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Penn State Goes to Sundance, Take 2

Last week, I traded the snowy valley of State College, Pennsylvania for the similarly snowy mountains of Park City, Utah. Why? As a member of a group of 10 students from the Penn State Student Film Organization, I was lucky enough to attend the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.  This the second year a group from the club made the trip.

Park City is a town about two times the size of State College, but instead of being dedicated to college, in January, it’s all about movies.  Screenings are held in multiple movie theaters across town, as well as in spaces in performing arts centers, a library, and even a racquetball center. I was struck by how nice everyone was; the volunteers helped at every step of the way, and you could strike up a conversation with anyone. After all, we were all there for our shared love of film, and having debates about our favorite Kubrick movie or discussing the screening we saw that morning was an extremely enjoyable way to pass the time while waiting for the next show.

So what did I see? Out of the many U.S. and international narrative films and documentaries, I saw 11; scheduling is tough when there’s so much you want to see and you have to take shuttles all across town. My favorite movie was called LUV, which starred Common in a story about a kid travelling with his ex-con Uncle Vincent around Baltimore for a day as Vincent tries to leave his ties to the criminal world and start a crab shack. Child actor Michael Rainey Jr. had an excellent performance as he dealt with finding faults in his father figure and learned about real violence for the first time. For short reviews of everything I saw, from a documentary about The Shining to a romantic comedy/drama about alcoholism starring Aaron Paul and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, check here.

A common misconception about Sundance is that only serious, dramatic movies play at the festival. Not true. The “Park City at Midnight” movies, usually comedies or horror movies, were a lot of fun, from the supernatural weirdness of JOHN DIES AT THE END to the almost indescribable Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie. A club favorite was Grabbers, a horror/comedy from Ireland in which a coast town discovers that the only way to survive blood-sucking tentacled aliens is to get extremely drunk. As club president Nathan Larimer pointed out, taking the Theater Loop shuttle at night is crazier than the Blue Loop.

The club also got a chance to participate in lunch with the festival programmers, as well as a “speed dating” event with directors and producers. We got to hear about how they got their start in filmmaking, the benefits and negatives of going to film school, and so much more.

The PSU Student Film Organization (@psu_sfo) is in the midst of planning a 4-day filmmaking festival, in which groups have 4 days to make a film using preselected props and lines, as well as its annual Blue and White Film Festival at the State Theatre.  Anyone, even if you’re not a film major, is welcome to join, and the club usually meets weekly at 7 p.m. on Thursdays in 225 Electrical Engineering West.

About the Author

Alex Federman

Alex is a Senior at Penn State who enjoys watching movies and television shows (probably a bit too much). He's a Film/Video major, with a Spanish minor.

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