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Day 6

Thursday, January 24, 2008 | 09:35 AM ET

Sundance 2008 blog Bruce LaBruce is one of Canada’s most audacious filmmakers. His satiric, sexually graphic work includes Super 8 ½ (1993), Hustler White (1996) and The Raspberry Reich (2004). His latest picture is the gay zombie film Otto; or Up with Dead People. The film has its world premiere at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, which runs Jan. 17-27. LaBruce will be blogging about his adventures at Sundance for CBCNews.ca.

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Filmmaker Bruce LaBruce. (Bruce LaBruce)

After a good night’s sleep, it’s time to face the last dance at Sundance. It’s hard to drag myself away from our cozy fireplace, but I’m scheduled to appear on a panel at the Queer Lounge entitled “Gay Filmmakers and Sexual Provocation,” a subject upon which I do have a thing or two to say. My fellow panelists, Isaac Julien, here with his Derek Jarman doc, and Lesli Klainberg, who co-directed the TV series Indie Sex, are both quite agreeable. Kyle Buchanan, the Advocate film critic who conceived and moderated the panel, isn’t afraid to dig into contentious subjects, like whether or not GLAAD — the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and sponsor of the Queer Lounge — tries to censor or otherwise influence Hollywood scripts and teleplays. I’ve always vehemently and publicly opposed this strategy, and I do so again today. A representative from GLAAD denies that the organization still does this, and says that he is no longer in favour of his organization trying to act as a lobbyist to coerce “positive portrayals” of gays and lesbians out of Hollywood writers and producers. After all, as Isaac comments, “One man’s treasure is another man’s trash.”

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Day 5

Tuesday, January 22, 2008 | 02:31 PM ET

Okay, forget everything bad I’ve said about Sundance, because today I saw the film Patti Smith: Dream of Life, and then I watched her perform at the festival’s music café, and it was magical. The film is an incredibly moving meditation on death and loss, shot by the director Steven Sebring in the style of a visual poem, in lush 16mm using only natural light. I dare you not to cry when Patti Smith talks about how the premature death of her brother became a positive force in her life, because his spirit opened and filled her heart like a flame, allowing her to absorb all his best qualities. Her reading of the Declaration of Independence followed by a brutally thorough recitation of all the heinous acts that George W. Bush has perpetrated against America is shockingly raw and powerful.

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Day 4

Monday, January 21, 2008 | 04:41 PM ET

The second screening of Otto; or, Up with Dead People at Sundance, bloody Sundance is today at 3pm at the Egyptian theatre, my favourite venue in Park City. It’s the location of the world premiere of my last movie, The Raspberry Reich, a historic old theatre with sconces featuring Egyptian pharaohs. It’s the same theatre where Larry Clark’s Kids made such a splash at Sundance back in 1995.

I’m almost late for my own screening, so I have to run up Main Street, which is on a relatively steep hill, to get there on time. As the elevation of Park City makes the oxygen a little thin, I arrive totally winded and sweaty. The theatre is full, and the screening, in a more intimate theatre, is much more successful than the premiere. The audience seems to be really into the film, with very few walkouts, although the gut-f---ing scene always manages to clear a few people out. I’m not sure if we’ve sold the film yet, but I’m not really focusing on that. For me it’s more important to observe how it plays to audiences and how people respond afterwards.

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Day 3

Sunday, January 20, 2008 | 06:27 PM ET

Saturday is the world premiere of Otto; or, Up with Dead People, and I’m surprisingly calm. I’ve already shown the film to my husband, Antonio, who, trust me, is my harshest critic, and to Katharina Klewinghaus, the female lead of the picture, and they both really like it, so that’s good enough for me. The rest is just gravy and stale popcorn.

In the afternoon Jeremy, my Otto, and I catch a movie called The Broken, a British horror movie about monstrous doppelgangers who break out of mirrors to murder and replace people. Think Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets Alice Through the Looking Glass. Despite its overabundance of horror clichés, it isn’t half bad. Then again, that must mean it isn’t half good.

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Day 2

Saturday, January 19, 2008 | 06:32 PM ET

Friday was the first really busy day of the festival, so Park City was crawling with film industry types looking for product. The free shuttle buses that chug along the snowy streets were packed with people talking loudly and sometimes obnoxiously about the films they’d seen, what’s hot and what’s not. My co-producer Leonard Farlinger tells me on one shuttle he overheard six people loudly debating the merits of my oeuvre and whether or not they were going to check out Otto. One was a naysayer, so Leonard yelled out as he got off the bus that he’d seen Otto, and it rocks. It’s nice to have people in your corner.

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Day 1

Friday, January 18, 2008 | 05:50 PM ET

I arrive in Salt Lake City in the early evening on a cramped little Delta jet airliner, the only direct flight from Toronto. I noticed while reading on the plane that my movie, Otto; or, Up with Dead People, got a mention on the front page of the National Post — but maybe that’s because it seems to be the only Canadian dramatic feature playing at Sundance, which is kind of scandalous. Come on, Canada: represent!

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The Set-up

Wednesday, January 16, 2008 | 02:54 PM ET

This is the fourth time I’ve been invited to Park City, Utah to attend Bob Redford’s little vanity project (which has become one of the top five film festivals on the planet), and it’s my third world premiere. Funny place to have a world premiere, in a remote mountain ski resort in one of the more conservative states of America — especially considering I don’t ski — but that’s show business.

When I first traveled to Sundance in 1995 with my movie Super 8 ½, the festival was essentially two snow banks and a pre-eyeliner Jared Leto. But even then it had apparently become too mainstream for some disgruntled film folk, who started up a parallel film festival, Slamdance, that year. (A few years later, an alternative to the alternative, called Slamdunk, would emerge, followed by Tromadance, the only festival with no entry fee and free screenings.)

I can’t remember much about my screening in 1995, but I do vividly recall attending Larry Clark’s Kids, the sensation of the festival, as the guest of its executive producer, Gus Van Sant, and its writer, Harmony Korine. I remember because Gus and his then-boyfriend, D-J, and I smuggled a bottle of tequila into the screening and kept slipping it to Harmony, who was under the legal drinking age. Fun times!

The following year, I presented the world premiere of my movie Hustler White. at Sundance. Hollywood had really begun to descend on the festival with a vengeance, like a plague of sewage (see: the South Park episode about Sundance). It was still fun, but there were too many agents and entertainment lawyers and other men in black running rings around the poor Parker Poseys, desperately looking for the next big thing. As I had partly financed my film by pre-selling U.S. rights, they pretty much left me alone. Besides, a movie featuring an amputee hustler who pleasures his clients with his leg stump isn’t necessarily the kind of indie fare they’re looking for to break into the multiplexes.

Four years ago I returned to Sundance with The Raspberry Reich, a sexually explicit movie about the leader of a gang of extreme left-wing terrorists who makes her straight male followers have sex with each other to prove their revolutionary commitment. Once again, it wasn’t exactly Little Miss Sunshine, and as it had been pre-sold to US. distributor Strand Releasing, I wasn’t paid much mind, although the film did go on to play at over 150 film festivals worldwide. This time I was a little shocked to discover that Sundance had become so overrun by Hollywood types that Paris Hilton herself was in attendance. In fact, at one party, I was asked to relinquish my banquette beside the DJ booth to make way for the Queen of All Emptiness. Only to prove that chivalry wasn’t quite dead yet, I magnanimously complied.

Returning this year with my new movie, Otto; or, Up with Dead People, all bets are off. It’s another world premiere, but this time we haven’t pre-sold the U.S. territory. I will be attending with my Canadian co-producers, Jennifer Jonas and Leonard Farlinger of New Real Films, and our sales agent, Charlotte Mickie of Maximum Films, who will have the pleasure of trying to sell a melancholy gay zombie movie with political overtones to a mob of distributors looking for the next Juno. On the upside, I’m in the Park City at Midnight section alongside Diary of the Dead, directed by recent Toronto resident George A. Romero, the master of the zombie genre. Apparently we used the same camera to shoot our respective zombie movies, the Panasonic 900 HDX. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

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