Flyway’s own executive director Rick Vaicius, along with Flyway festival programmer Jim Brunzell III, went to the Sundance Film Festival this year, braving the film-crazed crowds so that you and I, dear readers, could huddle on the frozen prairie and hear tales of their heroic adventures. They came back with some excellent ideas for Flyway 2014, as follows.
Which Sundance films would you most like to bring to the Flyway?
Rick: My favorite film was Boyhood, by Richard Linklater. I’d say it’s one of the best films I’ve seen in a decade. It was a really interesting way to make a movie: Linklater shot it over 12 years using the same actors in the same roles, so you see this boy grow up from age six to age 18. It was a joy to watch; nothing particularly dramatic, just a remarkable story about a kid’s life. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette played the parents.
Linklater has a way of allowing the characters to develop into warm, compelling people before your very eyes. It’s hard to put a finger on what makes it so wonderful, other than to say it’s just a satisfying, slow burn of a movie. It’s 164 minutes long, but it doesn’t seem long.
But it’s unlikely we could get it at Flyway, because IFC will probably release it in theaters this spring.
How about if we get Richard Linklater as the Flyway 2014 keynote speaker and ask him to bring it along?
Rick: Not a bad idea. Do you know anybody who knows him?
Sure. Yeah, definitely. Wait, do I? Maybe.
Rick: Okay, then.
My sincere hope is that we can find a way to program Land Ho, a comedy by Flyway alum Martha Stephens, who co-directed it with Aaron Katz. We brought Martha to Flyway in 2012 with her film Pilgrim Song, and she ended up being one of those pleasant surprises — she just fit right in with the Flyway filmmaker scene. She’s charming, funny, super-intelligent.
I would be very keen to open the 2014 Flyway with Land Ho. Of all the films I saw at Sundance and Slamdance, it’s the most Flyway-like.
Rick: I guess because it’s a quirky, funny crowd-pleaser, and it’s a relatively low-budget production. It’s about two guys in their 70’s who take a road trip to Iceland.
Are you saying that the Flyway audience is made up of quirky, low-budget Nordic oldsters?
Rick: No. Anyway, Martha Stephens is a brilliant young writer/director, and there’s a lot of great acting in this film. It was sold to Sony Pictures Classics, so we’ll see what kind of festival rights the directors retained. I really want to bring it here.
Jim, what are your favorite Flyway picks from Sundance?
Jim: A Norwegian film called Blind, by Eskil Vogt. It was a nice jolt of originality. It’s about a blind woman who’s working on a novel, and as she’s working on it, the lines blur between fantasy and reality. She assumes that her husband is going to work every day, but then she suspects he’s actually there in the room, watching her. It’s very compelling.
What’s Flyway-ish about it?
Jim: Like lots of Flyway films, it’s from a first-time filmmaker who already has a great track record. Eskil Vogt has co-written two other popular Norwegian films, both hits, both played at Sundance and got U.S. distribution. He’s a really exciting talent, and he’s going to keep making better and better films.
I appreciate films that are challenging, that aren’t all wrapped up and delivered like a package with a bow on it. Blind is structurally a little bit like Broken Circle Breakdown, a film we showed at Flyway last year and is now up for an Oscar. The subject matter is completely different, but the way it plays with time sequencing is similar.
Any documentaries you’d like to bring here?
Jim: I’d love to screen The Overnighters, by Jesse Moss. It takes place in Williston, North Dakota, where thousands of migrant workers are flocking to get jobs in the oil boom. A pastor in a local church is trying to help support the job-seekers, but it’s upsetting to the locals to have these strangers in their church. The film raises questions about religion and faith and who we can trust.
A strange thing about the film is that you think you’re watching a story about these men, and this pastor, and this church, and right around the beginning of the third act there’s a huge twist in the story that makes you completely re-think what you just watched.
Do you agree with Rick’s opinion about Boyhood and Land Ho?
Jim: Absolutely. I still had four days of the festival left when I saw Boyhood, and I just knew that nothing else I saw after that could possibly top that experience. It really blew me away.
I agree with Rick about Land Ho, too. Flyway can say: we recognized Martha Stephens two years ago, and now she’s nationally known. It’s kind of a goofy, fun film, but I liked it. I was really sick the day I saw it, and if it hadn’t been extremely entertaining, I would have fallen asleep or left the theater.
Any other recommendations from either of you?
Rick: I’d like to bring The Sleepwalker, another Norwegian film by a woman named Mona Fastvold. It’s the kind of film where you walk out of the theater shaking your head, like, what was that? I also liked White Bird in a Blizzard, by Gregg Araki. I’m not a huge Gregg Araki fan, but this could be a breakout film for him. And the star, Shailene Woodley, was great. Kind of a Jennifer Lawrence type, but I like her better than Jennifer Lawrence.
Jim: I am a huge Gregg Araki fan, but I thought White Bird in a Blizzard was kind of boring. I enjoyed both the films shot in Minnesota, Dear White People and Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter. Kumiko was out of this world. The story is absurd: a woman comes to Minnesota from Japan looking for the treasure that was buried in the Coen Brothers’ movie, Fargo. I was completely glued to the screen from the first minute. The lead actress, Rinko Kikuchi, is fantastic.
Did you run into any Flyway alumni at the parties?
Rick: Emily Best (Flyway 2013 keynote speaker) was omnipresent. She hosted a party to launch Seed&Spark’s new Bright Ideas magazine. Great party — I’d say it was the hottest ticket in town. I also saw Brian Newman, Paul Taylor, Justine Nagan and other Kartemquin people. Jeremy Wilker was there, of course. I finally got to meet Ben Kalina, who directed the doc Shored Up that we showed at the Flyway last year. Shored Up got a special Sundance award for sustainability. The MN Film & TV Board’s party for Dear White People was a blast, too.
Well, now we’re just jealous. This interview is over.