An independent spirit

Times Staff Writer

Eva Norvind is an intense, fast-talking woman with short gray hair and a passion for movies that can be assuaged only by a place like the Sundance Film Festival.

Although the focus of the 10-day event is on films, filmmakers, deals and the glitzy scene, there is a whole other population, moving mostly under the radar, of people who are here because they love movies.

Norvind, 61, loves them so much that she is living in the 24-bed dormitory of a local inn, paying $30 a night for a bunk and scrambling all over town to take in between four and six movies a day. She came to the festival with tickets for 30 movies and intends to see about 45 by the time it's over. Her total box office outlay will be about $500.

"I get up at 7, see my first film at 8:30. I usually go to bed around midnight. I don't need a place to be comfortable. I just need a place where I can drop dead at night."

At 5 p.m. Thursday, she was sitting in the cafe of the Yarrow Resort Hotel, one of the festival's theater venues, barking orders at a waiter who seemed confounded by her request. "My friends tell me the waiters probably spit in my food, I'm so difficult .... But I always get what I want."

That includes seeing the movies she wants to see, even if it means sneaking into a theater without a ticket. "I said to myself, 'Well, I am just gonna act like I belong here and walk right in,' and that's exactly what I did."

She pores over the Sundance film guide before deciding what to see. This year, it took her six hours just to figure out the logistics of what she would see and when. "I want to see films that have a certain depth and soul," she says. "I want more than good performances."

Norvind, who was born in Norway, began her professional life as an actress in Mexico. She has worked as a journalist and photographer, and in the sex trade, operating as a dominatrix out of a New York dungeon. In 1998, she was the subject of a documentary by filmmaker Monika Treut called "Didn't Do it for Love."

This may be a stretch for some, but Norvind says that there are some similarities between her former career as a dominatrix and her current mission at Sundance.

"You have to be a virgin before every encounter," she says. "And it's the same here. You need at least an hour between films, so you can be fresh. You need to digest them."

So far, says Norvind, she has walked out of only two movies, "Unfolding Florence" "because it just wasn't the kind of structure I wanted" and "Wristcutters: A Love Story" because the theater was stifling.

Among the movies she has loved are "Into Great Silence," a German documentary about French monks who have taken a vow of silence, and "Stephanie Daley," a feature about a woman accused of killing her baby and the pregnant psychologist hired to evaluate her. "A wonderful relationship," she says.

Recently, Norvind has decided to try her hand at filmmaking and has made her own shoestring documentary, "Born Without," about a Mexican harmonica player, a father of six, who was born without arms.

"I never used to care about documentaries before I came here," says Norvind. "But at Sundance I learned to love them and was inspired to make my own."

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