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Reverse Angle: A Programmer Looks Back at Sundance London

Rufus and Martha Wainwright at Sundance London

Charlie Reff, Assistant to Director of Programming & Coordinator, Shorts Labs

It’s officially over. I’m back in our LA office finally able to process what happened over my five hectic days in London.  Things can get pretty intense when you’re in “festival mode” so it always takes a little time before you can look back and understand what really just happened.  I spent a lot of my sleepless flight back to LA pondering whether or not we had conjured those “Sundance Moments” that happen every year in Park City in London.  I’m thinking of those singular moments at the Festival, where everyone in a single room (audience, staff, artists) feel that they are a part of something special, experiencing something truly unique.  I’m convinced that those times — when all the right elements coalsece — are a major reason audiences come back to Sundance every year; and it was always important to us that we were able to bring that element of the festival to Sundance London.  I thought I’d share a couple of those with you that I experienced this past weekend.

On Friday night, Robert Redford and T-Bone Burnett sat down with moderator Nick Hornby for a lively conversation about their histories with film music. It was hard not to be entertained by stories of ‘The Sting’, ‘O Brother Where Art Though’ and ‘Walk The Line’, but the most special moment came when Brit rockers “Guillemots” took the stage after the intermission.  They were invited to the event to cover some of the more famous songs from Redford and T-Bone’s catalogues.  As they began the first notes of ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’, Redford’s face lit up with a smile that he couldn’t hold back and everyone was quickly reminded why it is one of the greatest film songs of all time.  Everywhere I looked, I saw audience members quietly singing along to themselves.

On Saturday evening, ‘LUV’ director Sheldon Candis took the stage for a post-screening Q&A of his  deeply personal film that is inspired by true events from his youth. Two younger women were so affected by the film that they couldn’t fight back their tears.  When they were finally called on to ask their question, they asked if it’d be OK for them to come up and give him a hug which he of course agreed to.  This all happened with Sheldon’s mother in the audience who had flown out specially to attend this screening.

On Sunday afternoon, Lian Lunson’s “Sing Me A Song” had it’s world premiere.  The film documents a concert that happened back in NYC May 2011 that celebrated the life and music of singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle who had recently passed.  After the screening the 300 person crowd walked over to our music venue, The Indigo, for an intimate performance by Kate’s children, Rufus and Martha Wainwright.  They performed some of their mother’s most memorable songs and their own songs that had been inspired by her life in what was a powerful celebration of a mother’s love.

Also on Sunday afternoon, the audience attending Jeff Orlowski’s “Chasing Ice” received a nice surprise when Robert Redford walked out to introduce the film, speaking to the importance of the film’s environmental message, a subject close to his heart.  Not wanting to miss the opportunity to see the Sundance 2012 U.S. Documentary Cinematography Award winner on the 180 foot Superscreen, Redford finished his intro and grabbed a seat in the crowd so he too could take in the film’s awe-inspiring imagery on such a grand canvas.

On Sunday night, our amazing volunteers were given their time to celebrate as the festival came to a close at the ‘Volunteer Party’.  The room was a sea of yellow festival hoodies (their official outfit) except for filmmakers Sheldon Candis, Michael Olmos, and ‘Filly Brown’ star Gina Rodriguez who stopped by to say bye to the volunteers and personally thank them for all their hard work.  The volunteers had given their time for the opportunity to see works by these new artists, and now they were getting the chance to speak one-on-one with them.  Without the volunteers, we couldn’t put on the festival and the filmmakers wouldn’t have a platform to share their work.  After a busy four days for everyone involved, we were there to celebrate a job well-done and speculate what will happen next.  Hope to see you soon, London.

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A man in a beige shirt and with medium-length dark hair kneels in the dirt and looks over his right shoulder at the camera

Who Was… Mark Silverman?

Mark Silverman allied himself with the Coen brothers early in his and their careers. Here, he works as co-producer on the set of “Raising Arizona.”

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