Sundance 2013, Pt. 1: Ten-Year Rewind


It’s a late Friday evening, and as I write this, I can’t believe I’m resuming this blog once again. I know, I keep telling myself that I should stay with it and post more regularly. This year, this year will be that year. Let’s see how this goes, it isn’t a New Year’s resolution by any means, but perhaps a re-dedication.

Salt Lake City is cold yet cloudless and crisp, an auspicious start to my abbreviated week to view new works at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. As I sit and write, accompanied by music by the Maori folk singer Deborah Wai Kapohe, I’m reminded of a couple of eiree coincidences that takes me back to 2002, the year I first started coming to Utah:

• Driving up from Los Angeles today as with that January day in 2002, the entire West Coast is bathed in cloudless sunlight. Not a cloud in the sky! And upon arrival after a full day of travel, Park City on a Friday evening is shimmering under a dark, starlit sky. Same as 2002.

• The year 2002 was the very first year of the Asian Pacific Filmmakers Experience, a celebratory party thrown by Visual Communications staffers working with a host of APA media arts organization to give much-needed recognition and love to Asian Pacific American filmmakers whose works were showing at the Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals. That year, the buzz was centered around BETTER LUCK TOMORROW, the electrifying solo feature debut of Justin Lin and the expanded version of Bertha Bay-sa Pan’s FACE; this year, the spotlight is seemingly centered on Evan Leong, a member of Lin’s large entourage whose documentary BLT: GENESIS provided an incisive telling of the making of a modern independent classic. Leong’s own feature documentary effort LINSANITY, a chronicle of the frenzy surrounding the emergence of NBA phenom Jeremy Lin, makes its World Premiere bow this Sunday in Park City and is already proving a tough ticket to be had.

While 2002 was clearly centered on narrative features, this year’s APA charge into the teeth of Sundance is headed by four non-fiction features: Leong’s LINSANITY, Kalyanee Mam’s A RIVER CHANGES COURSE, Freida Lee Mock’s ANITA, and Jason DaSilva’s WHEN I WALK. All four works are light-years away from moldy APA identity themes and arguably tackle more weighty subjects that offer a glimpse into new global realities; the sexy factor is seemingly left to high-profile narrative works by international auteurs making their debuts here. There’s Indian master Anurag Kashyap’s epic GANGS OF WASSEYPUR for those needing to get their Bollywood fix satisfied. And for hallyu heat, there’s Korean director O Muel’s award-winning JISEUL and STOKER, the Hollywood feature debut of Korean master Park Chan-wook.

My time this week is at a premium: after a hiatus of two years, a stripped-down version of the Asian Pacific Filmmakers’ Experience will drop on Tuesday, January 22 (details here), so viewing films will be hectic, to say the least. But I’m going for it. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s out there at Sundance — maybe this could be the start of a “next” wave. We’ll see…

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