Although Park City, Utah tends to become ground zero for most Sundance Film Festival events, Salt Lake City also hosts several significant screenings and film debates.
On Day 3, social protest was the theme dominating the notable films that screened in the greater Salt Lake City area.
“The Woods,” an odd entry from new director Matthew Lessner, shows a group of young people starting a new civilization deep in the forest. Like communal living in the 1960’s, these men and women use the move to the woods as a chance to start over.
In an unusual twist, though, these 21st-century radicals take all the trappings of modern society with them, including video games, flat screen televisions and processed foods. But modern conveniences still are not enough to keep a burgeoning society running.
“Sing Your Song,” a documentary with serious Sundance buzz, played to a packed house at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center on Saturday evening.
Telling the story of 83-year-old Harry Belafonte, this film from director Susanne Rostock documents Belafonte’s reflection on his life as an entertainer and a social activist.
After becoming a member of the American Negro Theater in Harlem, Belafonte enjoyed significant success as a singer, starting at the bottom of the marquee, but soon moving up to become a headliner at some of the hottest clubs in the country.
Still, Belafonte could not escape the social standards of the time. “Sing Your Song” faithfully documents the color line that divided people in the mid-20th Century. Belafonte even recounts a chilling incident involving a threat from a state trooper over a simple bathroom break.
No one disputed the singer’s talents but more often than not, Belafonte got into trouble for simple gestures, such as holding the hand of a white female singer on stage.
Even Belafonte’s Emmy-nominated television specials met with resistance from the networks and sponsors because of their integrated casts.
These repressive attitudes fueled Belafonte’s appetite for social change. “Sing Your Song” delves into the legendary performer’s relationship with the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man Belafonte respected for his peaceful acts of non-cooperation.
“Sing Your Song” is the type of movie that the Sundance Film Festival is all about. This documentary definitely needs to find its way to film festivals and theaters across the country. It is a quiet, beautiful song of protest from a man who is still trying to change the world.
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