Real life proved to be the source of the greatest entertainment in Park City this year. By and large, the people who attended this year's festival were more interesting than the actual movies (not counting the gratuitous celebrities not connected to any film). At the Filmmaker Lodge I was able to watch a moderated discussion between two very different titans of documentary film, Frederick Wiseman and Werner Herzog. Wiseman is generally grouped in with the cinema verité movement and is sometimes called its father because he creates stories out of mountains of footage without adding narration or music to indicate how you should feel when you watch it. Herzog, on the other hand, not only adds his own narration and music, he'll often stage scenes to get his point across.
With two such wildly divergent filmmaking styles, you'd think they would have fundamental disagreements about the form and purpose of documentaries. They don't. Decrying labels and film genres, both of them just want to tell the best and most interesting story possible. Herzog has been making documentaries almost as long as he's been making fiction features, and he really doesn't see much difference between the two. Wiseman thinks cinema verité is a pompous French term and doesn't preach making movies in that style; he just likes to make them that way. Both acknowledge that making movies is always difficult, and in regards to hearing artists complain about funding and distribution, Herzog had the last word: "Just do your job and don't complain." Amen.
I had no complaints about staying in a condo with friends from RES Magazine and GreenCine online, and not just because it got me into their companies' mutual party celebrating "the art of storytelling." The centerpiece was their 10 directors to watch, which included people like Hal Hartley (The Girl From Monday), Mike Mills (Thumbsucker), Miranda July (Me and You and Everyone We Know), as well as Police Beat's Robinson Devor and others. I ended up hanging out with a couple of talented short filmmakers. Bryan Boyce has been making short, supremely funny animated films for years, and he was in town with his latest, America's Biggest Dick (which features Dick Cheney, of course). The other was Keith Bearden, whose short The Raftman's Razor was one of my favorite films early in the festival. This judgment came through long before I discovered he was the same Keith Bearden who used to write movie reviews for me in the early days of The Stranger.
Elsewhere at the festival, I did see some feature films that I enjoyed. One of my favorites was Strangers with Candy, and the highlight of the festival for me was sitting down with Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, and Paul Dinello. Needless to say, I confronted them about their obvious Oscar grab by taking a pretty actress (Sedaris), uglying her up, and having her play a prostitute--in this case a 46-year-old ex-junky who goes back to high school. I'll run the entire interview this fall when the movie is released. Meanwhile, you can read my wrap-up of the movies at Sundance online at www.thestranger.com/specials/sundance05.