Splicing the Sundance tech films

PARK CITY, Utah--Here at the Sundance Film Festival, technology is everywhere, from the Wi-Fi-enabled public lobbies, to the discussion rooms on , to the snow-covered streets crowded with mobile-device users.

But technology has also made its way to the festival's big screens, with several feature-length films that delve into topics like space exploration, green tech and video games.

The most shining example is the documentary on the Apollo astronauts, In the Shadow of the Moon, which is the source of buzz among more than festivalgoers, having been picked up for distribution by ThinkFilm. It's also slated to play on the Discovery Channel following its theatrical release.

(UPDATE 1/29: Film earned the festival's World Cinema Audience Award) The film is beautifully edited sans narration--astronauts representing each of the Apollo missions tell their stories in their own words. And they are amazingly human about their experiences, their fears, their worries and their jubilation.

The film a pleasure to watch, and you leave thankful to director David Sington and his crew for capturing the astronauts' words of wisdom for posterity's sake. After all, they might not be around by the time we make it back to the moon.

Everything's Cool
Heidi Cullen and Ross Gelbspan
answer questions after the Everything's
Another documentary, Everything's Cool, in a way takes up where An Inconvenient Truth left off, though it was started long before Al Gore's film debuted at Sundance last year.

Directors Daniel Gold and Judith Helfand finished their film on global warming just days before its Sundance debut, which is probably why it seemed to be in need of a tighter edit. Still, they put together a disturbing but powerful piece that left me searching for ways to help make a difference.

Everything's Cool weaves together the story of several individuals doing their part--despite much frustration--to get the message out about global warming amid past years of denial. Those featured extensively in the film include Ross Gelbspan, an acclaimed journalist who has been writing on the topic for a decade; Heidi Cullen, The Weather Channel's first climatologist dedicated exclusively to covering the global-warming beat; Rick Piltz, a former government employee who blew the lid off the White House's editing of global-warming studies; and Bish Neuhouser, a Park City snow groomer determined to convert his resort's vehicles to biodisel.

Cullen, incidentally, created a blogstorm just before the film's premiere due to a blog she wrote--which was later put up on Digg--stating that broadcast meteorologists should be stripped of their scientific certification if they express skepticism about man-made global warming. She later posted a blog responding to the controversy.

Yet another film worth noting for its use of technology is John August's film The Nines, which features three actors--Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis and Melissa McCarthy--playing different roles in three different storylines. In one of those storylines, Reynolds plays an acclaimed video game designer.

In a question-and-answer session following the film's premiere, August made it clear that he meant for you to leave scratching your head. He succeeded, at least with this reporter, but also managed to impress with the film's fantastically contemplative script and wonderful acting, especially given the challenging roles. (I keep returning to the The Nines Web site to see if others are interpreting the film's meaning as I am.)

Not to be forgotten, Chasing Ghosts, the documentary on video game high scorers of the early 1980s arcade days, was an impressive first-time filmmaking endeavor. The film didn't leave you moved, but it was a fun retrospective on those early days of gaming--preceding sophisticated home systems.

My favorite story line, and perhaps one of the best illustrations of the ego-filled era, was of two arcade warriors and best friends who stopped talking to one another when one outscored the other in Berzerk. Filmmakers Lincoln Ruchti and Michael Verrechia brought the two together after 22 years of silence.

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