The last few days I’ve been swept away by the “power of Sundance”…the parties, the dinners, the lunches, the cocktails, the meetings with celebrities and industry types. It’s been loads of fun but, with more than a few of these events under my belt, I’m having a fundamental shift in thinking.
What I thought was the power of Sundance is, in fact, just the necessary “social fluff” of the festival. It’s what has to happen in order for filmmakers to recoup the time, energy, and money they put into creating a film. It’s not actually the real “power”.
The real power of Sundance is the films themselves…the stories that are told and what happens after they are shared.
The films, whether funny, sad, humorous or horrific, make us think…and talk. Sometimes we talk with the person sitting right next to us while the credits are rolling. Sometimes we talk with people while waiting for a bus or while sitting in a cab outside our hotel. And sometimes, just sometimes, the story told in a film is so very good that we talk with whomever we are standing with in the line for the loo (bathroom).
Yes, the loo.
At 9.00am this morning, I saw The Notorious Mr. Bout. 90 minutes later, while waiting in line for the loo, I found myself involved in a heated conversation with a group of women about the rights and wrongs, the justice and injustice, of international arms dealings and the trial of arms dealer Viktor Bout, the main character of the film. Such is the wonder and power of Sundance.
If you’ve seen the Nicholas Cage movie Lord of War and think you have a sense of what international arms trading is like…you don’t. You have the Hollywood view of it. When you see The Notorious Mr. Bout, you get a truer look at the inner workings of the business and the characters involved. Turns out, it isn’t all that glamorous.
Making the most of an extraordinary amount of personal video from the Bout family, and mixing it with their own footage of conversations with Alla Bout, Viktor’s wife, and Viktor himself, directors Tony Gerber and Maxim Pozdorovkin, take us on an incredible journey that ends up raising more questions than it answers.
“Why”, for example:
“…isn’t international arms trading illegal?”
“…did the DEA go after Bout when he, according to Gerber and Pozdorovkin, is one of the smallest, least important, arms dealers in the world?”
“…don’t we think more about the fact that companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and BAE Systems need dealers to resell old missiles, small arms and ammunition so they can make and sell new and improved missiles, small arms and ammunition?”
“…was a Russian the DEA’s sole focus? Why not an American? Was he really a Merchant of Death or just a scapegoat?”
Of course, the ladies in the loo-line and I never did come to any consensus on the above questions but we enjoyed a lively discussion. And, we readily admitted that The Notorious Mr. Bout raised our awareness on an issue that none of us had never given any thought to before.
And that, Dear Readers, is the real “power” of Sundance…films, free from commercial and political pressure, that make us think…question…and talk. Now all that’s left for you to do is see these films when they are released and experience the “power” of Sundance for yourselves.
Sundance Festival Panels and Conversations at http://www.sundance.org/festival/article/your-guide-to-2014-sundance-film-festival-panels-and-conversations/
Advancing Cultural Dialogue with Sundance Institutes Film Forward program me at https://www.sundance.org/filmforward/about/