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Sundance Part Deux Day 8
Today we get up early to get in line for a special event at the Music Cafe. Political activist and historian Howard Zinn is here to present readings from his book, “A People’s History of the United States.” It’s a collection of letters, and other documents from the view of the oppressed. Here to read selections from the book are several big name actors, including Benjamin Bratt, Marisa Tomei, Woody Harrelson and Robert Redford.
The Music Cafe is a venue that only holds about 200 people. My girlfriend, Lori, and I are the third and forth people in line — since we arrived two hours before seating was to begin. We start chatting with numbers 1 and 2 in the line, Tim and Susan. Susan has brought two of Zinn’s books, in the hopes she might have an opportunity to have them signed. Tim was hoping to save a spot for his wife, who he calls Little Miss Sundance, since she has become such a fan of the festival.
For the first hour or so there are only about 50 people in line behind us. We are near the door, and able to see many of the stars as they arrive. Zinn arrived while I was away at the nearby Brita Hydration Station filling up our water bottles for the long wait, but I saw the arrival of Bratt and Harrelson. We see members of the press being allowed in, and many people trying to finagle their way in.
“I’m with Karen — she’s the coordinator for such and such, and said she could get me in.”
“Sorry, your name isn’t on the list.”
Some succeed in making their way in; some are turned to the back of the line. Making only the roughest of guesses we estimate maybe 60 or so people have been let in before any of the people who have been waiting in the cold drizzle outside. There are maybe 200 people behind us at this point. Tim’s wife shows up, and though she can’t get to the head of the line now without causing some sort of riot, she happily takes a picture of the four of us, Tim, Susan, Lori and me – each holding up our respective numbers in line: 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Overhearing the communications of festival staff working the door, we find out that 120 “invited guests” have already been seated. More VIPs arrive at the door. Tim asks the man working the door if it’s possible that “real people” who have been in line for hours might not get seated because of all the VIPs. The guy said, there is no seating left — it will be standing room only. Behind us now are more than 400 people waiting for a chance to get in. Tim tells the doorman – he thinks Zinn wouldn’t like that only those with connections to the money and the power would be the only ones to hear the reading. The doorman agreed and said that he wasn’t happy about the situation — with the rules being bent and changed repeatedly.
About a half hour after the doors were supposed to open, they finally let 20 people from the line get in. We end up uncomfortably sandwiched between some tables and the sound and video equipment in the middle of the room. The reading is being filmed for a documentary. A woman gets on stage to welcome everyone to the reading – and makes the mistake of asking how everyone is feeling. A voice from one of the common folk shouts back, “(Expletive) pissed off!!!”
The remark is pretty well ignored, and I don’t think it will make it into the documentary.
The reading begins — sometimes we are able to sneak a glance of the stage when a camera operator’s arm moves out of the way. Mostly, though, we are resigned to watching the performance on a large flat screen monitor that is placed in such a way that it does a good job of blocking our view of the actual performance.
After the 4th or 5th reading we have been standing for between three and four hours and our legs are practically begging us to leave and find someplace to sit. Since we’re mostly seeing it on a TV anyway, we make our way to the exit.
It’s our last day at the festival — and by the evening, the crowds have thinned out even more. A bartender tells us that sales on Main Street are down by almost half compared to last year. While we are making our way to our final night at the Film Maker Lodge, a man tells us about a party around the corner — open bar and no invitation required. We also pass another open party. It would seem businesses that stocked up for numbers like last year’s festival are now giving away inventory just to avoid storage costs after the fest. At the Film Maker Lodge we get to chat with the director of one of the most popular films at the festival “Adam” — it was on my list to be seen, but we didn’t manage to get tickets. Luckily, the film was picked up by Fox Searchlight and will likely be in theaters within the next year.
Sundance will continue through the weekend, with an awards ceremony on Sunday night. There were a few films we wanted to see that we didn’t quite make it to, but managed to find something memorable to do every day we were at the festival. We learned many lessons during the festival that we hope put to good use when we return.