Saturday doubles: Sundance and the staying power of storytelling

As promised, I want to share some bright spots from the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. I’m an awfully big believer in the idea that narrative storytelling is one of the few things in this world with the power to change minds. It’s one of the biggest reasons I committed my twenties to journalism (the others were probably curiosity and an impulse to thrill-seek). I’ve been behind the scenes, too, spending three months in 2009 working on the now-defunct Doha Tribeca Film Festival.

In good times, but especially in dark times, my spirits always get a boost from cinema that challenges me to see the world from a perspective outside of my own.

Here are the films that did that for me this year:

  1. Teenage girls in a Baltimore charter school, coming of age in the shadow of Freddie Gray, are the subject of Step, a fantastic dance documentary that has been picked up for distribution by Fox Searchlight. It’s at once a tear-jerker and full of joy. And it’s reminder of how much we can do to build each other up — as a mother, a coach, a teacher, or a teammate.
  2. Immersive virtual reality short Melting Ice served as the opener for Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Sequel (this time, without the PowerPoint!). Essentially, it’s a ten minute trip to Greenland, with Gore himself, to watch the summer ice melt around you in rushing rivers. It unquestionably made climate change feel more real and scary to me. The trick is going to be getting the technology to a place where it’s cheap and accessible enough for audiences to have this experience on a mass scale.
  3. Burning Sands, about hazing in a historically black fraternity, will be available on Netflix on March 10. It’s an engaging but imperfect film. I’m happy I saw it because I knew very little about the importance of these organizations for young men. While director Gerard McMurray (an associate producer on Fruitvale Station) depicts the terrible dangers of pledge week, he also provides insight into why the souls of these fraternities are worth fighting for.

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