SUNDANCE DAY ONE:  DIVERSITY IS INDEPENDENCE

Documentaries and Diversity were the theme of the 2016 Sundance Day One Press Conference.  With a panel consisting of  President and Founder - Robert Redford, Executive Director - Keri Putnam, Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival Director - John Cooper moderated by Sean P. Means, Movie Critic and Columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune.

All three panelists agreed that Sundance is always about lending a place for those filmmakers who otherwise would not be heard on a fair playing field.

Putnam made a special reference to Sundance Ignite, as program geared toward 300 youth between 18-25 years of age designed to give these youth an opportunity to attend the festival and aid in continuing  to build festival for future generations.  Putnam also mentioned the Sundance Institute's Women in Film Initiative meeting held this past November.  She stated, "We're interested in the artists we work with having sustainable careers".  Notable filmmakers such as Ava DuVernay and Ryan Coogler have been products of how Sundance builds sustainable careers.

When faced with the all  too often discussed "diversity " question,  Redford told the crowd, "We wanna put a spotlight on areas that aren't getting attention...I felt there wasn't enough filmmaking being shown for African-Americans and women...so we've moved forward with getting more support for women and young filmmakers but using the word diversity to push it".   Worried that the media would spin an answer he gave when asked about the diversity of the Oscars, Redford simply stated, "I'm not focused on the Oscars, but more focused on the work".  He also wanted to clear up the misconception of his disdain for Hollywood, "I'm not against the mainstream...we wanted Sundance to create a path for artist to showcase their work and for audiences to come to Utah to see the stuff they couldn't watch in the general market place".

In addition to supporting diversity, youth and women, the festival is also celebrating the 10th anniversary of its New Frontier Program.  Along those lines, with films and television shows live streaming in tandem with a theatrical release I personally asked if they thought streaming would take the place of how films are being seen, Putnam told me that "Sundance does not pass judgement on how filmmakers chose to show their films and that it is all very "platform agnostic".

While technology has created very useful and creative methods in making films exciting for the viewing  audience, Redford is concerned about the art of losing the story in all the frills.  "The most important thing is the story ... What is the story you want to tell"?

Well, the story has yet to unfold here at Sundance 2016, who received a record number off 12,793 film submissions narrowed down to 195 feature and short selections, 30 documentary and narrative virtual reality works and 56 panels and music events.

Stay tuned here for Day Two when I will be talking about some events sponsored by TheBlackhouseFoundation.org who are also celebrating 10 years of Sundanc, not to mention some really awesome docs that I can't wait to discuss!!

Carla Renata Day One Sundance

THE CONTENDERS: CREED vs SOUTHPAW

The Contenders:  CREED vs SOUTHPAW by Carla Renata via UBNRadio.com and Carla Renata's Corner  

Rocky is one of my all-time favorite film franchises right up there with the Godfather Trilogy, The Color Purple, Martin Scorsese films and ANY Jane Austin flick.  I was always impressed with the fact that Stallone refused to cave in and let the studios buys the rights to his script without him as the star.  Seriously, could you even imagine "Rocky" WITHOUT Sylvester Stallone?

"Creed" is the latest in the "Rocky" film franchise and is the first script NOT written by Stallone. "Fruitvale Station" director cuts his teeth on his first major studio film Directing and Writing "Creed" just as Stallone did 20 years ago and does so magnificently.

Coogler honors the franchise with some formulas from "Rocky" former versions like that infamous statue, which no longer sits atop those stairs, running through the streets of Philly, training at Mick's gym, the meticulously shot and choreographed boxing rounds, the turtles purchased from Adrian in the pet shop, the love interest with a disability, the shorts and a match against a famous foreign boxer.  Needless to say, only a real "Rocky" fan would notice all those intricate details...which I am proud to say I am.

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"Creed" introduces us to the illegitimate son of the legendary Apollo Creed, who died before Adonis was born.  Unable to shake his unspoken legacy, Adonis makes a decision to become a professional boxer who only wants to be trained by "Rocky".  One of the most important lines spoken is during the match when "Rocky" ask Adonis what he i trying to prove and he replies, " I need to prove I wasn't a mistake"  That one line says it all.

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Something so powerful, yet so simple drives one to make decisions that may not make sense to anyone else but them.

Michael B. Jordan (Creed) is giving the performance of a lifetime and does so with every fiber of his being.  It's magnificently electric and exciting to watch!  Even more exciting is watching the chemistry unfold between Jordan and Tessa Thompson (Bianca).  It's absolutely smoldering in the same fashion it was between Talia Shire and Sylvester Stallone.  Thompson is a mysteriously beautiful enigma who becomes the "beauty" to the "beast" so to speak.

 

Phylicia Rashad is such a spectacular actress that she makes any role she embodies look like a walk in the park which is a testament to her brilliance.  I only wish she had been on the screen a little longer.

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If you are a fan of the "Rocky" franchise, Coogler,  Jordan, Thompson or Stallone, you will definitely not be disappointed in "Creed".  "Creed" is in theaters now.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQ9OhBYjTds

 

 

 

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On the flip side, we have "Southpaw" starring  Jake Gylenhall.  Gylenhall (Billy Hope) is the heavyweight champion of the world and loses his childhood sweetheart and wife in a tragic set of circumstances.  This sets off a chain of events that result in other major loses for Hope including his daughter to child protection services.  In an effort to get his life and career back on track, Hope enlists the assistance of Tick Willis (Forest Whittaker).

It goes without saying that since it s a boxing flick, one is bound to make similarities to "Rocky", but "Southpaw" stands on its own merit mostly due to the amazing performance of Gyllenhaal. This actor has the uncanny ability to disappear into any role he inhabits with gusto.  From "Brokeback Mountain" to "Nightcrawler" to "Southpaw" unarguably proves that.

Rachel McAdams (Maureen Hope) is having a stellar year in film with this performance and in "Spotlight".  As Maureen, she is the perfect counterpart to Gyllenhall and her death scene heartbreaking.

However, it is young Oona Laurence (Laila Hope) who steals the show.  Her emotional range is well beyond her years and she is enchanting to watch.

Southpaw was released in July 2015.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11tsR0kI1ZQ