Film & TV Muse

In praise of Sundance

Film editor Elle Hoppe praises the indie film scene at the Sundance Film Festival.

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In a state of America that is most likely to be known for the settlement of Mormons, Utah has played host to the Sundance Film Festival every year since 1987. An event that celebrates independent film across the whole spectrum from documentary, international, low-budget, shorts and feature-length films. Director of the festival, John Cooper, pronounced: "Every year the Sundance Film Festival brings to light exciting new directions and fresh voices in independent film, and this year is no different".

Awards season is so focused on the mainstream triumphs of Meryl Streep that people often forget to commemorate the birth of innovating work, created by equally deserving filmmakers. DVD collections all over the world would be stripped of their copies of Little Miss Sunshine and Garden State, as it was the Sundance Festival that drew in the attention needed to award these films with credibility.

The festival stretches across ten days, but it shouldn't bring marshy images of Glastonbury mud to mind, as this is now considered a place of glamour bringing in A-listers from around the globe - holding no qualms with who is welcome at this indie event. Sundance doesn't focus on the red carpet and the one-night experience, but on the intricate cogs of filmmaking. The aura it gives is not one where a glamorous gal is on Clooney's arm, but the hard work and passion that people commit their lives to - how you'd hope it would be really.

Awards given this year at Sundance include a 'Best of NEXT audience award' (for low budget films) to Sleepwalk With Me - written, directed and performed by Mike Birbiglia. It's about a man that (you guessed it) sleepwalks and from what I've heard is extremely funny. Another is The Surrogate that won awards for the 'US Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting' and the 'Audience Award of a US Dramatic'. The film follows the journey of a 36-year-old man with an iron lung who seeks to find someone to lose his virginity to, and with whom he subsequently has a relationship - a story nothing short of complicated.

2011 was a great year for film, and Sundance awarded many films that are on masses of peoples' 'To Watch' list, including: Like Crazy, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Tyrannosaur and Another Earth. We're attracted to films awarded at The Oscars and BAFTAs because they are safe, but we shouldn't be scared off by the label 'indie'; it's not a skinny humanities student in a waistcoat riding a bike, but actual, individual pieces of artwork. These films are needed to stretch imaginations and inspire others to experiment with conventions.

A multitude of mentions in Short Filmmaking are given at Sundance but these by no means make each less remarkable. They offer an experience of more than one winner, leaving less of an opportunity for a 'King's Speech trumping Social Network' situation as seen at the Oscars last year.

An award here is no little gold man, but it sure does help break up the repetitive formula the Academy gives us. In a world where we can be celebrating The Artist's successes one week and slating its hogging of the lime-light the next, we need diversity not only in the films awarded but also in the nature of the ceremony.

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