Sundance 2011: A heartfelt moment before the frenzy of ‘The Oregonian’


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Before Monday night’s midnight world premiere of Calvin Lee Reeder’s ‘The Oregonian’ at Park City’s Egyptian theater, Nicholas McCarthy, director of the night’s short film ‘The Pact,’ shared a personal story of how the two filmmakers met and where their friendship took them.

The two films don’t seem connected on the surface. ‘The Pact’ is a compact, creepy little story about a brother and a sister in the wake of their mother’s death -- part ghost tale, part traumatic drama. ‘The Oregonian,’ on the other hand, is strange and sweeping, with shocking, hallucinatory imagery that at times defies description let alone rational comprehension.


When McCarthy took to the stage before the screening, he said that he and Reeder had met about six years ago when they both had short films in another festival.

‘I saw that movie and said, ‘I want to know that guy,’ ‘ McCarthy said, referring to Reeder’s short at that festival. They became friends. Reeder ended up sending McCarthy an early version of ‘The Oregonian’ to take a look at, asking for suggestions. McCarthy said he found the film so inspiring and energizing that he simply had to make another film of his own. That film turned out to be ‘The Pact.’

‘It’s a special night, obviously, for me,’ said McCarthy.

As Sundance director of programming Trevor Groth was taking the stage to introduce Reeder, someone in the audience shouted out, asking whether Groth knew that bit of background and connection between the two films. ‘Did I know that story? No I didn’t. It’s a great story,’ said Groth. Pausing for a moment to take in the odd bit of circumstance, he playfully added, ‘Hey, we’re good.’

After Groth called the film ‘like a nightmare you’re happy to be in,’ Reeder said just a few words before the start of the movie. Bold, impressionistic, possibly symbolic or maybe just nuts, ‘The Oregonian’ follows a young woman (Lindsay Pulsipher of ‘True Blood’) as she wakes up from a car crash to find the world has gone horribly wrong. With its startling sound design and Reeder’s backwoods, David Lynch-esque worldview, the film nevertheless fits comfortably within what seems to be one of the subtexts of Sundance films this year: ‘Am I crazy, or is this the apocalypse?’

During a Q&A after the film played, with more than 20 cast and crew onstage, someone recalled just what a shoestring budget the movie was made on: Despite the drizzling weather in Washington state where it was shot, ‘we had an umbrella -- one umbrella.’

-- Mark Olsen in Park City, Utah