Friday, January 18, 2008

Sundance Day 2: Numb Faces, Dead Languages

[Film Fest] Park City is a stupid place for a world-class film festival.

Allow me to clarify that: Park City is a beautiful place. But it is at high altitude. It is January. It is approximately 8 degrees. It is snowing. The road conditions suck. And there will be thousands more people than the city was designed to support crowding those roads.

But here we all are, hoping that the quality of the films and the cinephile camaraderie make it all worthwhile. For a journalist, that could mean a dodgy first day, as the press screenings for the competition films generally don’t precede the first public screening. We get a shot at less buzzed-about entries, like the Spectrum category documentary The Linguists. It follows social scientists David Harrison and Gregory Anderson as they attempt to document the world’s dying languages: the native Siberian tongue Chulym; Native American Indian languages with speakers remaining in the single digits. At just 64 minutes, it doesn’t quite have enough time to develop its main characters, but their enthusiasm for their mission – including discovering a counting system improbably based on 20 and 12 simultaneously – helps carry the narrative.

And after all, isn’t the new and improbable what we’re all here plowing through the snow to discover? (Scott Renshaw)

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