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Sundance Film Festival Showcases Independent Films

  • Penelope Poulou

The quaint town of Park City in Utah is home to The Sundance Film Festival

The quaint town of Park City in Utah is home to The Sundance Film Festival

Nearly 200 films from 41 countries are screened at Utah festival

The 2010 Sundance Film Festival is underway in Park City, Utah. The heavy snow and subfreezing temperatures do not stop almost 50,000 visitors from enjoying the films and exhibits around town. Documentaries, feature films and shorts -- 186 of them -- are being showcased here. The festival is a top venue for independent filmmakers.

This quaint alpine town is America's hottest venue for independent films. Directors, critics, movie stars and others are here to see the almost 200 films selected for the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

Competition to get in is fierce. Almost 10,000 films were submitted for this year's event.

As independent filmmaker Gabriel Griffin Filmmaker says, "Sundance is truly organic."

Griffin is ahead of the game. He's already publicizing his latest film by putting it up on a public poster board in the middle of Main Street. He hopes the film will be accepted for Sundance next year. But the poster board is filling up quickly. Griffin looks at his poster stoically. "In an hour this will be covered up," he says.

The festival shows only independent films. Low budget documentaries, features, and shorts are screened across the ski resort of Park City.

The Egyptian Theater, on Main Street, figures prominently in the festival. The street is full of 19th century storefronts built during the silver mining boom.

Here, Sundance founder and president Robert Redford opened the 10-day festival. Redford says his brain child, now 26 years old, is in the vanguard of independent filmmaking. "I do honestly take pride in the fact that we've been doing this for so long and we send programmers all over the world to find these films in these countries that I honestly do think that we have the best films and the best documentaries from all over the world," said the legendary actor to a room filled with reporters.

Audiences too come from all over the world. Like Eduardo from Brazil. "Two Brazilian directors are showing movies, documentaries about the Amazon and maybe I will get tickets to enjoy," he says.

About 1,500 volunteers are here to help visitors like Eduardo find their way in the snow and subfreezing temperatures.

The "New Frontier" exhibit on Main Street is a highlight of the festival.

There, one steps onto a virtual map projected on the floor and travels the world over, or sees oneself on an electronic mirror that turns everyone into a comic book figure with bubble thoughts overhead.

Shari Frilo is the curator. She says the exhibit reflects the all-present media culture we live in.

"When you walk in," she says, "you're surrounded by images rather than a little gallery here or a little gallery there. It's supposed to be a social experience that resonates with our everyday life, that encourages conversation around this kind of experience in a hypermedia environment that is an artistic one rather than one that's powered by commerce and surveillance."

The festival offers filmmakers -- like Oscar winner Davis Guggenheim -- the chance to meet with the press and exchange ideas.

And although the weather doesn't cooperate, it doesn't stop people from venturing out.

Sundance is art in the making.

By now, Gabriel Griffin's poster has been covered by many others and soon new ones will cover those.

One thing is certain: some of these independent films will go on to compete for the top prizes.

Just like the independent film "Precious." It won a triple award at Sundance last year and is expected to make it at the Oscars in March.

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