parents had left the family reunion for the night and the kids could finally just hang out.
From Sympathy for Delicious screenwriter and actor Christopher Thornton to Peepli Live writer-director Anusha Rizvi to Last Train Home director Lixin Fan, filmmakers seemed to have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the audiences they'd encountered at their screenings. Thornton said he was a bit shocked by the level of the audience's engagement with his film (directed by Mark Ruffalo) and actually felt like the filmgoers were actively rooting for his film.
When Fest Director John Cooper took to the mike, he welcomed the filmmakers as the newest members of the Festival family and toasted the journeys that led each of them to the Festival. Judging from the palpable sense of goodwill in the room, these filmmakers will be rooting for each other long after the 2010 Festival ends.