PARK CITY — Nearly all of the actors had fled the scene while some directors stayed behind to collect hardware for winning films. Gone, too, were most of the publicists and entourages that add to the sometimes frenetic energy of the Sundance Film Festival.
Still present at the festival were people who love to watch movies, including a lot of Utahns who still packed theaters to milk every last screening possible from the 118 features and 85 documentaries presented for the 2011 version of the annual event. Robert Redford, who makes certain to emphasize in press conferences each year that the event is all about films, must have been pleased — if he was still in town.
Those hungering for fine films had help from knowing who the winners were and having those films play for the last two days, including at the spacious Eccles Theater, where around 1,300 could squeeze into the auditorium. Saturday night featured Grand Jury dramatic winner "Like Crazy," a remarkably honest and sometimes gutting tale of first love and long-distance romance between a Los Angeles based grad (Anton Yelchin) and his London-dwelling girlfriend (Felicity Jones).
Director Drake Doremus left the celebration party at the awards ceremony and brought many of his crew along to participate in a Q&A with the very receptive audience afterwards. He admitted that the story was largely about his own experiences with young love and relationships that span continents. He suspected such experiences were pretty universal and had the sympathetic audience eating out of his hand when asked if he and his real-life girlfriend that the story was based on were still together.
"We are not together, but we will always be together in some way because of the deep bonding we had from those experiences."
His answer was greeted by a collective sigh and the film was purchased by Paramount Pictures for $4 million and will probably draw more sighs and tears across the country when it hits general release.
A local, jovial, self-described "biggest guy in the theater," in a Saturday night Tower screening of "My Idiot Brother," had managed to see 22 films to that point, despite working 40-hours as usual and with a couple more films likely to fall before the fest officially ended Sunday with the final screening showcasing "The Details."
A round of evening screenings were available for Park City patrons, including another full house expected at the Eccles, but this time for the audience award-winning drama "Circumstance."
Not among the Salt Lakers who made it to Park City this year is Provo-born, Sandy-raised Ryan Call, who has been attending the festival each year for "probably" the last seven. He was hooked after being given a ticket for two consecutive years and now is a stalwart who recognizes many familiar faces at screenings. He even calls them "festival friends."
"We see them every year. The majority of them are people that are involved in film one way or another. I don't think I am alone in walking out and feeling creatively energized," he said.
He anticipates finishing his own script someday but also appreciates the windows to the world the festival affords him.
"All film gives you the opportunity to have that experience that life may not afford you. There certainly is a diversity of experiences available if you look at film that way."
Call even keeps his own website (Ireviewsomething.com) where he tracks what he liked and didn't like and why. Unlike some who are alarmed by the lack of ratings on films, he feels prepared when he enters a theater.
"I take issue with the idea that a rating is a good indication of content but you have a catalog in front of you. The descriptions are not cryptic by any means. I think the festival organizers do a really good job of giving a good synopsis and theme and ideas behind the movie. I think there is a lot of guidance; I don't feel lost by any means."
While the schedule was set through Sunday in Salt Lake and at the Sundance Resort, Park City programming included several time slots that added additional screening of films such as the stranger-than-fiction documentary that explores the mystery of asphalt tiles that have shown up on busy streets in east coast cities in the US and in South America with a message about resurrection, life on Saturn, playwright David Mamet and hijacked local news broadcasts and shortwave radio. "Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles," won the documentary directing award for Jon Foy for his genuine urban mystery. It will probably inspire copycats worldwide.
Many of the films from the festival will be available to the general public after companies purchased the films. More than two dozen films were reported to be sold during the 10-day festival.