Main Street has already started to fill up on every corner. I spent the day walking up and down the hill, leaping puddles, ducking into coffee joints to warm my haunches. While people-watching on one of my haunch-warming pitstops, I spotted another white jacket, this one brandishing a pin that read "I speak Russian" (in Russian, of course). I stopped him with a quick "you speak Russian?" (in Russian, of course) and we had a brief chat about his role at the Festival.
His name is Isa, he said, and he's from Dagestan.
"Oh wow! Dagestan!"
"You know it?"
"I've heard of all the -stans," I fibbed.
Isa told me that he's studying film in the States, and when he volunteered for the Festival, he offered his services as a translator, too. I wondered how many other volunteers did the same, arriving with a hope and a dream and a secret special linguistic talent. (Note to self and others: talk to more volunteers! Their stories are numerous and fascinating. And you may discover a new "-stan" to boot.)
After leaving Isa to his own wanderings, I popped into the New Frontier on Main exhibit for a quick look around. Quick turned into long and wow-filled. From the miniature models of Tracy Snelling's Bordertown, to the colorful lighted walls of Pipilotti Rist's Lobe of Lung, it was about bright colors from every corner as I wandered from room to room to — don't let it stop! — room.
As I left the room housing Ragnar Kjartansson's The End, I noticed the artist standing nearby and decided to approach him. "I just had to tell you that I got a little bit choked up as I watched your piece." I explained that hearing his music and seeing the way it came together like that was an emotional experience I hadn't expected. He thanked me, and I asked if I could take his picture. When I showed him the LCD screen for his approval, he said "Superasti!" which I guessed must be Icelandic for "You are a photographer of superior skill and I respect your art." Or perhaps just "Wow." I told him I'd definitely return to see his piece again before I left, and parted with a "tak" ("thanks").
Just a half a day into the Festival and I'm starting to see how important this Festival is around the world. Filmmakers and film lovers are already descending on this quiet Utah mountain resort from every corner, from Iceland to Switzerland to Dagestan to the Mexican/American border, to experience this together. And to be one small part of this international sensation? Wow. Or should I say: Superasti!