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Arriving at Sundance

Posted January 18th, 2008 by

Several members of the family who retraced the triangle trade from Rhode Island to Ghana to Cuba and back with Katrina Browne to make the film Traces of the Trade have gathered–along with production staff and publicity team–in Park City, Utah for the Sundance Film Festival. At least 12 of us will be here all ten days. Another half dozen or so will be here for part of the festival. We’re all here because we believe in the message of the film and the importance of spreading it as widely as possible.

My intention is to add posts as often as I can to give those who are interested–whether in film, literature, the continuing Traces journey, or just what its like to be at the Sundance Film Festival–a glimpse of this experience that I’ve certainly never seen first-hand before and I suspect many readers of this blog will be in the same boat.

I’ll begin with traveling to Park City–a ski resort town–in January. Many people no doubt have arrived here with no challenges whatsoever, including all of my Traces colleagues so far. My experience was a bit different. My first tactical error? Setting my alarm clock for 4:30p.m. instead of a.m. Constance knocked on my door at 4:55 to remind me that the taxi was arriving in five minutes. It would take longer than those five minutes to explain all I succeeded in doing to make it to the front door ready to go by 5:00.

Constance and Dain’s flight was shortly after 6:00am. My flight wasn’t until almost 8:00. I bid them farewell and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before it was announced that, due to mechanical problems, our pilots refused our jet and our flight was canceled. I called United and was rebooked on a 10:00 flight which would mean I would just barely make my connecting flight from Denver to Salt Lake City. But they overbooked the 10:00 flight by 30 passengers. I was bumped along with several other people. I finally boarded a plane that left Boston at 1:00pm, almost 8 hours after I arrived at Logan. After a two hour layover in Denver I learned that the flight I was now booked on to Salt Lake–since I’d missed my original flight–was overbooked by 9 passengers and that anyone who was bumped wouldn’t get to Salt Lake for two days. This time I made the flight. By the time the shuttle pulled up to the house in Park City that we’ve rented for ten days, it was more than 18 hours from when the taxi pulled away from the Perry home. I know this sounds a bit like whining and I don’t intend it that way. In fact, in the interest of full disclosure I will admit that the woman who helped the seven of us who got bumped from the 10:00 flight–knowing we had now missed out on two flights to Denver–put us all in First Class on the 1:00 flight. We also received a voucher for a free round-trip ticket for a future United Flight. So I have no complaints and I suspect you may be rolling your eyes a bit if you were inclined to sympathize with my plight earlier in this paragraph.

After a decent night’s sleep, the six of us who will be in the rental house for the full ten days, Constance, Dain, Shirley, Jim, James, and I set out for Main Street in Park City to get the lay of the land. We walked about half a mile to the bus stop. There are free shuttles that run regularly throughout Park City taking festival-goers to all the theatres and other venues connected with Sundance. Did I mention there is about two feet of snow on the ground and that the high today was somewhere in the low 20’s? The low tonight is forecast to be 3 degrees. So, yeah, it is really cold here.

Once downtown we went to the festival box office to pick up our tickets to the movies for which we had bought advance tickets. Then we just walked up and down Main Street. Park City is packed with people. This town of about 8,000 swells to well over 20,000 for Sundance. The others decided to grab lunch and I went off on my own. There are a lot of camera crews, about one every half block from what I saw. There are people with cameras with telephoto lenses to take pictures of famous people. Warming myself by an outdoor gas fire with two guys from Access Hollywood, they said that was their job: getting footage of A-list movie stars. I saw one crowd gathered around Stanley Tucci while another group of people with cameras waited across the street outside a restaurant. Apparently someone famous was eating lunch inside. Alan Rickman was being interviewed on the sidewalk as I passed by. There are people, people, people everywhere. Whether you want to order lunch or a cup of chai tea you are going to wait in line. Meetings and receptions and parties and interviews and discussions about what we MUST do next are happening all around.

I’ve just spent two and a half years basically alone at home in my pajamas peacefully writing, and then marketing, my book: Inheriting the Trade. I have become quite unaccustomed to crowds and this Sundance quite amazing. I know that our goal is to gain enough attention for Traces of the Trade that more people will hear its message. So we’re here to support Katrina and her production team to do exactly that.

I was asked to join Katrina for an interview this afternoon with Black Entertainment Television at 4:30. It felt like it went well. It was taped outside on an upstairs deck on Main Street with the marquee of the Egyptian Theatre in the background. It seemed like a great location until we had to pause whenever a diesel truck or bus drove by because of the noise. So it was a little challenging to maintain the flow of the interview. But the interviewer seemed pleased and it did feel like we got our message across. As soon as we have a link to the interview–probably sometime in February–I’ll add it to my website.

I haven’t had a chance to see any movies yet. I’m trying to find my way around first (physically and otherwise). I have tickets to several films in addition to Traces and will offer my thoughts as I see them.

Tomorrow (Saturday) is another day of preparation for me and those of us at Chez TOTT (Traces Of The Trade), as we’re affectionately referring to the house we’re staying in. The production team will have a very busy day tomorrow, much more so than the rest of us. Then on Sunday things will begin to get very busy in preparing for the Traces Panel Discussion, featuring Representative John Conyers, and the World Premiere of Traces of the Trade, both of which take place on Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (which Rep. Conyers was instrumental in establishing as a national holiday).

And to offer one final bit of information to help readers gain a sense of the “feel” of Sundance, as I conclude this post the temperature outside is -4 degrees…

2 responses to “Arriving at Sundance”

  1. David Howe says:

    There is an article in the Jan. 21 Oregonian entitled "Seeking back pay on the American Dream," in which some startling (to me) facts are revealed: in 1857 Oregonians made it illegal for black people to live in this state; this law wasn't removed until 1926; Oregon was one of 6 states which refused to ratify the 15th Amnedment. I'm sure there's more. So much for "The Spirit of the Northwest!"
    I'm saving the article for you . Also, Patty Stell called us up on Saturday and breathlessly told us you were reading on Channel 219 or whatever (Linden Place), so we go to see that, and Skyler even recorded it so the boys could see it when they returned fro their swim meet! It was an inspiring session, and I want to thank you for your kind words about my Dad (Halsey). See ya soon!

  2. Tom says:

    I'd recommend a book called "Sundown Towns" by James Loewen. It reveals a story about cities and towns throughout the United States, including Oregon, and the way African American people have been treated.

    I'm glad you liked the Book TV broadcast, and I'm particularly happy to hear that your kids got to see it. Part of the mission of this project is that what our descendants inherit will be more healthy and less racist than what we've inherited…

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Copyright 2012 by Thomas Norman DeWolf | Website: James DeW. Perry