By Larry Mark
Whether it’s because of the inauguration or the economy, Park City seems eerily empty, the lines small, and the buzz relatively low. In terms of anti-buzz, the rumor is that the comedy, “Manure,” had such a poor premiere that the scheduled press screening tonight was cancelled. The film, directed by Michael Polish and written by Mark and Michael Polish, revolves around a manure salesperson in the 1960s and stars Tea Leoni, Billy Bob Thornton and Kyle MacLachlan. After the premiere, the audience—in a venue that holds more than 1,000 – reportedly had no questions, so Thornton began answering a question he asked himself, and directed his answer to an imaginary audience member whom he pretended had asked it.
Speaking of things imaginary, there is much talk each year of the hookup scene during Sundance. I recall one year, I sat next to a woman who told me of her experience at a previous festival. She met a fellow Angelino in the industry, had a brief affair, but when they returned to LA, she was persona non grata to him. It seems the mountain air gives people more license to toy with emotions and break down the barriers of industry caste levels. But in 2009, the well is dry, from what I hear.
To test this hypothesis, I posted an online personal ad this week in Park City. I invited any woman to meet a Jewish New Yorker in town for a film or beverage. I received 17 replies in the course of a week. Sixteen were from prostitutes and porn sites, and one was from a young woman working as a babysitter in a local resort. A friend of mine from Southern California posted a similar ad and got fewer, but more sane replies, although none were of interest to him.
Even so, just walking around Park City with a credential badge that says “journalist” and “Jewish Journal” has its benefits, since filmmakers and publicists will find me and pitch the most unique (read, Jewish) elements of their films. One publicist mentioned that her film’s director was accidentally bar mitzvahed during a visit to a shul as a teenager. I will investigate this. A second filmmaker told me he is Jewish and his two most avid YouTube fans are two Israeli Jewish teens, and at the same time, two other fans are rabid anti-Jewish Muslim teens. I told him to get all four together and make a documentary about the meeting.
An international director confided in me that he is Jewish, but with an Persian surname; while another explained that she was an Iraqi Jew who was born in New Delhi and now resides in London. Yet another director told me that her short is about the late gay, Jewish activist Harvey Milk; it focuses on the tape recording Milk made as Shabbat approached in his camera shop, discussing his wishes and desires should he be assassinated. (The recording is featured as a book-ending kind of plot device in “Milk,” the biopic starring Sean Penn, which will likely receive multiple Oscar nominations tomorrow morning). The message, in short: There are Jewish filmmakers everywhere.
For more information, visit the Sundance site.