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Sundance to Sarajevo

Sundance to Sarajevo: Film Festivals and the World They Made

Kenneth Turan
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: 1
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Sundance to Sarajevo
    Book Description:

    Almost every day of the year a film festival takes place somewhere in the world--from sub-Saharan Africa to the Land of the Midnight Sun.Sundance to Sarajevois a tour of the world's film festivals by an insider whose familiarity with the personalities, places, and culture surrounding the cinema makes him uniquely suited to his role. Kenneth Turan, film critic for theLos Angeles Times,writes about the most unusual as well as the most important film festivals, and the cities in which they occur, with an eye toward the larger picture. His lively narrative emphasizes the cultural, political, and sociological aspects of each event as well as the human stories that influence the various and telling ways the film world and the real world intersect. Of the festivals profiled in detail, Cannes and Sundance are obvious choices as the biggest, brashest, and most influential of the bunch. The others were selected for their ability to open a window onto a wider, more diverse world and cinema's place in it. Sometimes, as with Sarajevo and Havana, film is a vehicle for understanding the international political community's most vexing dilemmas. Sometimes, as with Burkina Faso's FESPACO and Pordenone's Giornate del Cinema Muto, it's a chance to examine the very nature of the cinematic experience. But always the stories in this book show us that film means more and touches deeper chords than anyone might have expected. No other book explores so many different festivals in such detail or provides a context beyond the merely cinematic.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93082-7
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    No one wants to speak against the Bible, but the sentiment found in Ecclesiastes famously insisting “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven” in no way applies to the universe of film festivals.

    Month in, month out, from the Flickfest International Outdoor Short Film Festival starting in early January in the Bondi Beach area of Sydney, Australia, through the Autrans Festival of Mountain and Adventure Films ending in mid-December in the high, thin air of southeast France, there is barely a day on the calendar where some film festival is not being...


    • Cannes
      (pp. 13-30)

      What is this thing called Cannes?

      Grueling, crowded, complicated, unforgiving, it’s been likened by a survivor to “a fight in a brothel during a fire.” A place where reputations are made and hearts are broken, fascinating and frustrating in equal parts, it has a love-hate relationship with Hollywood, yet gives out awards, including the Palme d’Or for best picture, that are the movie world’s most coveted next to the Oscars. It’s where Clint Eastwood might W nd himself watching—and enjoying—an Iranian film about baking bread, a place, novelist Irwin Shaw wrote, that attracted all of W lm: “the...

    • Sundance
      (pp. 31-48)

      He materialized all at once in a crowded room, his eyes wide and next door to desperate, his grip on my shoulder firm, even insistent. “See my film,” he said, quiet but intense. “Change my life.”

      At any other film event in any other city, that moment with a young director might have seemed unreal, out of place, even threatening. But this was the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, the flagship of the burgeoning American independent film movement and a dream factory for the modern age, where, as Warner Baxter said to Ruby Keeler in 42nd Street, “You’re...

    • ShoWest
      (pp. 49-62)

      LAS VEGAS—In a plaid shirt, loose-fitting pants, and nonchalant attitude, Adam Sandler was indistinguishable from the fans who’ve made him one of the most sought-after stars in America. “I’m not particularly smart,” he mock-confessed to increasing laughter and applause. “I’m not particularly talented; I’m not particularly good looking. But I’m a multimillionaire because of you people. So thank you very much.”

      Welcome to ShoWest, as in show me the talent, show me a little respect, and, most of all, show me the money. Again and again at the awards banquet of an event that’s been called everything from “the...


      (pp. 65-80)

      OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO—The crowd, estimated at 40,000, pours through an honor guard of mounted camels and overflows the biggest stadium in the country. For the next three and a half hours a kaleidoscopic spectacle unfolds, made up of flowery political speeches in two languages, performances by celebrated musicians like Malhatini and the Mahotela Queens, a pantomime executed by five hundred schoolchidren, choreographed prancing by elaborately costumed horsemen, dazzling W reworks, even a ceremonial ribbon-cutting and release of multicolored balloons by the nation’s president.

      Is this any way to open a film festival? For FESPACO, the Festival Panafricaine du Cinéma...

    • Havana
      (pp. 81-88)

      Scratch a Cuban, uncover a paradox.

      To spend time in the crumbling but still heartbreakingly beautiful city of Havana, to talk to Cuban filmmakers during the Festival of New Latin American Cinema, is to hear the same words repeated over and over: contradictory, paradoxical, inexplicable, miraculous. “It’s more difficult to explain what happens in Cuba in rational terms than to live here,” says prominent director Gerardo Chijona. “If you’re going to go by common sense, forget it.” To examine this small island’s film history is to discover how far from conventional expectations everything is. Isolated and beleaguered by an American...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • Sarajevo
      (pp. 89-108)

      SARAJEVO, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA—Many things come to mind when this city’s name is mentioned, but a film festival is not one of them.

      This was the city that survived the longest siege of modern history, more than forty-six months of exhausting, terrifying shelling and sniping from the surrounding Serb-controlled hills that damaged or destroyed 60 percent of its buildings. Approximately ten thousand died, 150,000 fled, and those that remained did without much of what we like to consider essential.

      Often there was no communication with the outside world, no electricity, no power but foot power, and the city became ironically known...

    • Midnight Sun
      (pp. 109-122)

      SODANKYLA, FINLAND—It’s midnight not in Savannah’s celebrated Garden of Good and Evil but in this distant Lapland village a hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle, a remote, mosquito-plagued time and place that, all things considered, might be even stranger.

      It’s not just the startling presence next to the town’s high school of a genuine circus tent, vivid blue with yellow and red stripes and big enough to make the performers of Fellini’sLa Stradaenvious. A tent out of which into the breezy midnight air float the unmistakable tones of Ian McKellen’s cultivated author inLove and Death...


    • Pordenone
      (pp. 125-139)

      Silent W lms have magic. They’ve outwitted history.

      Once the most potent worldwide entertainment medium, silent films were subjected to a cultural firestorm of numbing proportions when sound came in. The prints themselves, according to Kevin Brownlow, the author of the landmark bookThe Parade’s Gone Byand a reigning authority on silent W lm, endured “a record of destruction worthy of Attila the Hun: they have burned them, dumped them in the sea, hacked the reels with axes, or let them rot in vaults.”

      Even the estimated 20 percent of films made between 1895 and the late 1920s that...

    • Lone Pine
      (pp. 140-146)

      Ask not what the world can do for you, says the self-sufficient Lone Pine Film Festival, show everyone what you’ve done for the world.

      While the standard festival looks outward, offering itself as a place where movies from everywhere can find a home, the folks here turn that formula on its head, inviting visitors to celebrate what this tiny Eastern Sierra town three hours from Los Angeles has contributed to the universe of film.

      In what has been called the most focused movie event in the world, the Lone Pine Film Festival, which began in 1990, concentrates exclusively on motion...

    • Telluride
      (pp. 147-156)

      More than twenty-two years ago, powered by the energy of youth, an innocent critic ventured out from the East Coast to a small festival in Colorado, then in just its third year. This is what he wrote:

      “Telluride is the name whispered to you as you sit shivering from celluloid overdose in a café in Cannes. Go to Telluride, the voices say, only a few years old and already the most respected small film festival in the world. Telluride is different, the voices say, and for once the voices are right.”

      The words are mine, and when a considerably larger...


    • The Festival That Failed
      (pp. 159-171)

      ACAPULCO—It’s hot here, jungle hot. Hibiscus and bougainvillea are flourishing and the sultry air seems almost perfumed. I’m alone at Las Brisas, a celebrated pink and white honeymoon spot with private swimming pools and spectacular views, feeling, to paraphrase Raymond Chandler’s been-around Philip Marlowe, as out of place as a tarantula on a piece of angelfood cake. But it doesn’t matter. Like Marlowe, I’m on a case.

      The death of a film festival is what I’m investigating. That’s right, in this boom time for fests, with unprecedented numbers thriving and new contenders clutching at life every day, one of...

    • I, the Jury
      (pp. 172-180)

      He was all eagerness and animation, this young man deep in conversation in a hotel lobby. “The aesthetics of these films are so different,” he insisted to his friends, eyes hot with emotion. “I can’t imagine being on the jury at this festival.”

      I had to smile as I walked past, not only because the speaker reminded me of myself a couple of decades back, but also because I happened to be one of the seven members of the jury at the twentieth Montreal World Film Festival. And in fact the state of affairs was as the young man imagined,...

  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 181-181)