Festivals, Film, News
Jan 28, 2014

SUNDANCE 2014, TURNING 30 HAS NEVER BEEN SO QUIETLY EXCITING

In a year which seemed very quiet in terms of sales and overall media news from the festival, there really isn’t a whole lot of discussions left from the past 10 days at Sundance – it didn’t even snow. – at all. That isn’t to say that there weren’t any films to talk about.

The Raid Redemption, The Raid 2, Gareth Even’s follow-up to the film’s 2013 TIFF premiered predecessor received a huge word-of-mouth response – partly due to it’s Sofie’s Choice conflicted time of this year’s secret screening of Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac. French Director Hubert Sauper’s We Come As Friends made some splash in the World cinema Doc category, while the Belle & Sebastian influenced God Help the Girl was not only one of the largest ticket sellers, but the film also took home a prize for ensemble performance. Finally, the Philip Seymour Hoffman led A Most Wanted Man ended up on what seemed like everyone’s list of “things-to-see-when-normal-people-can-see-these-films-outside-of-Park-City.”

Aside from the films, Sundance attendees witnessed the push of this year’s New Frontier category. The normally quiet festival area was put on center stage this year by featuring the much discussed virtual reality machine Oculus Rift, which was unveiled during the 2013 CES trade show in Las Vegas.

On the opposite spectrum, fest-goers witnessed the curiosity of a new e-waitlist application. It not only garnered server crashes and gobs of rhetoric about the fairness of use, but combined with many of the 2014 films being sent out of the confines of Park City- and onto screens in neighboring Salt Lake City & Provo- outlining screeners became almost impossible hurdles to attend with regards to availability.  

Over this past weekend however the Sundance Institute announced the Jury, Audience and other special awards of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival at the feature film Awards Ceremony, hosted by Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally, in Park City, Utah.

Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash not only kicked off the festival this year on January 16, as the Premiere to see and to be seen at, but also awoke to find an offer of sales and distribution from Sony Pictures Classic the following morning. Chazelle’s film stars Miles Teller, as he navigates his time at a music school while striving to tackle jazz drumming under the tutelage of JK Simmon’s teaching dictatorship. The film managed to hold the attention of many going into the Festival’s award ceremony this past Saturday night, where it took top honors by swooping up both the Grand Jury prize and the Audience Award prize as well. It’s truly exciting to see a young filmmaker like Chazelle make a festival comeback from a short to feature length in less than a year & be the most discussed film coming out of Park City.

What’s also interesting and should be highlighted is that like Ryan Cooglar’s 2013 Fruitvale Station, which won the same awards last year and was mostly lauded by much of the industry throughout 2013, Whiplash again features an acting piece that is bolstered by someone fresh to the industry (Teller), a respected veteran (Simmons) & comes to audiences without any severe backing to garner buzz from the industry as a whole. Whether by way of happenstance or that the Sundance Institute is actively trying to push it’s film festival as a legit output and offshoot of serious cinema against the forces of sequels and overblown Hollywood budgets, the only story left from this year’s festival won’t be felt until 11 months from no- Robert Redford, jury members and the Sundance Institute all just hoping to not have a repeat of 2013.

The full list of winners of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival can be found here.