Sundance Heads South
by John Bernstein
For the first time in its sixteen year history, Robert
Redford’s Sundance Institute held a benefit outside of Los Angeles or
New York. Wednesday night’s Best of the Festival was held at Atlanta’s
High Museum of Art and included screenings of two films from the 1997
Sundance Film Festival.
Among the Sundance representatives on hand for the event were
Ken Brecher, Executive Director of the Sundance Institute, Festival
Director Geoff Gilmore, and Louise Adler, Sundance’s director of
development. Invitees and Sundance board members Denzel Washington,
Sally Field, Glenn Close and Jodie Foster were no-shows, as were Ted
Turner and Jane Fonda who were originally scheduled to attend.
Those who did attend the formal event started the evening with a
VIP reception in the museum’s atrium, and then chose between screenings
of the critically acclaimed post-Holocaust documentary, “The Long Way Home“, or “love jones“, the romantic comedy that shared the dramatic
audience award at this year’s Sundance Festival.
Emory University Professor Deborah Lipstazt led a discussion
after “The Long Way Home”, and “love jones” Director Theodore Witcher and
stars Larenz Tate and Nia Long also participated in a brief question and
answer session moderated by Gilmore, before winding-up the evening with
a dessert and coffee reception back in the High’s atrium.
At $100 a ticket, the event was touted as a benefit, but Brecher
didn’t see fundraising as the main goal of the event. “I don’t know how
much money we’ll actually raise tonight. Frankly, we’ll be happy just
to break even. More importantly, this is a chance to introduce the work
of the Sundance Institute to Atlanta.
As for why Atlanta was chosen for the event, Brecher explained,
“There is a group of thriving, independent-thinking artists in Atlanta
and that’s the real reason we’re here. There are also some great
organizations in Atlanta like IMAGE Film & Video Center and Night of the Young Black Filmmakers, and we’re happy to support them.”
Pat Mitchell is another reason the Best of the Festival was held
in Atlanta. Besides being president of Turner Original Productions,
Mitchell serves on the Sundance executive committee and has been trying
to get the event off the ground for two years. Mitchell explained, “The
board sat down with Robert Redford and Geoff Gilmore and figured it was
finally time to bring part of the festival outside of Park City, and
outside of New York and LA. Atlanta is a community about diversity, and
that’s what the film festival strives to be about.”
Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell agreed and said, “Nothing better
exemplifies the diversity of our city than the presentation of art and
culture. I think this evening really marks the beginning of a
heightened awareness of independent filmmaking in the city of Atlanta.
Obviously, we’d be thrilled to make the Best of the Sundance Film
Festival an annual event here in Atlanta.”
Happy with the success of the inaugural event, Mitchell added,
“In the future, we might expand this event into a mini-festival, and
include several more film selections. Next year, we also hope to take
the Best of the Festival program to another city, such as Chicago or