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Sundance 2011 closes with Best of Fest at Ogden theater

February 2nd, 2011 Posted in Arts and Life

Story and photo by Noelle Johansen

OGDEN–Peery’s Egyptian Theater on Washington Boulevard screened two award-winning Sundance films to a nearly full house at Monday night’s 2011 Sundance Best of Fest, after giving away more than 850 free tickets to the event.

Screenings of festival favorites were held in Park City, Salt Lake City, and Ogden. The Sundance Independent Film Festival started Jan. 20 and ended Jan. 30.

“We always give away more Best of Fest tickets than there are seats,” said Audrey Smith, Sundance regional manager of the Salt Lake City and Ogden theaters. Smith said usually everyone who shows up at the Egyptian Theater gets a seat, though this isn’t always the case for patrons of the Rose Wagner Theater in Salt Lake City.

The first screening was a documentary called Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey. It told the story of Kevin Clash, the man behind the beloved Sesame Street Muppet.

“I thought it was really cute and good for all audiences,” Kate Palmer, a sophomore at University of Utah, said. Being Elmo, directed by Constance Marks, won the Special Jury Prize for U.S. Documentary.

Van Summerill, 68, described Being Elmo as a “story of a dream that actually comes true.” Summerill is a member of the Egyptian Theater Foundation and was instrumental in saving the theater from destruction in 1985.

“Without Van, it never would have happened,” Brent Wadsworth, 52, said of the theater’s rescue. “Van couldn’t have done it by himself, but he had the drive.” Wadsworth is also a member of the Egyptian Theater Foundation. There used to be more discussion panels of actors and directors at the Ogden Sundance screenings, Wadsworth said. Now there are fewer panels, but more films.

The second film of the night was Another Earth, directed by Mike Cahill. Another Earth won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize, an award for feature films with themes of science or technology. Brit Marling, who plays protagonist Rhoda Williams, co-wrote the film with Cahill.

“It was really interesting,” Palmer said of Another Earth. “I thought the story line was really well thought-out and the acting was surprisingly good.” Palmer said Best of Fest was “really well-organized.”

Smith accredited the success of the Sundance Film Festival to the more than 1,600 volunteers, many of which come from all over the world. “They’re a real family,” Smith said. The volunteers often return to work year after year, some with goals to work up to 100 hours a week, she said.

“It was definitely one of the best festivals we’ve had,” Carla Wood Man See said to a full theater. “Without the volunteers, we honestly would not have a festival.” Wood Man See is the theater manager of the Egyptian.

Summerill used to visit Park City for Sundance, but has since met his independent film needs in Ogden because the Park City crowds have grown too large, he said.

“I get really tired of mainstream, American movies,” Summerill said. “You almost have to depend on independent films to see real character development.”

The audiences responded with applause to both films.

“I was really satisfied with the films that were shown,” Palmer said, “I would definitely go again.”


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