Reflections on the Sundance Film Festival: Documentaries

Days afterward, I can’t get Sundance out of my mind. It was truly a life-changing experience. I’ve learned to think about movies, humanity, even God, in new and surprising ways. I wish I could have blogged more while I was actually there, but running around Park City takes every ounce of energy out of you. Here’s a reflection on the films we saw, the conversations we had, and the thoughts that wouldn’t leave my mind. 

We saw a couple of fabulous documentaries at Sundance. “Life According to Sam” was an emotional roller-coaster centered around Sam, a teenager living with Progeria, a rare degenerative aging disease. The film chronicles his life as well as his mother’s long fight to find a cure or, at the very least, a treatment for the disease. We see the kids from around the world with the disease coming in for treatment, and their loving parents, who would do anything to give their kids a long and happy life. The film gets up close and personal, letting us see every skin crack, every misshapen limb, every tear. We see Sam’s mother being rejected time and again by scientific journals, a subtle indictment of our modern scientific culture, where a cure is not a cure unless it is backed by millions of dollars and years of testing. In the end, however, it is Sam who truly makes the film stand out. His positive spirit, his love and passion for life (not to mention brilliant mind) make his comfort with his own inevitable death all the more heartbreaking.

Then, there was “Citizen Koch,” a doc about our current political climate after the Supreme Court’s decision to treat corporations like people by allowing unlimited indirect donations to a political campaign. The film is an assault of image and sound, perfectly synchronized to make you very, very mad. By the end of the film, you’ll wonder why the rich and powerful are the only ones who have any chance at running this country. The film criticizes both Republicans and Democrats for taking part in this unjust political process. But, beyond that, it hopes that things can change, and that is, I think, what makes it memorable.