(CHICAGO, IL – Monday) If I was home in Chicago, it is doubtful that I would rise at 7:00 am to drive across town to a frozen parking lot from which I had to take a bus to get to the Jewish Center for a film that I’ve never heard of. But in Park City, I do. Finding North is one of 16 documentaries that have been chosen to screen at Sundance. It’s about hunger in America. TV’s Top Chef Tom Colicchio appears in Finding North as well as in the audience and not a bit underfed. I bet he came here in some other way than I did.
Finding North documents the challenges faced by a handful of randomly selected subjects including a rancher in Colorado who begins work on his land at the same time that I awoke and finishes his stint as a custodian in the high school at 11:00 pm to put food on the table and a single-mom with two kids n Philadelphia who lands a job after looking nine months and then loses her right to food stamps. The film is mostly interviews and graphics which support the argument that food deprivation is another way that the politicians are screwing the public in favor of special interests.
Something’s wrong with Finding North despite its lofty goals. It comes off as a cause-driven, movement-supported movie that was made by hired guns so that somebody would have a calling card for selling the idea that one out of every four children is hungry and Congress should do something to fix that. Unlike 1/2 Revolution, Finding North, at least to me, looks store-bought like the bags of chips that constitute the kind of affordable food that too many people consider as the staple of their diets. Unlike1/2 Revolution, all the questions posed in the post-screening are really political statements and none of them is about filmmaking. That being argued, I wiped away tears several times.
Back in the condo by 11:30 am, I make a sandwich of melted cheddar cheese and summer sausage on a piece of fancy white bread from a loaf that cost four times more than what the government has budgeted for a school kid’s subsidized lunch. I then peel a tangerine, pour the final cup of Dunkin’ Donuts regular blend from the coffee-maker and, completely sated, forget everything I saw 30 minutes ago. My concentration has turned to figuring out how to stuff two bottles of $34.95 High West Distillery Double Rye whiskey in my luggage, which is already bulging from my souvenir Sundance long-sleeved, thermal tee shirt, a couple bags of Garrett Popcorn and a couple dozen DVDs we failed to distribute.
For me, Sundance 12 might have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As amusing as our story is and expertly as Martin has filmed it, Dan, Jim and I don’t have the Danish government’s support that 1/2 Revolution was able to put behind its creation or a star like Jeff Bridges, who Colicchio recruited for Finding North, involved in Our Longest Drive. Nevertheless, Martin texts me from the airport that he’s “looking forward to attacking the assembly edit.”
The original idea of Robert Redford’s dream was to create a film festival where independent filmmakers with small budgets and big ideas could emerge from oblivion. Spike Lee, Sigourney Weaver, Bruce Willis, Peter Jackson, Richard Gere, Tracy Morgan, Taylor Swift and 24 members of the Kennedy family were Sundance participants visiting Park City this weekend who undoubtedly left town disappointed because they didn’t spot me.
Postscipt: Maureen served as Mike’s custodian today. He had difficulty passing through security at the Salt Lake City airport. A very thoughtful TSA agent placed two coins beneath his urn and then watched to see if the coins could be viewed while looking through Mike’s ashes. He was surprised that this protocol proved unnecessary at Midway on the way into Utah, but pleased that the coins were visible.