In the second episode of the Sundance 2023 podcast season, we discuss Sundance’s Spotlight Program, its only feature film program dedicated to films that premiered at other festivals. We discuss the program’s history of picking great films and giving them the spotlight they needed (but didn’t get at other festivals). We also discuss this year’s selections, including The Eight Mountains, L’Immensità, and Joyland.
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Listen to the whole Sundance 2023 season
Today is the second of many episodes of the 2023 Sundance season of the Seventh Row podcast.
Sundance 2023 runs from January 19-28, and we’ll be covering this year’s festival in a new podcast season about the films this year and how the programming fits into the festival’s history.
Listen to all the episodes to discover the year’s best and worst films, and how this year’s program jives with past festivals.
About this episode: The 2023 Sundance Spotlight Program
In this episode, we discuss the history of Sundance’s Spotlight Program, the only Program consisting entirely of films that premiered at other festivals. We also talk about the role of the Program within Sundance and some of the great films the festival has programmed here. We’ve actually written books featuring several of the films that screened in Spotlight, including You Were Never Really Here, Girlhood, and The Worst Person in the World. And several of the films previously programmed in the last decade have made our list of the best films of the 2010s.
We discuss four of the five films programmed in the Spotlight section: Other People’s Children, Joyland, L’Immensità, and The Eight Mountains. Since we already talked about Other People’s Children in depth on a previous episode, we only discuss it briefly here. Additionally, we go deep on The Eight Mountains, which Alex loved, and briefly discuss the other two films in the program that we’ve seen which we weren’t too keen on.
- 00:00 What is the Spotlight section?
- 13:26 This year’s Spotlight section
- 26:26 Deeper discussion on The Eight Mountains
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Show Notes on the E2 of the Sundance 2023 podcast season: Spotlight Program
Links to articles/books on films that previously screened in Spotlight
- Read our list of Seventh Row’s 50 Favourite Films of the 2010s, which also includes many films that screened in Sundance’s Spotlight Program, including Oslo, August 31st (#1), Their Finest, Raw, and You Were Never Really Here.
- Get our ebook on Lynne Ramsay’s most recent Spotlight film: You Were Never Really Here: A Special Issue
- Get our ebook on the Céline Sciamma, Portraits of resistance: The cinema of Céline Sciamma, which includes an interview with Sciamma on Girlhood conducted in Park City at Sundance in 2015 when the film screened in Spotlight.
- Read Orla Smith’s interview with writer-director Haifaa Al-Mansour on The Perfect Candidate, which previously screened in Spotlight in 2020.
- Read Alex Heeney’s interview with writer-director Rebecca Miller on Maggie’s Plan, which previously screened in Spotlight in 2016.
- Read Alex Heeney’s interview with director Lone Scherfig on Their Finest, which previously screened in Spotlight in 2017.
- Download the Sundance 2023 bingo card to follow along at home.
Related episodes to E2: Sundance 2023 Spotlight program
To listen to all of these related episodes, become a member.
- Ep. 116: Virtual film festivals: Taking stock of their past, present, and future (Members Only). Sundance is one of the only festivals in 2023 still offering a virtual component. On this episode, we talked about the advent of virtual film festivals and what we’d like to see in the future.
- Ep. 129: Highlights of 2022 Fall Film Festivals (Members Only). We discuss the best films that screened on the festival circuit in fall 2022. This includes a free in-depth discussion of Other People’s Children.
Episodes on Films featured in the Spotlight section
- Ep. 112: Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World (Free). As the world experts on the films of Joachim Trier (our book on his work will be out later this year), we published an episode on his twice Oscar-nominated film The Worst Person in the World (2021), which screened in Spotlight in 2022.
- Ep. 73: Explorations of rape culture in Promising Young Woman and The Assistant (Members Only). Although The Assistant premiered at Telluride in 2020, it only really started generating buzz after its 2021 screening in the Spotlight Program at Sundance. In this episode, we discuss its depiction of rape culture alongside a bigger Sundance hit (which was also much less nuanced), Promising Young Woman.
- Ep. 107: Another Round and Oslo, August 31st: Are men OK? Masculinity, mental health, & addiction (Members Only). Joachim Trier first came to Sundance in 2012 with Oslo, August 31st (which premiered at Cannes in 2011), our #1 film of the 2010s. We talk about how the film addresses masculinity, mental health, & addiction and how this compares with the more recent film, a decade later, Another Round.
Episodes on genre films featured in the Sundance Spotlight program
- Ep. 17: The Nightingale (Members Only): Having launched her career in the World Dramatic Competition at Sundance, Jennifer Kent once again returned to the festival with her second feature, The Nightingale, which premiered at Venice to an underwhelming response. We thought the film was rich and excellent in many ways (if flawed), and went deep on it on the podcast.
- Ep. 112: Raw and Thelma and modern female monsters (Members Only): After receiving rave reviews (and press about vomiting walkouts) at Cannes and TIFF, Julia Ducournau (who later won the Palme d’Or for Titane) screened her first feature, Raw at Sundance in the Spotlight program. We talk about the film in comparison with Joachim Trier’s Thelma.
- Ep. 38 Australian Westerns: The True History of the Kelly Gang, Sweet Country, and The Dressmaker (Members Only): Warwick Thornton’s fantastic feature Sweet Country previously screened in the Sundance Spotlight program after premiering (and winning an award) at Venice and TIFF. In this episode, we discuss how Thornton decolonizes the Australian Western, as well as how this compares to Australian Westerns about settler characters (made by settlers).
Listen to all the related episodes. Become a member.
For exclusive access to all of our episodes, including all of our in-between season episodes:
Speakers on this episode
Host Alex Heeney is the Editor-in-Chief of Seventh Row. Find her on Twitter @bwestcineaste.
Host Orla Smith is the Executive Editor of Seventh Row. Find her on Instagram @orla_p_smith.
The transcript for the free excerpt of this episode was AI-generated by Otter.ai.
Alex Heeney 0:16
Welcome to the Sundance 2023 Season of the seven throw podcast Sundance runs from January 19 to 29th 2023. This is our second episode of the season and the first one to discuss films we've seen at this year's festival. I'm Alex Heeney, editor in chief of seven throw and this is my 10th year covering Sundance in a row. I'm joined by Orla Smith, executive editor of seven throw and this is her fourth consecutive year covering the festival. Hello. So Sundance marks the beginning of the new film year. It's a festival made up primarily of world premieres. In this podcast season, we'll be talking both about the films we see at the festival and how the films this year fit into the context of the history of the festivals programming. This is our second podcast season about a film festival you can catch up with our women at Ken season from May 2022, where we focus more on the history of the Cannes Film Festival than we will on history in this season. And in that season, we talk about the festival the Cannes Film Festivals track record for programming films directed by women. So today on today's episode, we're going to be talking about the Sundance Film Festivals spotlight program, which is an instance only program that is made up entirely of no world premieres. It's all films that have played at other festivals. Occasionally, there are ones that are like hits that other festivals are won awards, there's usually a couple. Oh, there's usually a couple of those. But often it kind of like spotlights, great films that maybe didn't get there do at other film festivals,
Orla Smith 2:00
I think actually Sundance in terms of like, consistency of good programming rather than volume, because they usually only have about, you know, five, six spotlight films in the program. One of the best festivals at like curating for other festivals,
Alex Heeney 2:17
and for their audience really like they do a good job of picking films, the pleated other festivals, and maybe they weren't a good as good a fit at the other festivals. They are at Sundance.
Orla Smith 2:27
Yeah. And but unlike TIFF, instead of looking at the most popular places, and just cribbing from them, I think they do a really good job of looking a little bit more carefully at the last year of festival programming, and finding films that are really good, but maybe slip through the cracks a little bit more and actually need the spotlight,
Alex Heeney 2:47
the spotlight, it actually does what it claims to do.
Orla Smith 2:51
Yes, and even if we don't always love every film and spotlight section, there's usually at least one or two films that we really value.
Alex Heeney 2:57
And there's actually a lot like I was making a list of the films that have played in spotlight in the last 10 years. And a lot of those are films we have written books on, done podcasts on or just really loved or all of the above.
Orla Smith 3:14
And you've talked to me about how other films have played in spotlight before. Like the assistant in 2020. Where, like both of us kind of had not been aware of that film at all. Before it premiered at Sundance.
Alex Heeney 3:32
Yeah. Because was it like a little blip of a premiere at Telluride? Right. Yeah, I any other fall festivals, I think. And that's about it, then.
Orla Smith 3:43
Yeah. And that's a film that I should have been aware of because I liked Katy Green's previous film costume, Jon Benet. And yeah.
Alex Heeney 3:52
About in our book on creative nonfiction.
Orla Smith 3:55
Yes, I did. Subjective realities.com. But the assistant was her first fiction film. And it's really fantastic. And it but it was one of those films like a film like first cow for example, where like, if your film is not a big Oscar contender for that year, then no one will see it at Telluride and it will not get its do.
Alex Heeney 4:21
Especially when the distributor is planning on delaying its release anyway, because they're too busy campaigning other films.
Orla Smith 4:28
Yeah. And the assistant like this isn't showing it in the spotlight section at Sundance was basically its world premiere, because it's not like many people had seen it before. Like it kind of function that way from a PR perspective. So it kind of it does sometimes give a chance to your film that kind of needs like a relaunch. Yeah. And I'd say like two of the ones in this year section that we really like other people's children in the eight mountains of films that didn't necessarily get totally ignored, but I think gonna get overshadowed festivals, like the eight mountains did win an award at Cannes, but it but people don't really talk about it. It was a bit of a quieter film, it premiered quite early in the festival. And it's definitely not as showy as some of the other can films in a way can wasn't necessarily like the perfect environment for it. And in fact,
Alex Heeney 5:26
the one of the CO directors of the film Felix, then grown again, has premiered a large majority of his features at Sundance, which is I guess the other thing that the the sections sort of serves as is like, as far as the festival, like the few times where the festivals kind of like using its clout to be able to put a film on it's, like, put its label on a film is, you know, filmmakers who they have supported in the past, who premiered, who have now become bigger and premiered at other festivals, it gives them a home to go to, if they want to play a cat. I don't I can at Sundance.
Orla Smith 6:09
Yeah. And there's there's another The other big film this year that we really loved that is in spotlight is other people's children, which similarly it was at Venice. Right? I mean, but it permitted, yeah, in conflict. And Venice is really, at the moment kind of seeing unfortunately, as just an Oscar Launchpad. And, and other people's children is a very quiet and contemplative film that also like it's a French film, it was never going to be an Oscar film, because it also wasn't for answers submission for the Oscars anyway. Yeah. So without that narrative, it died out basically. And it was at TIFF. I think some people who saw it like to the lot, we loved it, but it really did get kind of overshadowed and like pool of films, and it really does need this kind of spotlight.
Alex Heeney 7:06
Yeah. And to my knowledge, it still doesn't have a distributor. I mean, I'm guessing if it's playing Sundance, there's a strong possibility. It's picked up North American distribution, and just hasn't yet it hasn't been announced.
Orla Smith 7:18
It does have UK distribution to go there. Yes, it's coming out here in April.
Alex Heeney 7:24
Okay, because in September when it was active, it didn't have distribution anywhere.
Orla Smith 7:28
Yeah. And that's also spotlight 10. So sometimes show films that premiered at festivals the previous year, but have like a Spring release, like last year, after Yang and happening. Were both films that were like, Oh, we weren't doing the award season last year. But we did premiere amongst those films. So we kind of need a little bit of like a boost. Yeah, before we get our actual really
Alex Heeney 7:54
happening was Francis submission for the Oscar. Venice, so it wasn't exactly an underdog film. In ended the spotlight, I think, because they were trying to spotlight abortion films.
Orla Smith 8:06
Yes, I think after Yang is more apt to what I was describing. Yeah, what's happening is kind of in the pool with the other film that year, worst person in the world. Both of those were kind of doing a bit of an osquery Push
Alex Heeney 8:18
one after Yang is also another prime example of a Sundance director coming home, because that's co Kannada whose first feature, Columbus premiered at Sundance. So then after Yang, which didn't get like a huge sort of response it can when it premiered to give it you know, another launch that yeah,
Orla Smith 8:41
that was a film that had sort of like, I think maybe a February March release paid for. And it got a little bit more of like, remember that this film exists at spotlight.
Alex Heeney 8:52
One, I think my introduction to spotlight when I first started paying attention was the second year that I went to Sundance, which was like when I was actually there in person. Back when that was the thing in 2015. And they were screening girlhood saline CMOS film, which I had actually, I was at the world premiere of that at Cannes. I got turned away from Mr. Turner and was like you know what, I'm happy because now I get to go see the new Celine Sienna. And
Orla Smith 9:26
yeah, fuck you.
Alex Heeney 9:28
We wrote a book about you Mike Lee. It's fine. But then it girlhood played at TIFF and like nobody saw it there. And then it kind of like started to find its audience. I think it said, Sundance. I mean, I don't know that that film ever really found its audience but
Orla Smith 9:45
found a bit more of an audience there. Certainly. Yeah.
Alex Heeney 9:47
And I met Celine Sciamma there and interviewed her about girlhood at Sundance that interviews in our book on Celine Sciamma. So I respected the festival for programming salines jamokes I was already a big fan. And then I also found out that one of my favorite films, which was our number one film of the 2010s, Oslo, August 31, was another film that was in the spotlight section. So, back in 2015, I was like, spotlights pretty great, isn't it?
Orla Smith 10:19
I think spotlight genuinely has taste. Yeah, it does
Alex Heeney 10:22
genuinely have tastes, but you can't always Yeah, about the other side. It varies.
Orla Smith 10:29
One film really pay, like jumping out of me. And this is the nightingale Yeah, another Sundance director coming home. Like you said, Jennifer can write the Barbara duck, her first film premiered at Sundance, and then her second film the knighting girls in spotlight. And again, that's another film that is really excellent. But really deserved a second, it went to Venice. And it had a really horrible premiere at Venice, because it kind of got immediately caught up in these like this discussions about like, like some guy at the screening like, like, swear that Jennifer Kent, when the movie ended and was like, like, screaming about how much he hated the movie. And then like, there are watchI
Alex Heeney 11:13
in Australia. Yeah, screenings. Sorry, I
Orla Smith 11:16
didn't mean to but then I mean, at the premiere, I'm talking about the launch specifically like she, it like you if your film gets off to a bad started premiere festival that can really screw it. Yeah. And that. And basically, all of the press afterwards was just talking about the controversy around the film. And like, people like being mad in the screening, that's what people would ask Jennifer cancer about Yeah, suddenly became this, like, controversial film, that were that was the only thing that was being discussed about it. And again, it didn't fit neatly into this awards conversation thing. And it's just kind of I think people don't really know what to do with it. Right. I think a lot of these films, you could say people didn't really know what to do with it. And so having a little bit of a second love at Sundance is really helpful. They pick good films to grant that too.
Alex Heeney 12:15
But like another film that spotlight did a good service to which was you were never really here which did play at Cannes, but it played on the very last day because they were the film was not done in the middle of the film festival. So like they were finishing it what the night before.
Orla Smith 12:34
Alex Heeney 12:38
You can find out that whole crazy story in our ebook on you are never really hear primary. Well, I mean, that's that this is kind of a credit or like our view of the spotlight competition is a spotlight program is positive, because we liked the films enough that we wrote books on them
Orla Smith 12:56
mean that you never really I technically wasn't finished when it's true that they did make some alterations to it. Definitely the sound I think it was mostly just the sound that they made alteration. So I don't know if they made alterations to that edit afterwards. But,
Alex Heeney 13:12
but it was that kind of got lost it can because most people don't stick around for the last day. Most people aren't either Thursday or Friday. And so people didn't even see it.
Orla Smith 13:22
I can which is what happened to the nuclear a cup for right or so which should have been spotlight this
Alex Heeney 13:27
year, so that I could see, right, like what the hell
Orla Smith 13:31
she's returning, you know, Sundance person. Yeah.
Alex Heeney 13:35
Well, you know, for what they did, how was it in spotlight either? So I know.
Orla Smith 13:39
I know. I'm disappointed. Just to like to state what is in the spotlight section this year. This year, there are five films that can vary. Sometimes it's less sometimes it's more. Usually it's a very small section. And there are between us we've seen four out of the five films, one we haven't seen as the documentary squaring the circle. So you have seen lemon Sita, yeah. Which says Penelope Cruz. Where did that premiere Venice? Yeah,
Alex Heeney 14:14
it's one of the sidebars it's a first feature.
Orla Smith 14:19
And then I have seen Joy land which won the queer palm at Cannes. And then we've both seen the eight mountains, which I said premiered at Cannes in competition. And Joy
Alex Heeney 14:34
land is the Oscar submission for that country, isn't it? It's shortlisted.
Orla Smith 14:38
Yeah. Joy land is the Oscar submission for Pakistan and it has been kind of gaining a bit more traction lately. And then the eight mountains permit and competition at Cannes. And it won the tide for the Jury Prize it tied with each year. Yes. Which was arrested on Yes. And the Jury Prize picked Well, this year they did.
Alex Heeney 15:05
Like all the good films were in the Jury Prize. And, yeah.
Orla Smith 15:09
And then other people's children is, I think, our collective favorite spotlight section that premiered in competition at Venice. It's a Rebecca Toski film. We really love her and it stars Virginia Farah. And we actually we did talk about that film a bunch in our episode on like, the four festival films. Yeah. So you can we won't linger on it too much. But we really, really love that film. And I'm so glad to see it in spotlight because, like I said, it just absolutely fits that mold of like a film that like I felt really, like, needed some love and didn't get it. Yeah, and preserved it.
Alex Heeney 15:48
Yeah. And partly because, like, I think one of the reasons it didn't get the love it deserved is it's directed by a woman. It's about a 40 year old woman who is dealing with not being able to have children like that's the drum is in turn all the dramas internal, and you're trying to pitch this to male film critics. Good luck. I mean, it did well, like it got pretty good reviews, but people didn't love it. And it didn't get Yeah, it didn't get the attention it deserved, which is I mean, that's kind of Rebecca's Lighthouse keys films, which she's made other great films that got no attention.
Orla Smith 16:27
And again, like primary against all these Oscar contenders, yeah, doesn't. It's not a good environment for quiet contemplative film like this,
Alex Heeney 16:36
right? But you've seen like, like, if you look at the history of spotlight they've done, they programmed films that are similarly in categories like that, like the perfect candidate,
Orla Smith 16:49
which was a film like almost nobody saw it. Nobody. Yeah. Yeah.
Alex Heeney 16:53
Like nobody saw it when it came out, either. We're still banging the drum for it. But
Orla Smith 16:59
I was at TIFF that year. And I went in to see it. And I was so surprised by how good it was. Yeah. I was like, Wait, this is great.
Alex Heeney 17:08
I know. I mean, previous really good. But I wasn't gonna see this one. And you made me see it. And I was very glad. Yeah.
Orla Smith 17:15
I told you to, but it felt like nobody else was doing it. No. And I interviewed I found months there. And I'd really like at TIFF and he was we were banging the drum for that film for a long time. And it took so long for it to come out in any capacity.
Alex Heeney 17:33
Yeah, like another year, I think. But another film that was like that is Maggie's plan, which is kind of you know, it's a rom com. It was directed by Rebecca Miller starred Greta Gerwig and Ethan Hawke. It's kind of like, in a way, it kind of feels like a Sundance film, but it premiered at TIFF. And it kind of got more or less forgotten about, actually, another film was their finest. We were at Oh, yeah, I was there. If you if you start Googling around to figure out what was in the spotlight section, like good luck, because I tried doing that before this episode and had to do like five different searches to find films I knew had played there. But weren't on the Wikipedia page or the initial Sundance announcement.
Orla Smith 18:21
I think both Maggie's plan and their fineness of kind of films that were both kind of lost, and also kind of misunderstood. Yeah. They were not widely seen. And then a lot of the people who were the most prominent voices who did see it, what kind of dismissive of it, yeah. And,
Alex Heeney 18:41
and they were, like nice movies rather than Awards, the movies in the way that we now define Awards, the movies, like I don't, which doesn't mean that they weren't deserving of awards. They're both impeccably made really well directed, well written, well acted. They're both really good films.
Orla Smith 19:01
What's key is like other people's children, they are films where like, the dramatic tension is derived from the internal choices that the female protagonists make. Yeah. And that they're quiet deliberation. Yeah. And that it's not necessarily something that always goes we're overwhelmed or is understood. On first wind when the only people who we're seeing is like a very narrow press cohort are speaking of just to like, go over this year's films a bit. I will say I think, again, of the four that we've seen, to really stand out and again, I have seen Joy land. I saw it back in September, I think. Yeah. The London Film Festival so it has the combined they're good To the effect of me not having liked it a ton. And also me having seen it a while ago, and not remembering that much of it, of a film that I found not super memorable. Anyway, yeah, and
Alex Heeney 20:13
I haven't seen it on your advice.
Orla Smith 20:18
And I will say that it got there are a lot of people at the screening that I was at that really liked this film or really responded to it. And it seems like that has been the case for a bunch of people. So who knows? I'm sure it will be
Alex Heeney 20:33
have an audience, even if that's not us.
Orla Smith 20:37
And it's an Oscar contender. So I think it will probably be one of the most watched films of this year spotlight probably. Yeah, but I found it to be fine. Fine, to be fine. And I'm not going to attempt to say very complicated things about it, because I'm probably just going to forget what happened in the film. So what did you think of lemon Sita? Yeah, I would she saw a bit more recently.
Alex Heeney 21:08
It was also fine. It's a first feature. It's about a gender non conforming kid who I think it's a little bit vague about what Jen? Whether the kid is a trans boy or just gender non conforming?
Orla Smith 21:33
That's interesting, because that's also like Joy land is a lot about sort of like a family dealing with with its members not conforming to gender and sexual roles, and it has a transgender character in it.
Alex Heeney 21:50
Yeah, but it said in 1970s, Italy, which is super Catholic, it is at least set in Rome where you know, stuff was happening. And people were maybe in
Orla Smith 22:04
theory, a bit more open minded, but stuff was happening. Well,
Alex Heeney 22:07
I mean, like, it's not like it's in some sheltered, tiny Italian town where you know, this girl, yes, this kid is going to get shunned. And it's more or less a story about Well, it's hard to say what it's about because it's a film that doesn't quite go anywhere. But it's it's kind of about the relationship between this preview, I think prepubescent, like maybe 12 or 11 year old kid and their relationship with their mom, Penelope, who's played by Penelope Cruz, and Penelope Cruz is in this abusive relationship with her husband. Like there's a scene where the central kid like sneaks into their parents room at night and is lying underneath the bed. And over here is the father trying to force Penelope Cruz to have sex with him. And he won't take no for an answer. And then this is all shot from underneath the bed from the kids perspective. And the kids aren't screaming, she said no. Yeah. So the like, the formal conceit of the film is that there are all these big musical numbers that are kind of like fantasy sequences that that seem to be somehow sort of initiated by the mother character. And some of them are more real than others, like the first one in the film is they're setting the table for dinner. And they the Penelope Cruz puts on a record and they're all dancing to the record as they're, and like, lip synching to it, I think as they're setting the dinner table, and they're kind of like, moving the plates on the beat. And, and you're like, Okay, so this movie is going to take me into this sort of warmer world than the kid is generally facing. And then there are other there are a few other sequences that are like that. Some of them are a bit more out there where I, I wouldn't know, like, I can believe that this happened while they were setting the dinner table and that the mother was making this mundane task more fun, and that maybe the director is showing how maybe this would have felt to the kid or to the whole family. And maybe it wasn't quite as spectacular in real life is this but then there's also one where I think there's like a communion or something and then they're at church, and then they're doing a number at church and like the nurses are not the nurses. The nuns are dancing and it's in black and white. And
Orla Smith 24:43
yeah, I wonder to what extent this film was programmed as a kind of double bill with joy land are like, together because they do they're both kind of like, present a repressed society and and like talk about gender nonconformity, and how that's treated by the society and the ripple effect that has on various people in a family. And they also both have dance as a very key part of the story, and the storytelling. So that's interesting. I mean, we've only seen one of them each, but your description sounds like they they do pair together in an interesting way.
Alex Heeney 25:30
Yeah, it's interesting that you're talking about it as a comparison to Joyland because I thought a lot about girlhood. And this sort of the musical number is an escape I mean, in our ebook on Celine Cmaj, wrote an essay about why called them temporary utopias and an unjust world and talked about the diamonds number in that as being one of these temporary utopias and something about Limon Sita, reminded me a bit of tomboy, a bit of girlhood. And I wondered about the programming too, as far as like, you know, they programmed girlhood in the past, and maybe they're looking for a similar sort of mix of realism and heightened realism in a film.
Orla Smith 26:23
I think we'll just we'll leave other people's children for now, and just direct you to our TIFF. Sorry for film festivals episode, because we do talk about it in quite a significant way there. Yeah. And we're just we're just say that we really love it and that we will probably do a full episode on it at some point. But yeah, the the eight mountains we haven't talked about yet. So we'll, we'll use this opportunity to do that. But Alex, you watched it a while ago. And, or you've been, you know, recommend it to me since so I was excited to see it in the spotlight. As a as a kind of excuse to to watch it.
Alex Heeney 27:05
Yeah, I saw it, I can. And then I watched it again, more recently to prepare for the podcast. I really liked it when I saw it, I can it's kind of a very simple story. It's a film about these two boys who meet when they're, I don't know, 10 years old. One of them is comes from a more privileged background. He lives in the city and they go rent this summer place in the country where he meets his friend, he meets this kid Bruno who comes from a working class family that has been farming or more specifically, like doing cheese making in the area for generations and generations and generations. And they become friends over one summer. And then the film kind of follows them as they pick up and leave and pick up with their friendship over the next like 30 years. And, you know, the the way that their paths diverged, that the the more privileged characters in a Pietro and as an adult he's played by Luca Marinelli, who was the star of Martin Eaton. And I hated that movie so much that He redeemed in your eye. Yeah, I feel like I hated Luca Marinelli. But it wasn't it wasn't anything he did. It was just the movie I hated. I really loved him in this room. I thought it was great. Like now I'm, I'm a big time fan and his friend Bruno is played as an adult by Alessandra Borge. And it's, and sort of the premise ends up being that, you know, Pietro sort of spends his adult life wandering the, the eight mountains of the world is something that they talk about in the film. And he's a writer, and he doesn't have he's not married, he doesn't have kids, he hasn't quite figured out who he wants to be. He was estranged from his father, when he left home at 18. And he kind of like didn't keep in touch with his family. And it
Orla Smith 29:13
should be said that the film was kind of told from his perspective voiceover wise, and also in the fact that we don't we like he's a character we really see kind of outside of the context of the friendship.
Alex Heeney 29:25
Yeah, whereas we only see Bruno if Pietro is around, and Bruno who's more working class he ends up staying in the same place and you know, ends up living a sort of more traditional life, for better and for worse, because part of his problem is that he does not understand that there is a world elsewhere. And he kind of gets trapped into a certain lifestyle that he feels is his inheritance, but thing
Orla Smith 30:00
but also like changed. I mean, and it's also it's a bit more like compact. Yeah. In ways like, like, like, I think there are things about that life that he does really, for sure. But but there's also the fact that like that life is increasingly unsustainable due to a lack of government support. Yeah. And the kind of the farming industry dying in general. And so even if that is a life that he chooses for himself, rather than taking the opportunity to like that he gets at one point, there's a kind of Crossroads moment where he has like, potentially got a chance to go to school in the city. And it doesn't end up your pros and
Alex Heeney 30:45
Aaron's are willing to pay for it. And how's him?
Orla Smith 30:49
Yes, it doesn't. I think he he's conflicted at the time. And then eventually, his is his aunt, that he tells him that he lives with his aunt and his uncle.
Alex Heeney 31:04
Yeah, I think so. I think his dad says no, to the school, or his uncle says, yes.
Orla Smith 31:09
Yes. And one of his guardian says no. And so despite him being conflicted to start with the decision is kind of made for him. And you get a sense that, you know, he could be happy with this kind of life. But this kind of life isn't really possible. Yeah. Anyway, anymore. It's becoming increasingly less and less possible. You see that over the years becoming harder and harder.
Alex Heeney 31:33
Yeah. And that's in like, the voice over narrative from of Pietro, like when he's a kid is he's like, why would you take Bruno into the city that would ruin Bruno, like Bruno belongs in this place? And why don't my parents understand that? But yeah, I mean, the film deals with mental health issues that end up arising because of these choices that Bruno has made in a world that can't really sustain them. And, you know, it's a film that, you know, it reminded It reminds me a bit of Naomi Colossi because it's a film that's really interested in nature. There are these amazing sweeping landscapes of the place where Bruno lives and Pietro ends up building a summer house. And, you know, like, pretty, like almost every image you see on on the screen is like a metaphor, like you see them walking along these paths. And you see the paths diverging. And, like, there are so many ways that this film could have ended up really trite. But I think it's just it's so earnest, that it ends up being really, I find it really moving. And I think one of the things that I really love about it is the way that you feel like it's two and a half hours long, and it uses that runtime purposefully because you feel time slipping away. But you also feel this sort of epic nature of their friendship that lasts decades and across continents, even though it is tied to this one specific place, where they met as boys where Pietro returns every summer to the house that he built on the plot of land that his father bought so that like he would return there and hang out with Berto and it's, it's kind of the editing is so delicate that you don't really spot and there are no a never tells you how much time has passed. But like there's a scene early in the film where like 10 year old Pietro is storming off that because he's angry that his parents have invited Bruno to come live with with live with them for the year without having asked him any stuff, he storms off upstairs to where his room is. And we cut to the next scene where now he's in bed. But now it's like 15 year old Pietro and like five years and suddenly passed, and now he's no longer for like, they are still going to the same summer place that they rent every year. But now he and Bruno don't talk. And you know, another cut happens like this. And suddenly 15 years have passed, and they're in their 30s. And I love the way the film sort of stretches and compresses time and the way it shows this friendship that is so tied that in some way as time less. But it's also so tied to this particular place, like they don't really keep in touch and they don't really know how to talk to each other. And generally speaking, they're they don't really talk a lot, but they seem to communicate a lot, even though they don't speak much, which is probably why their friendship doesn't make sense elsewhere. And so of course, you know, as a big Oslo, August 31 fan and a film that also deals with male mental health and a male friendship. I thought about that film a lot, which is about two people who like, talk through everything and fail to communicate. And in this film, it's sort of like two people who are, as Peter describes them silent men, but that somehow kind of seemed to understand And each other better than other people. And, you know, it deals with in some ways, it's a lot like other people's children in the way that it kind of deals with what is modern adulthood, like, you're 40, and you don't have kids and you're not married in our unit, and you don't have a stable job. And well, she has a stable job and other people's children. But so like, Are you a grown up yet. And in Petros case, he's also a wanderer who's wandering the world on a writer and he wonders about his choices. And Bruno has made the sort of more traditional choices, but you know, he ends up not happy in while he's happy for a time until it's not sustainable. Whereas I think Pietro does kind of find happiness. And the way these two men whose paths have diverged still sort of find a meeting place. It's, it's very touching. And the location where it's shot is just incredible. So the film gets a lot of mileage out of those sceneries and you sort of add, like the feeling of like the vastness of nature and time passing and things staying the same, but people not and not staying the same and people changing and not changing. And, yeah, I don't know I find it a bit of a weepy but in a good way. Yeah. And the first time I saw it, I really liked it. But I felt like I hadn't sort of put my finger on it yet. Like, I felt like I needed to see it again, to really get it. Because I didn't really know where it was going. Like you might think that it's going in a queer way that they're going to have some kind of romance, but it's a platonic friendship. And I don't know, seeing it again, I kind of felt like, like knowing where it was going. I could feel more what it was doing. And I think it's really, I think it's a really special film. But it is one of those films, it's kind of like deceptively simple. I can see why it didn't necessarily go over well, it can't like not that it got bad reviews, just that it was it's not flashy flash. So yeah, it's a kind of film that can
Orla Smith 37:04
could be well reviewed. But then by the end of the festival forgotten in favor of other things.
Alex Heeney 37:09
Yeah. It's not the kind of film that but like to look at in column masterpiece. I mean, I don't know I hate that word. I don't want to talk. I don't want to identify it as one or not. I'm just saying it kind of film. People don't even want to touch that word for it. Because it's not like audacious in its visual style. It's very traditional. You're
Orla Smith 37:28
right, that it's epic in scope. It is. Yeah, like an emotional epic. It was worth saying that the film is it's by a Belgian directing duo. Yeah. Not Italian. And the more well known and there are a couple in real life, but the more well known half is Felix van Groningen, who has made a number of films in a number of films that are not my favorite. I walked
Alex Heeney 37:58
out on one of them. That was at Sundance in the world dramatic competition.
Orla Smith 38:03
The last one he made was cute, beautiful boy, which was like putting a lot closer, I think,
Alex Heeney 38:08
fine. A huge step up from there, which I've got to imagine is thanks to his co director, Charlotte Vandermeer, who is like yeah, Greta Gerwig to his no Abom back making his films better or good.
Orla Smith 38:24
They've they've never This is the first time they've coded. I believe this is her first director. Yeah. But she did she has collaborated with him before in like a write risk, like a writing capacity. But yeah, this is the first one they've done together. And I think that it kind of proves that that is that thing that makes his work. Better elevates it. And I hope they continue to make their films together at least he continues to work with her. Because I do think it is it is is really thoughtful and patient in a way that was a bit of a surprise given that like I think neither of us were like a huge huge fans of his work but for
Alex Heeney 39:13
all his films tend to be more of like quite overwrought. So it's it feels really restrained. By comparison. I mean, not just by comparison, but just generally it's kind of a restrained film, even if it will have you reaching I mean, for me anyway, it had me reaching for Kleenex um, but I think it has two really fantastic performances at the center. I never heard of Alessandra Borge, and I think he's really really great and a role with very little dialogue that isn't the central figure and he really, gestures to a whole inner life that we need to see outside of the context of Pietro and I thought Luca,
Orla Smith 39:55
my impression from you is that this is kind of like a Bit of an antithesis to Martin Eden in the sense that like Luca Marinelli, you've seen him they're doing this, it's more of like a hyper masculine Yeah. Being in a way that it's feel it feels a bit oppressive. And here he is very kind of sweet and open and vulnerable.
Alex Heeney 40:15
Yeah. Well, in theory, but like it's an it is an interesting film that sort of about masculinity. I mean, hate to say that that's such a Yeah. thing to say, but like, they're not really conventional. Like, in a way, the two of them feel like conventionally masculine people in the sense that they're, they don't know how to talk about their feelings, really. But as you say, they're both vulnerable and kind of gentle souls and emotional. And I don't know, maybe it was the beard. But suddenly, I was like, I guess I love really why people think he's so hot.
Orla Smith 40:50
And there's a lot of beard action in this film, some very hefty beers.
Alex Heeney 40:55
And they have to play these characters over like 15 years and make us believe that, you know, they've changed and they haven't changed. Without a lot of dialogue without even a lot of like, we don't really see much of their lives when they aren't together. But they have to suggest all of the things that have happened off screen when they weren't together. Like we see a little bit of what happens with Pietro, but it's really about sort of the way that the two of them come alive when they're in the same space together. And they could spend a year apart and somehow that year doesn't have the same meaning as you know, one night of wine and food together. So that's the end of this dispatch from the Sundance Film Festival on the spotlight section, you can go back and listen to our earlier episode, which is a preview of the festival and films we're looking forward to and a bit more about the programming at Sundance. On the website for that episode, you'll also find our Sundance bingo card, because boy, are they predictable. And you can you know, it'll work for any year, you can go back and watch films from Sundance from any year, we will probably be able to fill out this bingo card, at least from the last 10 years. And we'll be back again in the next few days to talk about more films that we've seen at the festival. So make sure you subscribe to the podcast on your favorite pod catcher so that you don't miss another episode. You can also get email alerts from us about new episodes. Don't want to get lost in your podcast feed. To get our emails you can go to email dot seven dash ro.com and sign up for emails there. We'll put a link to that in the show notes. And you can find you can find me on Twitter and Instagram at the US and asked BWESTCIN e a s t e or low where can people find you?
Orla Smith 43:12
You can find me at all a mango on Twitter. You can find my writing and seven throw my podcasting in seventh row you can find me on Instagram at or Orla and Sculpey underscore Smith. And that's about it.
Alex Heeney 43:27
And you can find both of us I'm at seven throw a CVE and thr ow on Twitter and Instagram and of course on our website, seven dash ro.com You'll see in the top menu I have a link to the everything about this season Sundance 2023 But you could also go to seven dash ro.com/sundance To find the show notes links to all the other episodes and info about the season. Thanks for listening
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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