Plus Sundance Now holds panel discussion on redefining patriotism in Trump era
As dawn approached on Saturday, heavy snow fell in the Salt Lake City/Park City area, possibly complicating plans for the "Women's March on Main Street," one of hundreds of anti-Donald Trump marches planned around the country and the world.
Talk show host Chelsea Handler is set to lead the march, which a press release said would feature a host of prominent figures, including Connie Britton, Benjamin Bratt, Maria Bello, environmental activist Laurie David, and farmworker rights advocate Dolores Huerta -- the subject of the Sundance documentary Dolores.
Kristen Stewart, in Sundance for the premiere of Come Swim, a short narrative film she directed, told me she planned to participate in the march, which comes a day after Trump's inauguration.
"I think just making it known that we're completely not on board is very important," Stewart said.
The incoming Trump Administration also came under scrutiny Friday at a panel discussion at the SundanceTV headquarters on Main Street. A distinguished panel of filmmakers, including Jehane Noujaim [The Square], Keith Maitland [Tower] and Jason Cohen [Silicon Cowboys] addressed the question of the meaning of patriotism in Trump's America.
"I consider myself a patriot and I've never seen it as a bad word," Maitland said. "But I've also never accepted it as a word that is owned by any side of the political spectrum."
The assembled filmmakers all directed short documentaries under the heading of "A More Perfect Patriot" that will begin airing soon as part of the Take 5 series on the Sundance Now streaming service. The films touch on a variety of related topics, including the American flag, and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who this season protested racial injustice in the U.S. by refusing to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.
One renowned Sundance alum has pulled her film from the festival at the last moment. Two-time Academy Award nominee Lucy Walker was set to premiere her Untitled Buena Vista Social Club Documentary on Friday, but hours before the premiere the Sundance press office said the film would no longer be screened.
Broad Green Pictures issued a statement explaining what happened:
"We at Broad Green are disappointed that we will not be able to premiere this compelling documentary at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The film’s post production process has taken longer than expected and thus the decision was made to wait to introduce the film to audiences until it can be presented in its best possible iteration.”
One premiere that did go forward was for the documentary Whose Streets? by Sabaah Folayan. Much of the audience saluted the film with a standing ovation, moved by its visceral depiction of the pain, frustration, anguish and fear experienced by many people of color in Ferguson, Missouri after the 2014 killing of Michael Brown Jr., an unarmed African-American teenager who was shot to death by a white police officer.
The film combines cell phone video, social media posts, interviews with witnesses and activists and other material to expose what it felt like for people on the ground to have their protests met with tear gas, rubber bullets and batons from an antagonistic and militarized police force.
Folayan also makes clear why many who lived in the community felt essentially betrayed by mainstream media outlets like CNN and MSNBC, whose reporting on the protests focused largely on relatively isolated incidences of looting. Whose Streets? is not just about who the streets truly belong to but whose narrative gets privileged in American society -- one advanced by police and government officials and enforced by uncritical news outlets, or one reflecting the experience of people of color in Ferguson who lived for decades under threat from a hostile police force.
Director Sabaah Folayan (at right, with scarf), after the premiere of her film "Whose Streets?" at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. To her right is civil rights activist Brittany Ferrell, a central character in the film, and co-director Damon Davis. January 19, 2017. Photo by Matt Carey
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.