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The Sundance Diaries, Part 2: Don't Mess With Ethel

Ethel Kennedy, above, just one of the fierce female doc subjects.

We interrupt our regularily scheduled coverage of virginity to bring you this special dispatch: I've been going to, and writing about, my experiences at the Sundance Film Festival many of the last 11 years. This is part 2 of 3 of this year's Sundance Diaries. Read Part 1 here. Read Part 3 here.

If you want some background entertainment, you can read Sundance Diaries archived from 2001 to 2008  here. The 2010 Diaries are here, here, here and here.

Welcome back to the un-plowed slushy sidewalks of Park City!

New celebrities sighted: Treat Williams (looking quite fine)...and that's it. Um….seriously, I never recognize celebrities Stamps on my hand: 8, including 2 sets of cherries, an arrow and a heart Average hours of sleep: 5.5

First, some clarifications:

As I sit in the Java Cow cafe on Main Street killing time before my 4th film of the day, I'm going to respond to some feedback I received from my first diary entry.

First, despite the rumors making the rounds of Hollywood, Tracy Jordan's collapse had nothing to do with partying with me.

Second and somewhat related, I apologize for the total lack of hot-tub-related shenanigans in my reporting this year. I'm now A Married Lady and am contractually obligated to limit myself to conjugal shenanigans, with or without the aid of a hot tub.

Also, as there's been some concern re the New, Upbeat and Non-Cynical Me. Let me assure you that under all this radiant positive energy, I remain my usual annoyed self with lots of issues:

(a) the shuttle buses are infrequent and poorly routed, and through some oversight, the drivers were not made aware that we have actual films to get to with actual strict start times and limited seating. (b) even though I don't see them, I know I have housemates from the piles of garbage and scarcity of toilet paper. And (c) the narrative films have been so disappointing this year, that I'd rather kill time in the bar writing than see another one. Maybe Sundance needs its quota of celebrity premiere vehicles, or my sensibilities are totally out of line with narrative programers, but year after year, I think the documentaries blow narratives right out of the water. (More on my favorites below)

My first two videos are up!

The awesome blog Women and Hollywood has posted my first two interviews here:

An interview with the two directors of the documentary "Finding North," a very strong advocacy film about widespread hunger in America. And my collected advice from women filmmakers to women filmmakers, shot at the always delicious Chicken and Egg party. Shooting and especially editing has been rather time consuming, but the perfectionist in me couldn't bear posting raw footage, so please check them out and bump up Women & Hollywoods hits!

Some fave films, in alphabetical order, all docs:

Ethel: OMG. Ethel, I never knew you! You were and are a major badass! This is the story of Ethel Kennedy (and of course Bobby as well) as told by the youngest of her 11 children, doc filmmaker Rory Kennedy. Amazing archival photos and footage, including hand-written letters RFK used to write to his children about their future obligations to work on social issues. And I loved learning about her life directly from her many outspoken kids (necessary because Ethel herself is a maddeningly reluctant, but charming, interviewee). HBO

How to Survive a Plague: Consisting almost entirely of archival footage, this moving documentary tells the story of ActUp and its fight to make AIDS an actual issue of the US government in the late 80s and the 90s. It's an amazing historical record (they must have filmed every meeting and action!), and also connects the dots between ActUp and the earlier civil rights and women's health protests that inspired them. I've bumped into the filmmakers and the veteran activists in other movie lines here and I've loved our conversations. Distribution pending.

Love Free or Die: The story of the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, Gene Robinson, and his fight to get the church to recognize gay clergy and same-sex unions, while being totally shut out of the world Anglican church. He's such an amazing, funny and inspiring guy, and there's no one better to tell the story than Macky Alston, who I must disclose is one of my mentors. Both did Q&A and even for this heathen, it was a spiritual experience. PBS 2 Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present: This is my favorite doc of the festival, the kind of film I always wait for that's going to give me one of those goose-bumpy transcendental experiences. This film captures her 3-month-long performance art piece at MoMA, her long controversial career and her huge charm. I come to performance art with eyes madly rolling, but this film really felt like the real deal. The filmmakers kept assuring us they didn't drink the KoolAid, but seriously, you can give me another cup! HBO (but it won't be the same on a TV, alas)

The Invisible War: From one of my favorite filmmakers, Kirby Dick, this powerful film exposes the almost unbelievable numbers of sexual assaults in the military. The stories these brave women (and also men) tell about their assaults, and the almost total lack of action by the military, are enraging. Don't be put off by the tough material, the film is really well done and very engaging. They have a big social outreach program in the works that will hopefully reach the highest offices of government. PBS.

And finally, how did I miss this event!! Richard, especially, take note! Lee Simmons.jpg

More films updates next time...Send me your questions and I'll answer them in my final round-up.

Good night!