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Sundance Feeds Hungry Egos — Some Deserving, Many Not

Sundance Feeds Hungry Egos -- Some Deserving, Many Not

Call it Sundance Head. There
is one sad phenomenon that Sundance Film Festival publicists can’t do anything about: the
fleeting, illusory and oxygen-deprived belief among certain of their clients
that they have become, and will remain, the center of the universe.

Maybe they’ve had
a few good screenings. Maybe they even got a standing ovation (from people,
let’s face it, who are eager to say they’ve been at a movie that got a standing
O, especially if they stood in the cold for an hour to get in). The filmmaker
always knew it would be like this, his/her genius finally recognized, their
place in the lineage of Griffith, Ford, Welles and Kevin Smith finally cemented
by the adulation of the cold, hungry, wet and tired. And in a place that has
spawned so many masterpieces of modern cinema, like “Happythankyoumoreplease.”
Or “The Tao of Dick Cheney.”

It’s a form of dementia, perhaps
unavoidable in some cases, given the white hot media light that shines on Park
City. Sometimes, too, the disorder is simply part of a filmmaker’s DNA: One
such auteur arrived in 1996 with his first feature, and proceeded to leave
interviewers up and down Main Street drop-jawed with his arrogance. He’s matured since then, and is up for a best director Oscar, so perhaps he had a point. Filmmaker Morgan J. Freeman shared his own Sundance Wild Ride.

But the story
of Sundance is rife with stories of filmmakers on the precipice of obscurity,
whose last known words were “Do you know who I am?” One candidate, a
documentary director, is in the mix this year, and it’s almost delicious to
watch his unmaking unfold. He’s been late for every interview. He begins each one by taking a phone call that lasts 10 minutes. He doesn’t go to bed
till 4 a.m., and not before canceling his early morning press events. It’s a
slo-mo self-immolation, around which a frost-bitten press can keep its hands
warm, while waiting for him to get off the phone.

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