How is it possible that it has been nearly a year since we made the annual trek to Park City, Utah, in order to attend my favourite film festival of them all, Sundance.
What makes Sundance so special? It's certainly not the glamour. I remember my first time at the annual festivities in Utah's beautiful Wasatch range more than 20 years ago now. I had no idea what to pack. I was used to attending the Cannes Film Festival, which takes place in May along the cerulean edge of the Mediterranean Sea known as the Côte d'Azur. The temperature on a sunny May afternoon in Cannes can easily reach the high 80s, and apparel for women journalists, who used to have to attend nighttime galas in evening attire, would inevitably involve something sleeveless and sparkly.
Male journalists attending Cannes didn't get off any easier. In order to attend evening gala presentations, they had to wear the standard penguin suit -- and don't think a regular tie would suffice for the silly tied black one on that starched white tuxedo shirt. Messieurs showing up on the red carpet wearing the incorrect tie were sent home to fetch the right one, or ordered to purchase one on the spot from one of the helpful mademoiselles assisting with protocol. This is still the case, more than two decades later.
With Cannes in my past, and Sundance still in my future, I had no idea what to pack that first time for a festival in the mountains. The one thing I knew about for sure was the weather. I could expect cold and snowy, with a chance of powder. Perhaps a sparkly turtleneck sweater?
I needn't have worried so much about the contents of my suitcase. Sundance's awards presentation my first year, sometime back in the mid-90s, took place in a gym-like room where we all sat on folding metal chairs, water dripping off our snow-caked boots into expanding dirty pools on the floor. Slung over the back of nearly every chair in the room was a puffy black parka. Mostly North Face back then, if I remember correctly. Glamour? Not so much.
But memorable, yes. Cannes is as much about glimpsing Hollywood stars on the steps of the Palais as it is about watching difficult-to-like films by the world's auteurs.
Sundance, on the other hand, is all about the life-changing films we get to see before everyone else. Like fascinating documentaries that can change lives, towns and culture, and help us see into the future.
Does anyone besides me remember the devastating film Just, Melvin: Just Evil that debuted at Sundance almost 20 years ago on Jan. 27, 2000? It was a terrifying look at the sexual predation of children -- long, long before Spotlight (2015) turned the focus on the abuse of children by Catholic clergy, and also long before the world became aware of how widespread sexual misconduct is when the 2017 hashtag #metoo went viral.
What films will we see at Sundance 2019 that will open our hearts to new cultures, tricky problems and possible solutions -- and change the way we view the world?
I can't wait to find out.
M.L. Bream photo
A snowy field behind the Eccles Theatre in Park City, Utah, in January 2018 leads to snow and more snow. Pack the industrial-strength snow boots!