Sundance vignettes: Dealmaking, a closed-captioning snafu, and Oscar nominations
As the 2023 Sundance Film Festival closes out, there were a few stories around Park City worthy of a quick mention — from what movies were bought to what parties were happening.Deals getting doneAs the festival’s first weekend came to a close, some of the dealmaking started to come together.• Searchlight Pictures announced Monday that it acquired worldwide rights to the comedy “Theater Camp,” a mock-documentary about a summer camp for theater kids, directed by Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman — who co-wrote the semi-improvised script with two of the film’s stars, Ben Platt and Noah Galvin. (Gordon also stars in the film.) The company did not divulge how much it spent for the rights; The Hollywood Reporter said it was in the vicinity of $8 million.• Variety reported Monday that Netflix was paying an estimated $20 million for the rights to “Fair Play,” director Chloe Domont’s drama about an engaged couple — played by “Bridgerton’s” Phoebe Dynevor and “Solo” star Alden Ehrenreich — who both work at a New York finance company, and how their relationship is affected when she gets promoted ahead of him.• Another reported $20 million deal to a streaming service: Apple, according to The Hollywood Reporter, has picked up worldwide rights to “Flora and Son,” the Irish comedy-drama from director John Carney (“Once,” “Sing Street”). The movie stars Eve Hewson as Flora, a single mom who finds an old guitar as a way to connect with her troubled teen son (Orén Kinlan) — and ends up bonding with her online music teacher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).• The Australian horror thriller “Talk to Me,” playing in the Midnight section, was picked up by the distributor A24 for what Variety termed “the high seven-figure range.” The movie, by directing brothers Danny and Michael Phillipou, centers on a teen (Sophia Wilde) who uses an embalmed hand to cross into the realm of the dead — which goes as well as you would expect.(Sean P. Means | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Utah-based band The National Parks — from left: Cam Brannelly, Sydney Macfarlane, Brady Parks and Megan Taylor Parks — perform at the Stanley at The Cabin pop-up in Park City on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, during the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.Utah bands play the partiesThe Sundance Film Festival’s opening weekend turned Park City’s Main Street into a cluster of party spots. Nearly every bar and restaurant seemed to become a corporate sponsored lounge or event space from Friday to Sunday — then the spaces reverted to their old selves after the weekend was over.The party spaces were a good opportunity for music acts to perform for a semi-attentive audience of entertainment industry folks. In two instances, bands with Utah roots took advantage and got their sounds heard.The Provo-based folk-pop band The National Parks played one acoustic performance on Friday, Jan. 20, at the pop-up started by festival sponsor Stanley (the insulated bottle company), and another on Jan. 21 down the street at the space taken over by White Claw.At the Friday performance, The National Parks found itself providing the beat for someone’s bachelorette party — not an easy trick, as the band was playing an acoustic set, but they managed it.The National Parks has a new album, “8th Wonder,” which will be released March 3. (An older track, “UFO,” plays on the soundtrack during a crucial moment of the Utah-made “Aliens Abducted My Parents and Now I Feel Kinda Left Out,” which played in the festival’s Kids program.)The L.A.-based — but Orem-raised — indie-pop band The Aces was scheduled to play the White Claw space on Jan. 20, and Jan. 21 at a private event at Park City’s The Spur, at a pop-up sponsored by Spotify. The Aces have a new album scheduled to be released in June.(Sundance Institute) Justin H. Min, left, and Sherry Cola co-star in director Randall Park's "Shortcomings," an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic competition at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.Real life intervenesSunday afternoon’s premiere of “Shortcomings” — an anti-romantic comedy with a predominantly Asian American cast — was supposed to be a celebration. A mass shooting early Sunday that left 10 people dead in a dance hall in Monterey Park, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles with a largely Asian American population, changed that.“Our hearts are with the families and the community,” actor Randall Park said to the audience at Park City’s Eccles Theatre on Sunday, when introducing the film, his directorial debut.One of the film’s stars, comedian Sherry Cola, grew up in Monterey Park, and told The Associated Press that the news of Sunday’s shooting was devastating.“I definitely cried myself to sleep, to be honest, because this is Monterey Park, California, like where I grew up, the 626, San Gabriel Valley,” Cola said Sunday. “This is where my Buddhist temple is, you know? Like all my friends I grew up with, they were born in Monterey Park. It’s this hometown that I’m so proud to call my hometown.”(Sundance Institute) Eliza Scanlen stars in director Laurel Parmet's "The Starling Girl," an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic competition at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.Getting used to open captionsAfter news reports that Sundance jurors walked out of a screening Friday night, because the closed-captioning technology being used malfunctioned, festival attendees noticed they could read more during later screenings.Starting Saturday, the video elements shown before the movie — a land acknowledgement, a PSA for the Sundance Institute and a welcome message from the institute’s founder, Robert Redford — were being shown with open captions.Some movies played with open captions, too. A Sunday night screening of Laurel Parmet’s drama “The Starling Girl” at Park City’s Redstone Cinemas included open captions.According to the Los Angeles Times, “Mutt” and “A Thousand and One” — all playing in the U.S. Dramatic competition, as is “The Starling Girl” — were going to provide open captions on future festival screenings. Movies not in English, of course, had subtitles already.The walkout happened at Park City’s Eccles Theatre, at Friday night’s premiere of “Magazine Dreams,” when juror Marlee Matlin, the first deaf actress to win an Academy Award, noticed her closed-captioning device wasn’t working. Matlin and fellow jurors Jeremy O. Harris and Eliza Hittman left the theater so they could watch it together at a different time.(National Film Board of Canada/Sundance Institute) An image from "The Flying Sailor," directed by Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, an official selection of the Shorts program at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival — and a nominee for the Academy Awards.A new Oscar nomineeA short film in this year’s festival got a big boost Tuesday: An Academy Award nomination.The Canadian film “The Flying Sailor,” directed by Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis, received a nomination in the Animated Short Film category. It’s playing in the Shorts Program 4 at Sundance.It’s described like this in the festival program: “Two ships collide in a harbor, an explosion shatters a city, and a sailor is blasted skyward, where he soars high above the mayhem and toward the great unknown.”(Ross Ferguson | Number 9 Films/Sundance Institute) Bill Nighy plays a civil servant who decides to find meaning in his life, in "Living," directed by Oliver Hermanus. The movie premiered during the online-only 2022 Sundance Film Festival, and received two Academy Award nominations — for Nighy's lead performance, and for Kazuo Ishiguro's adapted screenplay.Sundance ‘22 at the OscarsTuesday’s announcement of the Academy Award nominations had other Sundance connections — as a few movies that played at last year’s festival are now up for Oscars.The biggest recipient was the British drama “Living,” which received nominations for Bill Nighy’s lead performance as a civil servant reconsidering his life when he’s told he’s dying, and for Kazuo Ishigoro’s adapted screenplay. (The movie is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 drama “Ikiru.”)Three of the five nominees in the Documentary Feature Film category premiered at Sundance last year: “All That Breathes,” director Shaunak Sen’s profile of two brothers trying to save a species of bird from the pollution in Delhi, India; “Fire of Love,” director Sara Dosa’s look at married volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft; and “Navalny,” in which director Daniel Roher follows Russian dissident Alexei Navalny as he and a team of investigative reporters try to find out who in Vladimir Putin’s regime poisoned him.(”Navalny” was scheduled to screen Thursday evening in Park City, as one of the “encore special screenings” for movies that played Sundance during the online-only COVID years. People associated with that film took part in a champagne toast on Tuesday, to celebrate the Oscar nomination.)Another documentary from Sundance ‘22 that received an Academy Award nomination is “The Martha Mitchell Effect,” in the Documentary Short Film category. Directed by Anne Alvergue and Debra McClutchy, the film tells about the wife of Richard Nixon’s attorney general, who was discredited when she told what she knew to reporters.