At Sundance 2005, I lost my mind, but only briefly. Fortunately, my hysterics garnered me more fans than detractors, and yet for a moment there, I was not in control of myself. The story, of how the San Francisco Chronicle’s Ruthe Stein stole my seat at a press screening of “The Jacket” and my subsequent vituperative attack, has already been recounted elsewhere by some bloggers, on Defamer and San Jose Mercury News. And while I appreciate my 15 minutes of fame, I regret that I ever came to blows with Ruthe Stein.
That’s not to say that she didn’t richly deserve it. Judging from those who spoke to me afterwards, it sounds like Ruthe Stein has been in need of a serious chewing out for some time now.
But the incident reflects something wider, indicative of the entire film festival environment, where people filled with entitlement, privilege, and selfishness think they are more important than you. Has Ruthe cut in front of people while waiting in line for a movie? Has she waved at the shuttle bus to pick her up at an unofficial stop? Has she snuck into parties, passing people by who are waiting patiently outside? Has she taken into consideration anyone in the world besides herself? I’m sure she has done all these things.
But the problem is, so have I. Why did I freak out in the first place? Because what she did was totally unethical, unreasonable, and downright inconsiderate. Of course. But also because I was thinking only of myself. The only person in the room who wasn’t thinking of himself was the man gracious enough to give up his seat for me, not a journalist by the way, but an industryite named Paul Schwartzman (who Ruthe whispered to me took her seat — I don’t believe her).
Who ever is to blame, I’ll bet most of us Sundancers have done these things, too. Although I’ve never thrown someone’s things off their chair and stolen their seat, I have edged in front of people in line for a movie and squirmed my way into the VIP entrance for a party. Maybe the reason I was so angry with Ruthe is she reminded me of the dark side of myself. But I guess the difference between Ruthe and me is she didn’t seem to mind.