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Weird, Wild Festival Happenings – The Hollywood Reporter

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The Sundance Film Festival made a triumphant in-person return to Park City after being held online the past two years because of the pandemic. In the interim, some attendees seem to have misplaced their festival manners.

Case in point: At the midnight screening of Laura Moss’ horror film Birth/Rebirth — a twisted look at the extremes of motherhood — one male guest brought in a full rack of barbecue ribs from the Fresh Market next door and proceeded to dig into it (with a fork and knife, bizarrely), unbothered by the stomach-churning, bloody birth scenes onscreen. (No word on whether he was able to keep them down for the duration.)

Ribs aside, the vibes on the ground here are undeniably celebratory with festival officials and filmmakers expressing joy from Park City podiums at the sight of seeing hordes of film lovers seated inside theaters all over town. But if you engage any Sundancer between screenings, you were likely to hear tales of awkwardness and woe.

Of the former, W. Kamau Bell joked that he would “like to apologize to the older white gentleman” who approached during the kickoff event Opening Night: A Taste of Sundance to congratulate him on the Oscar-winning documentary Summer of Soul. He didn’t take the chance to correct him and give credit to Questlove or introduce himself as one of the night’s four shining honorees. But what he did say from the podium was this: “I’m sure that Questlove would be excited to work with you.”

(L-R) W. Kamau Bell, Nikyatu Jusu and Boots Riley attend Sundance Institute's Inaugural Opening Night: A Taste Of Sundance Presented By IMDbPro at The Basin Recreation Fieldhouse on January 19, 2023 in Park City, Utah.

W. Kamau Bell, Nikyatu Jusu and Boots Riley attend Sundance Institute’s Inaugural Opening Night: A Taste Of Sundance presented by IMDbPro at Park City’s Basin Recreation Fieldhouse on Jan. 19, 2023.

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Traffic is always an issue in Park City but this year, backups and delays have been nightmarish in some instances. One publicist reported having to miss her film’s premiere because there was no room on any of the free transit buses and multiple ride share services either didn’t show up or drivers kept circling for upwards of 30 minutes (a common headache reported by multiple sources). Another reveler reported giving up on attending a cocktail party thrown by UTA because the shuttle situation was such a mess due to traffic.

Friday night’s world premiere of Magazine Dreams, featuring a brutal turn from Jonathan Majors as a bodybuilder with dreams of superstardom whose life spirals out of control, started 45 minutes late due to traffic and fest congestion. Badge and ticket holders were also forced to wait despite an empty theater as fest kinks were still coiled relatively tightly at the start of the weekend.

Not helping matters: On Friday night, an accident at the ever-busy roundabout up to Deer Valley Drive involving a horse trailer and a pick-up truck that left the latter demolished and traffic at a stand-still for some time.

General view of backed up traffic on Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2023 in Park City, Utah.

General view of backed-up traffic on Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 21, 2023.

Mat Hayward/Getty Images

Human traffic has also been an issue. Standing outside one packed venue on a frigid Saturday night, a fest insider relayed to The Hollywood Reporter that they’ve seen bizarre behaviors like people simply “forgetting how to cross the street,” adding that social manners and cues are rusty. It’s also been common to see pushy people cutting lines, shouting from the back of buses (“Does this bus go to Prospector Square?!”) or walking in front of traffic on Main Street without looking in either direction.

One exasperated commuter looked like he’d had enough. On a crowded (and slow) bus coming back from the Eccles premiere of the Brooke Shields documentary Pretty Baby, a man whipped out a stainless steel flask filled with booze and downed it one gulp.

Speaking of traffic, the delays and congestion can be seen as a positive sign that Sundance is back and more popular than ever as there are simply thousands of festival goers back on the ground this year, maxing out party lists and overwhelming RSVP inboxes. One source reported an overwhelmed wait list to even stop by the South Asian Lodge on Woodside Avenue, one of the many cultural houses that have posted up this year and been hot attractions.

A slippery stroll down Main Street shows that venues and post-premiere parties hit capacity with lines snaking up and down the block. THR witnessed two hot stars getting turned away from one such popular venue as the party scene kicked into overdrive. “How can we get into Tao?” asked two other eager revelers on the same night as that venue once again emerged as the go-to late-night hang thanks to performances by the likes of Diplo and DJ Pee Wee (alter ego of Anderson .Paak).

Tiffany Haddish even jumped onstage and performed for the VIP crowd while sipping Casamigos Tequila, and THR hears that the file she sent to DJ Mel DeBarge crashed his computer, so the stand-up comedian was forced to fill time by telling jokes and, apparently, it was a hit. Other attendees included Phoebe Dynevor, Jordan Firstman, Charlie Hall, Adam Lambert, Alexander Skarsgard, Cody Fern, Jack McBrayer, Logan Browning, Nicholas Braun, Sebastian de Souza, Tessa Thompson and Zoey Deutch.

Jason Momoa Celebrates Tao Park City

Jason Momoa at Tao Park City.

Courtesy of TAO Park City

Then there was the case of the “medical incident” at the Egyptian Theatre on Saturday night during the world premiere of Eddie Alcazar’s Divinity. THR confirmed that an ambulance arrived on scene, but despite early rumors — Deadline reported that a woman went into labor during the screening and was rushed to a local hospital — it was not as serious as it initially seemed.

“The individual was treated and cleared,” a rep for the film tells THR. “No one went into labor. And the film was not stopped.”

A festival goer takes a selfie outside the Egyptian Theater during the 2023 Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2023 in Park City, Utah.

A festival goer takes a selfie outside the Egyptian Theater during the 2023 Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2023 in Park City, Utah.

Rob Kim/Getty Images

Per the outlet, apparently a local law enforcement official blamed the false birth story on “wires [getting] crossed over the walkie-talkies about what actually happened.” THR followed up with Park City Police but did not hear back as of press time. Again, perhaps coincidentally, one guest who took in the film tweeted that it was “a total mindfuck,” and that was not in reference to Alcazar, who turned up to introduce his film wearing a frightening, wrinkled monster mask.

On the same night, across town at the Ray Theatre, Alexander Skarsgard turned up on the red carpet ahead of the premiere of his film Infinity Pool wearing a black leather dog collar with a long leash. That was tame compared to what was seen onscreen thanks to shock auteur Brandon Cronenberg, son of body horror expert David Cronenberg.

Alexander Skarsgård attends the 2023 Sundance Film Festival

Alexander Skarsgard at the Infinity Pool premiere at the Ray Theatre on Jan. 21, 2023.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

“This film contains graphic violence and gore, graphic sexual content and other subject matter that could be offensive to some viewers,” per the fest’s official warning. They weren’t kidding: Infinity Pool features all of the above, including a scene featuring a close-up of what is supposed to be the erect penis of Skarsgard’s character receiving a hand job, complete with ejaculation. (One-upping that was Jordan Firstman’s graphic scenes in Sebastian Silva’s intimate and wild Rotting in the Sun, a film that features multiple erect penises, one belonging to the influencer, who gets and receives oral sex.)

Perhaps more shocking was the sight of a coatless man waiting outside the Eccles on Monday night for a late night screening. When asked by a Sundance volunteer why he wasn’t wearing a coat on a night when temperatures dipped to a low of (a very frigid) 9 degrees, the 20-something gentleman offered a head-scratching response: “I didn’t bring one. I’m from Cali, and we don’t have weather like this back there.”

Sundance is indeed back and plenty of weird, wild memories have been made.

Filmmaker Eddie Alcazar and Bella Thorne attend the 2023 Sundance Film Festival

Filmmaker Eddie Alcazar and Bella Thorne at the premiere of their film Divinity on Jan. 21, 2023.

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

With reporting by Borys Kit and Mia Galuppo

A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.



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