As Sundance comes to a close, a sad but effervescent feeling has come over me. I have had the opportunity to view 21 amazing, thought provoking, depressing, and emotional films. While it is hard to choose an absolute favorite, Me, Earl & the Dying Girl stole the show. Winning the grand jury award for US Dramatic Competition, it was nothing less than spectacular. The way that the characters’ personalities were intricately developed made it personal and emotional. It’s not often that a movie can bring tears to my eyes. I found it depressing that they threw in the twist that turned the movie from a victorious battle over cancer to an unfortunate loss against the disease. It is interesting though that throughout the movie Greg (the narrator and main character) constantly reminds the audience that Rachel (the girl with Leukemia) is not going to die. Me, Earl and the Dying Girl was dramedy that I really wanted to become a romcom, where the girl doesn’t die in the end and she falls in love with the boy that took care of her throughout her battle with cancer and they live happily ever after. Boy was I disappointed from that angle…
On a brighter note, Most Likely to Succeed was the highlight documentary of Sundance. The film discussed how obsolete our education system has become (from kindergarten to college). The film was focused around a charter school that didn’t believe that a child’s achievements in the classroom should revolve around a multiple choice test. Instead, the student’s education and coursework is evaluated by fellow classmates and the public at an end of the quarter showing. At this particular charter school the specific subjects are taught in conjunction with others (for example physics and humanities were taught together) in order for students to learn to apply the things that they are learning. That is the struggle with mainstream schools, education is focused on your ability to memorize and regurgitate information on a test to evaluate literacy and comprehension. One of my questions though was how do the student’s that graduate from the charter schools transition into the public (or even the private) education system being that your intelligence is based on a test?
Other films that I saw in the remainder of my time at Sundance included: People, Place, Things (Such a great and down to earth movie that seemed so real. A perfect film to watch after all of the emotionally draining films I watched previously in the week. It was a story about letting go, moving on, and the struggle of finding yourself), I Am Michael (A struggle between religion and homosexuality. A gay man abandons his sexuality because he feels that because he is homosexual he is going to hell. His journey through life is infuriating and sad, though he eventually finds “happiness” in the end), Princess (a confusing and provoking portrayal of child sexual abuse), Homesick (an interesting take on the relationship between a half brother and sister and their lust and desire for one another), Tangerine (a great comedy on the struggle of transgender women and how many of them turn to prostitution because they are denied other jobs due to their transformation), and Grandma (a great comedy on forgiveness, family, and love).
Every film, person, conversation that I have had over the last 10 days has been part of one of the best experiences of my life. I will never forget the things that I have seen, people I have met, and the experience that I have had in Park City, UT. I am thankful for the opportunity to have been part of Sundance 2015!