My first experience at Sundance Film Festival 

img_8019I almost didn’t go. Most people don’t know this about me, but I have a lot of anxieties. None of them are to the point where they prevent me from doing what I want to do, but they’re just strong enough to make me extremely nervous about doing anything. However, going to Sundance Film Festival was on my bucket list and I’m glad I was able to overcome my fears because I had the adventure of a lifetime.

Me and my dad

The only reason my family went to the festival in the first place is because of my dad. He was one of the executive producers for a documentary film called “Rumble: the Indians who Rocked the World.” The film was being shown at Sundance and my mom, dad, brother, and I decided that we couldn’t let this opportunity pass us by; I mean, it’s the first time my dad ever worked on a film like this so it probably was a pretty important milestone.

We had a whirlwind trip, which only added to the excitement we were already feeling. We arrived in Salt Lake City late Saturday night and went straight to Park City after picking up our rental car – a red Jeep with 4-wheel drive.

There was a Rumble cast & crew party happening in Park City and all of the most important people who worked on the film were there. I didn’t know it at the time, but the director of Rumble pulled me out onto the dance floor and I was doing the silliest disco dance moves to “Stayin’ Alive” by the Beegees in front of her *insert facepalm here.* Oh, and if you remember a little pop group called The Black Eyed Peas, one of their band members, Taboo, was at the party too! He was involved in the Rumble film and had the dual task of deejaying the party that night. Playing everything from Prince to the Beegees, to Rihanna and Bruno Mars, that dance floor was on fire thanks to Taboo.

Taboo, from the Black Eyed Peas

We had a blast at the party but I was exhausted from the time change – Salt Lake City is two hours behind Toronto and when we finally fell asleep at 2 am that meant it was really 4 am for my body – so I was grateful when we left.

The next day I woke up feeling absolutely horrible. I don’t know if it was the jet lag, my IBS, something I ate, or the fact that my mom told me Park City was expecting 2 feet of snow causing my anxiety to skyrocket, but I really didn’t want to do much of anything. My mom and I eventually ended up taking the Jeep to a more or less deserted outdoor mall. We thought at first that it was empty because of the weather and hypothesized that it was busier in the summer, but after talking to one of the sales clerks in a store we found out that the mall had originally been built for the 2002 Winter Olympics and that when a new mall opened just down the road, every store bailed and went to that one instead.

The Abandoned Gateway Mall. At least they had an Urban Outfitters.

It turns out Salt Lake City has great job growth and is full of industrious people, but you wouldn’t guess it from driving around downtown. The whole place felt desolate, empty and kind of sad, but we managed to find a healthy vegetarian restaurant called Zest. I enjoyed it. My mom did not.

Gluten Free Pizza at Zest

Later that day it was time to head from SLC to Park City – where Sundance is actually held – to screen the film. My family hired a driver to take us up the some 4,000 feet in elevation from Salt Lake to Park City. The change in elevation actually contributed to the massive blizzard Park City was expecting. Our driver’s name was Colby and he was awesome! Born and raised in SLC, Colby told us all about the weather, sports, winter and summer activities, and made me feel a lot better about the possibility of getting stuck in the middle of a blizzard on a highway between mountains with nothing but a granola bar to eat.

A view of the mountains in Salt Lake City. They never look quite as majestic in pictures.

When we arrived safely I was relieved but still feeling wretched. I literally felt like I was going to be sick to my stomach all night, but for some reason once the movie started I started to feel better. Maybe it was adrenaline or some sort of euphoria, but when that film began to roll, it felt like all of my anxieties washed away and I was taken on a healing journey through song – guided by some of the best musicians of all time.It was awesome to witness something my dad had worked so hard on, for so many years, finally manifest and come to fruition at one of the most important film festivals in the world!

My dad and I haven’t always had the best relationship. It was tough with him working away for most of my life, but the older I get the more I appreciate all that he has done for my family. But what makes me even more proud is what he’s done for the world. Showcasing the talents of lesser known native musicians doesn’t just make for a great documentary film… it makes the world a better place.

For too long Indigenous peoples’ stories have been silenced by mainstream and non-native media. The fact that a film now exists to demonstrate how influential and indispensable the contributions made by native musicians has been in shaping modern music shows young Indigenous artists today that they too can make a difference.

When the film ended and everyone started to applaud, I couldn’t have felt more proud of my dad and it made my Sundance 2017 experience that much more special. It was a day that I will never forget! I really want to go back next year, and who knows, maybe some day I’ll be up there speaking on a panel while the credits roll for some important documentary flick. One can dream.


To watch a video of my Sundance Film Festival Experience click here


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