Friday August 3 – Day 1
A rocky first day was totally redeemed by getting in at the last minute to the late screening of CHICO AND RITA, a supremely enjoyable Afro Cuban jazz infused animated tale inspired by the great Bebo Valdes and directed by Spanish director Fernando Trueba (Belle Epoque, Calle 54). My day started without a good nights sleep because along with having to deal with my roommate’s heavy snoring, my senses were also assaulted by the dander and cat hair in the condo to which I’m extremely allergic. My eyes were swollen itchy red, I was sneezing like a lunatic, and I was short of breath by the time the sun was up. Although my shift was not to start until 1pm, the concession manager asked that everyone help setting up the stand outside the Palm theater, one of the bigger venues of the Festival so like a dutiful newbie I arrived at 9:30am only to find out that production had yet to lay down the electric and load in the equipment. We take advantage of the gorgeous day and go for a quick hike. If I didn’t say it before the scenery is stunning up here. I make a crack about how the locals who grow up here must be like those of Hailsham, the cloning school that figures in the underwhelming Mark Romanek film, NEVER LET ME GO. Rewarded for having shown up early to set up, I am allowed to finish early. I decide to get some quick shut eye because I look like its already Day 5. I regret the nap. I should’ve just stuck it out because my nap makes me late to the infamous Opening Day Feed. I had hoped this would be where I would run in to ‘everybody’. Instead, you know how you run into the same people at every festival? It looks like Caitlin and David are those for me here. I look around to see a dwindling crowd and then see Daniela Michel talking to Inarritu and Tom Luddy. I think here’s my chance to come up and enjoy one of those informal introductions, but their group breaks up as I come up. Dammit. Luckily I see my girl Whitney who’s sitting with a couple of big agents and studio execs (names who have been imprinted on my from my days as a producer’s slave) both who says its thier first time here. I see Sarah Pearce, director of operations at Sundance and I run over to say hello before taking the gondola to the Chuck Jones theatre to catch a shorts program. I refer to the signage and my fest vet skills to find which queue line I’m suppose to line up trying to be self sufficient and not ask a staff member. I give myself 10 minutes before I walk up to the info booth with my tail between my legs and I am asked if I have a Wabbit Weservation (?). In lieu of this “Q’ system, the Chuck Jones theatre calls their line place holders w2s. I’m reminded this is all in my Vespucci staff handbook. I am pointed in the ‘No W2’ lines and manage to get in. Of the three half hour shorts, I like the first one the best, a polish dramatic short called COME TO ME directed by Ewa Banaszkiewicz. It was one of those well made, intimate handheld films through which the lead character essence emerges so well that when the film finishes you care to think of the numerous paths, or rather interprete what the protag will go on to do. I leave in the middle of the second half hour short, a documentary, POSTER GIRL about a US female soldier who returns from Iraq . It was basically her on camera, showing us her medicine cabinet full of prescriptions to keep her PTS at bay, and how she’s managing by turning her camaflouge uniforms into paper mache art. I feel bad for leaving because I wanted to see the third film, a Palestine 3d animation, but I am determined to get my Q for the 9:30pm Chico and Rita.
I arrive 45 minutes in advance to the Opera house venue, only to be told that this particular venue only admits staff on a stand-by basis. Of course this info is on the back of my badge and in my Vespucci handbook. I have a frustrating moment as I realize I’m acting like this is my first rodeo. The middle aged theatre line staffer gives me discouraging odds. But not one to make a stink about it – been on the other side much too long, I weakly smile say thanks and walk away. Plan B is the new Peter Weir film. Unfortunately the theatre manager gives me the same spiel. Plan C is the free outdoor screening on Main of OKA! AMERIKEE, a documentary about African Pygmies, figuring there’s no way one can’t get into an outdoor screening I circle back to main. The park is across from the Opera house so before I plop down on the grass, I decide to walk over for one last ditch try, and voila! I get into the screening. Once inside I settle in to the cozy Opera house, which looks like an old school vaudeville establishment and my mood is immediately lifted. Tom Luddy introduces the film, hollers at Sid Ganis and the other jazz aficionados in the audience. He breaks what I thought was a festival rule when he tells the audience sounding quite sincere; ‘Of all the movies in the festival this one is my favorite.” Fernando Trueba comes up and tells us of his connection to the legendary Cuban maestro Bebo, and of the 4 years in the making film. The animator is a Spanish artist named Javier Mariscal. The music grabs us all and the colors in the film swim big, reminding me of those paint by adding water coloring books where the colors spill. The remarkable detail of the cosmo hey-day cities of Cuba, New York, Paris, etc exude the energy each city is known for. Chico and Rita is the classic love story of a pianist who follows a talented songstress Rita all over the world as they each go through their journeys starting from the 40s to the 90s. In each of their storylines other jazz biographical snippets are incorporated. i.e. When Rita is playing Vegas she points out to the crown the irony that she’s being called a superstar while being segregated, forced to sleep at another hotel (Dorothy Dandridge). All the jazz greats have cameos like Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Nat Cole, and a million others. As the screening lets out, I’m deliciously satisfied and can’t wait to download a bunch of jazz medleys. We are handed out the TBA’s for the next day. As had been rumored, Black Swan and 127 Hours are here.