I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Utah’s own Geralyn Dreyfous, who founded the Utah Film Center (formerly the Salt Lake Film Center). She has been a producer and executive producer for several films, founded Impact Partners, a company that helps fund independent films that address social issues, and was also an adviser for 8: A Mormon Proposition. Dreyfous was the executive producer of Born Into Brothels, which received an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2004.
I asked Dreyfous how our local queer community can experience Sundance this year, and help generate momentum behind the films.
“For me, Sundance is an international platform for these stories to get out in the world, and it’s very exciting to have it here in our state. The political repercussions of these films, I think are getting stronger and are also finding new ways to find audiences because of the way that technology is changing.
What I’ve noticed about the trend for documentaries this year at Sundance, is they have some very big essay films that are looking at some of the biggest social issues facing our country, which is very exciting,” said Dreyfous.
She mentioned that the Sundance House is the Beehive Tea Room, which hosts musical acts every night during the festival, and brings in the filmmakers as sort of a green room while the films are being screened.
“There’s a lot happening at the Beehive Tea Room, and most people don’t know that, so that will be a fun place to hang out if people are going to any of the screenings in Salt Lake City,” she said.
She also noted that the Salt Lake City Main Library is an official Sundance venue this year, and will be an excellent place for the local residents to attend the film screenings.
Some of Dreyfous’ recommendations for Sundance this year are:
The Invisible War, directed by Kirby Dick
“Kirby Dick’s film, The Invisible War, which I’m executive producing, is going to be an incendiary film that’s going to really blow open the failure of the military to address military sexual assault. It’s so hard hitting, and the issue is huge…
There are women in Orem, Utah who have eating disorders, and their rationale for having their disorders is so that they don’t have their periods, so that when they go back to Afghanistan, and when they get raped, they won’t get pregnant. That’s how fucked up it is. They’re such good soldiers and they want to be back in the line of fire, but they also have this extra burden to worry about, it’s just terrible.”
David France’s How To Survive a Plague, directed by David France
France, a first-time filmmaker had been covering HIV/AIDS issues and medical research for 30 years as a journalist. His film includes important archival footage that Dreyfous says shows how in the early days the LGBT community had to train itself to become medical experts and advocate on behalf of policy in a way that was fair for everybody, and not just the queer community.
Love Free Or Die, directed by Mack Alstin
“Love Free Or Die is about an Episcopal bishop who has refused to leave his church, and refused to leave his partner, and that tension that will probably split the Anglican Church around the issue of same-sex marriage. [Alstin] is at the forefront of it, and he’s been doing equality work here in Utah for years, so he’ll be kind of a ‘home team favorite,’ and that’s going to be a really important film.”
Keep The Lights On, directed by Ira Sachs
“The other one for the LGBT community to watch for is also from a local hometown favorite, Ira Sachs, who has a drama called Keep The Lights On, which is autobiographical.
His dad lives here, he’s spent a lot of his time growing up out here, and he’s had three or four films at Sundance, and the last one won the Grand Jury Prize. So that’s a film for you and the Q readers, and general audiences too. He’s been very devoted to equality issues here, and I think people will be very happy to have him back at Sundance.”
In addition to those, she has recommended Susan Froemke’s film, Escape Fire: The Fight To Rescue American Healthcare, which addresses how to do health care reform; Eugene Jarecki’s film, The House I Live In, which is about the failure of the drug war and drug policy; and Finding North, a film that looks at hunger issues in America.
In terms of feature films, Dreyfous recommends the closing night film, The Words, and The Law In These Parts – a film on the Israeli Palestinian conflict, how that separation has happened historically, and what the legal precedent is for forward progress.
As for crowd-pleasing films, the inside prediction is that Searching For Sugarman will win the Audience Award in Documentary, a story about a man here in Utah who was once a protest singer and rock musician in the 1970s who ended up being a janitor. But unbeknownst to him and his family, he has a cult following in South Africa because of his protest songs, and some younger people try to track him down.
More information about the 2012 Sundance Film Festival can be found at sundance.org/festival.