Sundance Film Festival

The Festival's Favorite Son with No Name

The Festival is fully impossible now. Cars jam the streets, there’s human gridlock on the sidewalks and just try getting ahold of food. There is such a horde of desperate publicists here that I have literally been accosted on a bus and on the sidewalk by people who caught sight of the press credential hanging around my neck.

At the same time, the Festival has something of the miraculous about it. Not only is the orchestration of so many screenings and events in so many venues a marvel but it occurred to me that, having picked movies in a fairly random fashion, I have encountered a diverse bunch of films and filmmakers. Black, white, Asian, Latino, gay, straight. For that to happen by no design at all is impressive.

This morning I talked to Cary Joji Fukunaga, who made the film SIN NOMBRE, which will be released soon by Focus. Fukunaga is the embodiment of what I was just talking about: He’s a Japanese American with some Swedish genes in the mix, yet his movie, in Spanish, deals with the struggles of a teenaged girl from Honduras who gets caught up with two young Mexican gang members as she makes her way to the U.S.

Fukunaga is a favorite son at the Festival, having worked through Sundance lab to develop a short film that screened here in 2005 and then having developed Sin Nombre through another lab. That began with extensive talks with established writers. “By the time you leave the lab, you’ve had a 24-hour conversation about everything from your childhood to your fears,” he says. “I don’t think I had ever talked that much about myself.” After that, he got to film several scenes from his script. “It’s like a marathon where you’re rehearsing, shooting, editing for four weeks,” he said. “Sometimes you feel triumph and something you feel absolute failure.”

Lucky him–Focus optioned his film after he finished the writing part of lab. I asked him if that made his contemporaries hate him. “I have a lot of friends who work in film and they think I’m the luckiest person ever,” he said. “When you live it, it’s harder to appreciate.” He said producer Ron Yerxa (Little Miss Sunshine) has been urging him to recognize his film’s debut at the Festival as one of the high points of his life. But Fukunaga seems to have a restless mind; he finds he’s distracted from by “eagerness to move foward.”

“I’ve been living with this project for four years,” he said. “I’ve seen this movie hundreds and hundreds of times. Mentally, I’ve jumped three steps ahead.”

Watch the Sundance Channel interview with Fukunaga: