May 30, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 73°F


Alumni converge on Sundance Film Festival

The 2007 Sundance Film Festival served as a mini Ithaca College reunion.

Most prominently featured was Patricia Zimmermann, professor of cinema, photography and media arts, who was invited to join the festival’s opening panel Jan. 20. The panel discussed countercultural changes from the 1960s to the present.

Zimmermann likens Sundance to spring break in Miami.

“Except everyone is in blue jeans, goose down jackets and on Bluetooth headsets,” she said. “And instead of nonstop partying, it’s nonstop pick-ups and hook-ups — global entertainment industry parlance for making business deals.”

Film critic B. Ruby Rich moderated the dialogue between the six panelists before a sold-out audience of around 400 at the Prospector Square Theatre in Park City, Utah.

The panel’s discussion, titled “The Times, Did They A-Change?,” provoked arguments regarding the use of multimedia to mainstream social change. On stage, Zimmermann asserted that history should be used as a tool in and out of the film industry to battle cultural amnesia and to form better international relationships.

“History is meant to be remixed, remade and reanimated, and always open to the future,” Zimmermann said.

Shannon Kelley ’86, former artistic director of Sundance, said Zimmermann’s participation added a memorable spontaneity to the panel.

“It was refreshing for people to encounter a mind and voice that thinks critically about media and culture in a way that is rigorous, immediate and unsentimental,” Kelley said.

The panel’s topic directly correlated with the many festival films that explored American counterculture. The majority of the discussions were focused around the historical documentary “Chicago 10.” In the film, writer/director Brett Morgan combines archive video footage of the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests with digital animation. The film served as a concrete example of how history can be reworked in production rooms and out in social forums.

Jeremy Levine ’06 was at the festival video-blogging for the film “Everything’s Cool,” a global warming feature. He said he went to see “Chicago 10” for its technological advancements in dressing up the conventional documentary.

“[‘Chicago 10’] introduces a new medium that can make nonfiction film compelling,” Levine said. “The hybrid [of historical footage and new animation] can more easily reach mainstream.”

Levine was seated at the “Chicago 10” premiere with Kate Sheppard ’06, when they turned to see Zimmermann not an arm’s length away.

“It was like an Ithaca College reunion party,” Zimmermann said.

Sheppard, who was at the festival reporting for Grist magazine, said that having a seat on the panel was not only an honor for Zimmermann, but for the entire campus as well. It is important to acknowledge the strong presence alumni had at Sundance this year.

“It says something about IC, the professors there and the quality of the education,” Sheppard said.