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"Some films go deep," filmmaker Tiffany Shlain said at the premiere of her new Sundance documentary, Connected. "Mine goes wide." Indeed, Shlain's film does go wide -- it's like a rubber band stretching in multiple directions while not breaking. Examining the ways in which technology can productively unite our global citizenry, Connected details nothing less than the history of consciousness and its arrival within today's always-on, hyper-wired mind. Through voiceover narration and breezy montage, Connected explores the right brain/left brain split and its effect on social and economic organization, and it highlights the transformative potential of today's communication tools. As a modern-day David Hume might argue, the film thoughtfully and entertainingly proposes that the Internet's power to spread knowledge and experience can create a worldwide community capable of embracing the goals needed to sustain ourselves and our planet. Connected wants you to use your handheld connective devices for good -- social improvement that even includes better conditions for the workers along the supply chains in China that produce these same devices.

Wide or deep -- Shlain's formulation is an interesting way to consider documentaries. While watching a variety of docs at Sundance, I noticed that most did try to do one or the other. Danfung Dennis' To Hell and Back, for example, goes deep into the life and mind of a soldier wounded in Afghanistan, showing us with the best Canon 5D cinematography I've ever seen the scarring memories that will shape his political worldview forever. In telling "a story of the Earth Liberation Front," Marshall Curry's If a Tree Falls goes deep into radical environmental activism but also a bit wide as it turns into a critique of our judicial system's expanding definition of the word "terrorism." Yoav Potash's Crime after Crime is another deep movie -- it tells the story of Deborah Peagler, the victim of overprosecution for the murder of her abusive husband, expanding her tale to look at states that don't allow for the consideration of spousal abuse in sentencing and parole. Perhaps the "deepest" doc I saw is not a social-issue one but a tale of wayward fandom, Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure. In Matthew Bate's film, two San Francisco apartment dweller's audio taping of a pair of bickering male neighbors launches a decades-long obsession that gathers fans from around the world. Out of material that would cause most of us to stick cotton in our ears, Bate traces a 1990s viral phenomenon that has just as many unexpected plot twists and character drama as the later one depicted in The Social Network.

More on the deep and the wide as we wrap up Sundance this weekend and early next week.

Best,
Scott Macaulay
Editor

IN THIS NEWSLETTER
Editor's Note
Sundance Blog & Features
Sundance Responses
Sundance Video
SUNDANCE BLOG & FEATURES
In the blog, our final Sundance volunteer video, co-produced by Kenneth Cole, and Brandon Harris highlights titles out of Slamdance (including Grand Jury prize-winner Stranger Things, pictured left).

To read more posts from our blog, click here.

"RESURRECT DEAD: THE MYSTERY OF THE TOYNBEE TILES" DIRECTOR JON FOY By Mary Anderson Casavant

There are few professions in the world that demand more from their practitioners than documentary filmmaking -- most filmmakers spend years (if not lives) toiling away in obscurity, with little keeping them going beside the faith that theirs is a story worth sacrificing everything for. Sundance newbie, Jon Foy, is certainly a man of faith -- his feature debut, Resurrect Dead, was entirely self-funded by a series of odd jobs. When he got the call that the film he'd been working on for five years was going to be at Sundance, he was working as a house cleaner. more

SUNDANCE RESPONSES
"BENAVIDES BORN," CO-WRITER-DIRECTOR AMY WENDELL "Surprises," wow. There were many in developing the story. Discovering this unique sport of women's powerlifting and how big it is in South Texas was a wonderful surprise for us. We also had no idea that Texas had a mandatory and competitive "One Act" theater arts program. That program gave us an opportunity to survey a broad range of teenager talent, but more importantly, it is turning out graduates who are truly interested in storytelling and were eager to get involved in either script workshops or actual production. more

"THE REDEMPTION OF GENERAL BUTT NAKED," DIRECTORS ERIC STRAUSS & DANIELE ANASTASION Neither of us was prepared for how much we would genuinely like Joshua Milton Blahyi. The fact that a human being can be warm, funny and endearing, yet also responsible for the deaths of thousands, is something that's very difficult to reconcile. more

"BEING ELMO: A PUPPETEER'S JOURNEY," DIRECTOR CONSTANCE MARKS The most surprising thing I found while making BEING ELMO: A Puppeteer's Journey was how insanely popular this furry red monster has become. For the past year I've carried a bright red Elmo messenger bag. I would get spontaneous feedback every day from almost everyone: old men, teenage girls, postal workers and especially mothers. Hundreds of times I heard, "Elmo was my child's first word" or "What IS it about Elmo that makes my kid so transfixed?" more


SUNDANCE VIDEO
LEGENDARY DP VILMOS ZSIGMOND AT SLAMDANCE '11 By Jamie Stuart

Vilmos Zsigmond, the Oscar-winning cinematographer of such films as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Deer Hunter, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Sugarland Express and The Long Goodbye, dropped by unexpectedly to discusses his work and his latest film, Summer Children, which is playing at Slamdance. Here is the uncut footage. see video

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