Some Sundance filmgoers exiting the Holiday Village Cinema in Park City Monday evening appeared glossy-eyed following the screening of Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg's gripping competition doc "The Trials of Darryl Hunt." The film chronicles the story of North Carolinian Darryl Hunt, a black man who was tried multiple times for a brutal 1984 rape/murder case. Despite DNA testing proving his innocence, he spent almost two decades in prison. "I am so stunned, I can't talk right now," said one attendee outside the theater.
Meanwhile, race and politics took center stage at the Holiday Village again with a screening of fellow competition doc "American Blackout" by Ian Inaba. "American Blackout" takes a historic look at the systematic disenfranchisement of the black vote, recalling the poll tax and literacy tests in the U.S. south during the Jim Crow era, and right up to the suppression of the black vote in Florida during the 2000 presidential race, resulting in George W. Bush's takeover of the White House. Fiery Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney's 2002 defeat is the true focus of the film, however, breaking down the efforts on the part of the Republican right to take advantage of Georgia's open primaries rule to replace McKinney as the Democratic candidate for her seat in the House of Representatives.
An outspoken critic of Bush and his war in Iraq, McKinney became a hated symbol by right-wing Republican politicos and media types. In order to defeat McKinney, the right supported a moderate black female Democratic candidate, orchestrating a campaign to bring out the minority Republican vote on primary day to forgo voting for a GOP candidate and voting for McKinney's Democratic opponent, resulting in McKinney's defeat.
"I'm speechless and I'm never speechless," said McKinney Monday evening during the Q & A following the screening. Despite her defeat in 2002, McKinney organized an amazing political comeback to win election to her former seat in 2004.
Director Inaba, who directed rapper Eminem's controversial "Mosh" video in 2004 and is a co-founder of the Guerilla News Network (GNN) did not originally set out to make a doc about McKinney. "I was covering Cynthia [for a story for GNN] and she was so dynamic that it just [evolved] into a film" said Inaba.
The Death of the Blackberry?
Will Sundance come to a screeching hault because of the demise of the Blackberry? The U.S. Supreme Court Monday refused to hear a case involving the gizmos that have become a fifth (or sixth) appendage for most film execs. The patent case now goes back to the original judge in Richmond for a final say... Oh Lord!
Monday's Plentiful Parties...
Sundance Institute chief Kenneth Brecher and Documentary Film Program associate director Shannon Kelley as well as a slew of doc filmmakers were among the guests at an afternoon party for the Sundance Documentary Fund Monday afternoon. The program is "dedicated to supporting U.S. and international documentary films and videos focused on current and significant issues and movements in contemporary human rights, freedom of expression, social justice, and civil liberties."
Frameline hosted an afternoon soiree right up the street. "Paris is Burning" director Jennie Livingston was among the crowd sipping cosmos. Livingston is in Park City for her short "Through the Ice," but is going to be ducking out of the festival circuit after Sundance to get started on her next project after the fest.
ITVS had its big bash at the Riverhorse Cafe Monday evening. Crowds packed in for the event touting its programs, including its renowned Independent Lens series. The party's organizers win the best party favor prize for the night. Invitees exiting the event were given to-go mugs of either hot chocolate or hot cider, just the thing for the very chilly walk down Main Street.
The two party biggies of the evening were the Cinetic and Gen Art/MySpace.com events. The latter party had asked indieWIRE to cover the event, but when an iW staffer showed up for the party which featured a performance by the Beastie Boys, an organizer demanded that we lose the camera. So, playing by the rules, the camera was put back in the car. Naturally, upon entering the venue, dozens of people, including press, were openly snapping pics. We suppose that's what you get for playing by the rules...
Civility and our camera was more than welcome at the Cinetic Media party at Zoom. Last year's brouhaha outside the event did not materialize, and while crowded, the party wasn't stifling. Good music, great crowd, drinks, food... we're always happy to score an invite to this one.
After the Cinetic party, about 60 people showed up at the condo of a film exec for a birthday party. Nothing terribly special about that, except that it was reminiscent of the days when most Sundance parties were informal get-togethers at condos. God, how old are we now?
All Tomorrow's Parties... (a non-comprehensive rundown to Wednesday's parties/evens)
The dense schedule of parties is beginning to lighten up, but here's a quick listing. The New York State Governor's Office for Motion Picture and Television Development will be hosting its annual bash at a big mansion of the mountain again (pick up invites at their venue on Main Street. Slamdance will host its mid-week party, and the BMI Snowball will take place at the Kimball Art Center. Sauza and URB will host its "Next 100" event at Harry' O's.
[Get the latest from the Sundance Film Festival throughout the day in indieWIRE's special Park City '06 section.]