Final thoughts on the 2018 Vail Film Festival from an enthusiastic attendee
AS I told nearly everyone I spoke to this past weekend, the Vail Film Festival is one of my favorite events to cover every year. And it’s true. It combines two of my biggest passions — writing and movies.
For me the fun starts a week or two ahead of the festival. This is when I reach out to the writers, actors, directors and producers attending and interview them for the preview articles. In a sense I get a taste of the show ahead of the show. As the creatives I talk to over the phone wax poetic about their passion projects, I feel the excitement creeping in, and the more I write, the more I can’t wait for the event itself.
When it does arrive, it’s a whirlwind few days of screenings, interviews and discussions with a wide variety of folks, from the filmmakers themselves to the attendees both new and old.
I carry a small notebook with me everywhere I go, and during film festival weekend, I’m constantly scribbling in it – interviews, snippets of conversations overheard and lines from movies that stuck with me. To give you an idea, here are a few key entries from this year’s festival:
‘Good people do shi–y things, and then they fix it.’
This line comes from “Mary Goes Round,” the first feature-length film by Canadian writer and director Molly McGlynn, starring Aya Cash as the titular lead, Mary. A drama with comedic aspects, the film follows Mary, a substance abuse counselor who happens to be an alcoholic. After she’s arrested for driving under the influence, she hears from her estranged father and, reluctantly, returns to her hometown of Niagara Falls to honor his wish of meeting her teenaged half-sister.
The quote above is spoken to Mary by her boss near the beginning of the film, right after her arrest, as she tries to resign from her job. It becomes a common thread in the film, which shows a number of flawed characters who attempt to overcome those flaws. In the Q&A session afterwards, a person commented on the quote, to which McGlynn replied, “That, to me, is the core of the film.”
‘To get a movie made is a miracle.’
The second Women in Film panel discussion featured four attending filmmakers from a variety of backgrounds and film genres. The above quote was spoken by Stacy Cochran, a writer and director who has won numerous awards and worked with actors such as Diane Lane and Wynona Rider. Her film “Write When You Get Work” showed at the festival, and was even added to the Sunday schedule to accommodate more viewers.
This comment from Cochran came near the beginning of the panel, and drew some chuckles. It was heartfelt, and following it each of the four women present discussed the challenges they had faced — and continue to face — while making their passion their life’s work. “Yes,” one leaving the panel might think, “it is a miracle that any of this happens, but it does, and maybe one day I could do it, too.”
‘A lot of waitressing.’
When Aya Cash accepted her Excellence in Acting award, she stuck around for a short interview. When asked how she got from doing Shakespeare on the stage to making movies and TV shows as she is now, she gave this answer. The audience laughed, and while Cash was going for the joke, she followed up that it was true, that waitressing had supported her during the years before she landed a spot on the TV show “You’re the Worst,” and other roles. Much like Stacy Cochran and the others were saying in the panel discussion, this was the result of a lot of hard work and hope and a miracle in its own right.
“Redefine success for yourself,” she said in her closing statement, encouraging others to do what makes them happy.
‘What’s your philosophy?’
This question was posed in the Closing Night film, “The Long Dumb Road.” Starring Jason Mantzoukas (you’ll recognize him when you see him on his IMDB page, he’s in a lot of shows) and Tony Revolori (“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” among others), it follows the two on a road trip in which Revolori’s character, art-student-to-be Nathan, learns some lessons on life and garners a few crazy stories to boot. The quote happens when the two first meet, as Mantzoukas is fixing Revolori’s car. He asks the wet-behind-the-ears Nathan what his philosophy is, and Nathan isn’t really able to answer it. By the end of the film, that will have changed.
‘The land of milk and honey is just one of dust and iron.’
This is one of the opening lines of the documentary “Strike a Rock,” following the efforts of a group of women in South Africa seeking justice against mega-mining corporation Lonmin.
The documentary starts with the inciting incident — the massacre of over 30 miners striking for a living wage — and follows through on the families’ attempts to not only gain justice for those deaths, but to hold the company accountable for the welfare of its workers and its promises that it would build housing, which never came to pass. It’s both inspiring and heart-wrenching and got the most audible responses from any audience I was part of during the festival. It was an excellently made documentary and one that will make you think and possibly even act.
These are just a few glimpses into the many amazing works displayed at this year’s film festival. If you missed them at the festival, then you can still look them up online and you may even see them streaming in a number of online services (Opening Night film “Sun Dogs,” for example, is now available on Netflix).
And if you get the chance to attend this or any other film festival, then I highly recommend that you do it. It’s not often that you get to watch other people’s miracles come to life.