Sundance Film Festival Opens with Three Documentaries: 'Crip Camp,' 'Miss Americana,' and 'The Painter and the Thief'
Robert Redford salutes outgoing festival director John Cooper before Crip Camp premiere
The Sundance Film Festival eschewed a formal opening day news conference for the first time in many years, but Sundance Institute founder Robert Redford was on hand nonetheless opening night to get things underway.
He appeared at the Eccles Theatre to talk about the festival's history and to pay tribute to festival director John Cooper, who is stepping down after this year's event. Cooper then came out to introduce the world premiere of Crip Camp, the documentary about the birth of the disability rights movement, directed by Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht.
A packed house attended the premiere, including many of the people who appear in the documentary. Recently discovered archival footage seen in the film reveals how a summer camp held in upstate New York in the 1970s brought together young people who would go on to lead the disability rights movement, including Judy Heumann and LeBrecht. On the arrival line I asked LeBrecht what it had meant to him to attend Camp Jened.
It was the first time in my life that I felt like I wasn't a burden.
"It was the first time in my life that I felt like I wasn't a burden, that I had real freedom, that it wasn't hard for me to get around and that I was one of the cool kids," he explained. "And that really hadn't been my experience at home. And I also found my community in the sense of disability as my culture."
Netflix will release Crip Camp later in the year.
Following Crip Camp at the Eccles Theatre was the world premiere of another Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, about singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. Lana Wilson directed the film; Oscar winner Morgan Neville and Christine O'Malley produced it.
While the Miss Americana premiere was taking place, we were over at Prospector Square for the world premiere of The Painter and the Thief, directed by Norwegian filmmaker Benjamin Ree. His film tells the remarkable story of the unlikely relationship between artist Barbora Kysilkova and a man who stole two of her paintings, Karl-Bertil Nordland. Kysilkova got to know "the Bertilizer" as Karl-Bertil calls himself after attending a court session at which Nordland was being charged with the theft.
"Using a structure that cleverly shifts perspectives," Sundance notes, "Ree unfolds the fraught lives and vulnerabilities of two souls who come to recognize themselves in the other—the darkness, wounds, compulsions, and self-destructive behavior."
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.