Sundance Film Festival 2019

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Every year, thousands upon thousands of avid film-lovers, celebrity chasers, and all around glamorous people with money coming out of their butts flock to my little mountain town to partake in the art of storytelling on the big screen.

Restaurants and retail stores are transformed overnight into chic and exclusive clubs and VIP lounges. While walking up and down Main Street each year, I casually stroll by at least half a dozen movie stars, directors, producers, or other "important" people whom I usually don't recognize. I try my hardest not to gawk at the beauty and fabulous fashion of the mob around me. It really is spectacular.

I could be making this up, but I swear, that as the herd of people make their way from screening to screening, bar to bar, lounge to lounge, and even while shopping at the grocery stores in town, we are all looking each other up and down, in the eyes, assessing each other's clothing, faces, and asking ourselves, "Is SHE someone important? Is HE someone I should know?"

Welcome to the Sundance Film Festival.

I even like to make up my own script about what others are thinking about me..."OH! She's pretty. I bet she's an actress. Which film is she in? She's walking so confidently. Do I know her? Look at those fabulous faux leather Jessica Simpson leggings from Amazon that she's wearing."

This year was no different. I met up with some girlfriends on Main Street, attended a panel in the Stella Artois lounge about women "in the business" where we were served free drinks, snacks, and sat in plush leather chairs, surrounded by people clad entirely in black, with big, unbridled and interesting hair and glasses.

There were carefully designed backdrops for photo ops, DJ's discretely tucked into corners, Ubers clogging the streets, and fans waving wildly for autographs outside.

My girlfriends and I made our way down the street, passing the comedian Richard Kind, actress Zazie Beets from Deadpool, and some jock-looking Channing Tatum type actor from that one show I've never heard of.

There was talk of Jada Pinket Smith, Oprah, JLo, Jack Black, and other A-list celebrities whom we had JUST MISSED.

When we arrived at our favorite over-priced deli, we got lucky and scored some seats where we gratefully sat to warm up, sip our hot chocolate, and indulge in a little gossip.
The place was packed. I could pick out the out-of-towners in a heartbeat and was thoroughly enjoying the people watching. So much beauty, so much diversity, so much creativity, so much passion. I love artists. I love performers. I could hear traffic being directed outside, whistles being blown, and saw steam rising from the streets. It's like I was in one of my favorite places in the world--New York City--without having to leave my hometown.

While stealing bites of my girlfriend's chili, I glanced around to study the people crowded around me. That's when I noticed the most beautiful person in the entire room.

A man. About 55 years old. Dressed in faded, slightly over-sized dad jeans and scuffed-up bulky work boots. He had on a fluorescent workmen's vest over his puffy coat, a tattered baseball hat on his head, and a walkie talkie hanging from his hip. He was clearly a laborer of some kind. Sanitation department, perhaps? Or from the city traffic and public works department.

What struck me was his face. It was covered in scars.

I know this sounds dramatic and makes for a good story, but I promise you that he was beaming. I couldn't look away. Amidst this crowd of celebrities and wealthy filmmakers, skiers on expensive vacations, and the artsy fartsy crowd of East Coasters--(whom I love)--there was this unremarkable man who, to me, stood out as a symbol of survival and courage.

I have no idea how he got those scars, what tragedy or accident took place in his life, but seeing him standing there, helping a coworker in the middle of that crowded coffee shop, left me speechless and deeply reflective for a long while. This man had lived to tell the tale. He had a job! He was walking on two feet. He wasn't hiding his face. He was just living his life and he had no clue that I sat there staring at him holding back tears. I wanted to approach him and thank him for not giving up on life.

I didn't point him out to my friends and I'm curious if they noticed him. Seeing a scarred soul continue to live their life out loud was more exciting to me than my brush with celebrity and fame further up the street.

And here's the thing--if I could see the scars of everyone else in that room I probably would have been just as astounded with their survival stories. I don't think I would be marveling at their expensive clothing, amazing taste in snow gear, or how famous they were--I would simply want to trace the map of their scars and hear about all the places their scars had taken them. All of the lessons they'd learned along the way, and how they landed in that little shop on a cold January day.

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