Hello! I’m Mark Olsen. Welcome to another edition of your regular field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.
This is a special midweek edition of the newsletter, brought to you from beautiful Park City, Utah. Our Sundance Film Festival team has been hard at work to continue bringing you all the latest news. As usual, photographer Jay L. Clendenin has been running a photo studio bringing through casts and filmmakers for many of the fest’s top titles.
On Tuesday, Feb. 5, we will have our first Indie Focus Screening Series event of the year, with the Colombian film “Birds of Passage,’ and a Q&A to follow with producer and co-director Cristina Gallego. After premiering last year at Cannes, the film screened here at Sundance too. For info and updates, go to events.latimes.com.
SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL
Though there are still a number of days left in the festival, you can already feel things shifting to a lower gear, as much of the industry presence leaves town and the throngs of onlookers leave the streets. But there are still plenty of movies to catch up on and new ones to discover.
Times film critic Justin Chang has been filing regular dispatches from his outings to the various screening venues at the festival. He took in the rousing premiere of “Late Night,” starring Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson, and also saw the drama “After The Wedding,” starring Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams, and the adaptation of “Native Son” starring Ashton Sanders.
Justin also wrote about Joe Talbot’s “The Last Black Man In San Francisco,” playing in the U.S. dramatic competition. The story actually follows two men, played by Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors, as they grapple with gentrification in their city. Justin’s same dispatch also includes Scott Z. Burns’ political drama “The Report,” starring Adam Driver and Annette Bening, and the documentary “Apollo 11.”
I spoke to some of the team behind “The Report,” including Burns, Bening, Driver and actor Jon Hamm. The film deals with a Senate report on the CIA’s torture program following 9/11. Of creating a political film in the current divisive climate, Burns said, “I really hope that people look at the movie and go, ‘This isn't ancient history.’ This was like four or five years ago, and we were able to put aside partisan politics and make a clear statement about who we're supposed to be in the world.”
On the film’s bracing take on race in America, Onah said, “There are a number of movies out right now or that have been out recently that explore political and social dynamics in a way that seeks to reassure the audience, or hold their hand a little bit more and uplift you. I’m not saying there’s not room for those kinds of stories … but I do strongly believe that if you’re trying to create culture and create work that helps us change culture, you have to have stories that aren’t just pacifying us.”
Amy also spoke to Dr. Ruth Westheimer, who is the subject of Rafael Marmor’s documentary, “Ask Dr. Ruth.” Hoping that the documentary continues in the path of the box office and awards season success of so many docs form Sundance last year, Westheimer added, “Put down in the Los Angeles Times, I do want to have an academy nomination at least. I want the recognition for the filmmaker and the producer for the rest of their lives. Because they're going to do many more films, so for them to get an academy nomination is very important. For me, it's going to be fun.”