Though Park City is indeed Sundance Film Festival ground zero, a more civilized version of this annual celebration of independent film can be found in downtown, Salt Lake City at the Broadway Center Cinemas. (Home of the Salt Lake Film Society the rest of the year.) I went down to the Broadway on Sunday night to take the temperature (which in the literal sense was FREEZING!) and was pleasantly surprised by the lack of “scene.” Yes, there was a line to get into the Shorts Program about to begin, but a short one compared to what I’d seen at screening venues in Park City. I watched all the wait-listers get a seat, almost unheard of up the hill. The attention seemed squarely on the films. Best yet was that the layers of people and security around Sundance insiders typical at Park City screenings was nonexistent at the Broadway and I easily got to talk to a film director and a musical score performer, both experiencing Sundance for the first time.


Tinatin Gurchiani’s Film “The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear” re-screens this week in Park City at the Temple Theater on Thursday, Jan. 24 at 3 p.m. and Friday, Jan.25 at the Egyptian Theatre at 8:30 a.m. Photo by Piper Benjamin. 

No one was more surprised than Tinatin Gurchiani when her documentary “The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear” made it into Sundance. “Had I known the festival only accepts 12 docs every year, I would never have been brave enough to submit it,” she said. In 2011, Gurchiani put out a casting call for 15 to 23-year-olds in her native Georgia (near Russia, not Southern U.S.) to share their personal stories on film. Hundreds of people answered the call to share what turned out to be very personal, yet universal experiences. “The film is really about the bridges between people we don’t immediately realize exist, those things that make us all essentially the same,” Gurchiani says.


Phillip Bimstein. Photo by Piper Benjamin.


Charlotte Bell. Photo by Piper Benjamin.

I chatted with Utah residents Phillip Bimstein and Charlotte Bell as they came out of “The Machine…” screening. (Both of whom, ironically, are considered local celebrities in their own right: Bimstein is nationally-acclaimed composer and former Springdale mayor; Bell is a well-known Utah yogi and author ofMindful Yoga, Mindful Life.) “It was a really beautiful illustration of life through all these personal stories,” Bimstein said. “I love to learn about different cultures, and this movie provided that. It showed how people, regardless of where you are from, are really all the same,” Bell said.


Electric cellist Wytold Lebing’s music is featured on the “Blood Brother” soundtrack, a Sundance Film Festival 2013 documentary selection. Photo by Piper Benjamin.

I met Wytold Lebing at the Broadway as well. He played his electric cello on the soundtrack for “Blood Brother,” another Sundance documentary entry and Lebing’s first foray into film. “It was really exciting and inspirational to witness the process of creating an independent film,” he said. “It pushed me harder as an artist than I think I ever have been before.”

The Broadway Center Cinemas are located at 111 E. Broadway (300 South) in Salt Lake City. Check the Sundance Film Festival website for the screening schedule, running through Jan. 27.

Melissa Fields is a Utah-based freelance writer. Her blog about Utah things to do, see and eat is utahvagabond.com.