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If you attend the Sundance Film Festival, book your reservations early

By Tom P Blake – Finding Love after 50

Note from Tom: This column originally ran in 2008


My partner Greta's daughter, Tina, and her family, live in Salt Lake City. Greta loves movies and knows I enjoy skiing. Those three factors inspired Greta to schedule a trip for us to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah last weekend.


The festival was started 27 years ago at the Sundance Resort, in the Wasatch Mountains, about an hour from Salt Lake City. It struggled for three years until Robert Redford put his name behind it.


The festival has grown so much that now most of the activities take place in Park City, a bustling ski resort closer to Salt Lake City. This year, 120 films were shown, often multiple times each, in theatres in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden, Provo, Kimball Junction and Sundance.


If you attend the Sundance Film Festival, book your reservations early. The venues are small so tickets are hard to come by, particularly during the opening week-end when celebrities and movie stars descend on Park City. Sundance is about more than movies, celebrity parties and social events keep reporters and TV stations buzzing.


On Friday, Tina, Greta and I drove to Park City. The ladies strolled the streets while I skied for the first time in five years.


Park City was teeming with people. Everybody is on the lookout for celebrities. Looking gorgeous, Greta and Tina were asked if they were in the movie industry and in what movies they had appeared. People took their pictures.


Celebs were hard to spot. Bono and Paris Hilton were there, but Greta and Tina didn't see them.


Tina managed to get tickets for us for Friday night. We took in our first festival movie called Young@Heart. It was a documentary about a chorus composed of senior citizens-ages 73 to 93-from Northampton, Mass. They perform unique renditions of punk, rock, and rhythm-and-blues songs in concerts in the USA and in Europe.


When the movie opened, I thought it was going to be a bore-a full- length movie about a bunch of old folks singing and dancing, who had to learn six new songs for a concert in seven weeks. But soon, the director had the audience's attention, including mine, as an appreciation developed for these elderly folks who dealt with serious health issues and the challenges of learning new songs.


Can you imagine a 90+ woman screaming the opening lines of the James Brown song "I Feel Good?" Or, the group singing Sonic Youth's punk song "Schizophrenia?" And David Bowie's "Golden Years?" A 93-year-old woman sang The Clash's, "Should I Stay, or Should I Go?" Those are the type of songs they tackle and they do them well.


The group performed for prisoners at a Massachusetts correctional facility. The prisoners were deeply moved, especially by the message of hope when the troupe sang, "Forever Young," a Bob Dylan song about lost youth and fallen friends.


Many members stated that they lived for going to practice and being a part of the troupe. The movie delivers a powerful message for seniors: Have a purpose in life, get out with people, never give up, stay positive, and endure during times of difficulty.


A unique aspect of the Sundance film festival occurs after each movie. The producer and director take the stage, talk about the film and answer questions. This happens at all Sundance viewings. It makes one feel a part of the festival. The movie comes out in April.


On Saturday, Greta's son-in-law, Todd, grandson Chad, and I drove to the Brighton Ski Area and skied for five hours. Bless this resort, they don't consider people seniors until age 70, and that's when the senior discount for lift tickets kicks in. I'm not there yet, but the young cashier winked at me and gave me the senior rate: $10 for an entire day of skiing.


From a weather, snow conditions and camaraderie point of view, it was the most enjoyable day of skiing I've ever had. The legs burned, the knees ached, but oh my, how exhilarating!


Even though the heaviest snowfall in four years blanketed the area on Sunday night, Greta wanted to catch a movie at the Sundance Resort. Monday morning, we put the skis on top of the car and drove up-it was still snowing, but cleared as we neared the resort. Greta and Tina got into a movie, and Chad and I skied 17" of fresh powder. Wow, three days of skiing in four days, proving that old folks can still navigate the bumps.


If attending the Sundance Film Festival is on your wish list, book your accommodations in Park City far in advance. And then start working on securing tickets via the ticket lottery. Unless, of course, you're connected with Bono, Spielberg, or Paris Hilton, or some other celeb who can make tickets happen for you.

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