Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Slamdance with Arielle: High Flying Bird

It’s my pleasure to introduce Arielle, my wife and an eager new contributor who is covering the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City this year, along with a few Sundance selections.

Cast and crew of the film at Slamdance, photo credit Lauren Desberg

High Flying Bird
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Special Screenings

Slamdance’s premiere of High Flying Bird seemed extraordinarily popular, with attendees even sitting on the floor to be part of the action. Part of the appeal I think came from the chance to listen to Steven Soderbergh share his thoughts on past successes and failures, his passion for making films using an iPhone 8, and his desire to help other filmmakers succeed. He claims he helps people out of a selfish desire to be around talent, but he asserts that “people who are truly talented don’t really need a lot of help.... Sometimes all they need is help getting into the room,” a nudge he is always happy to provide. While I had only seen a handful of the films he’s produced (“Pleasantville” and “Rumor Has It”) and directed (“Erin Brockovich” and “Traffic”), it was clear to see from his in-person demeanor why he is so adored - he emanated humility, warmth, and an eagerness to help others.

The film itself was interesting. André Holland plays a sports agent who, when faced with a months-long lockout, finds himself negotiating and manipulating the agency he works for, the Player’s Association, and one particular rookie he represents. Despite some of their decisions, I found all of the characters to be quite likeable, which I’m not sure I would have expected given the premise of the film.

All in all, I thought the film was enjoyable, though I think it resonated and stayed with me about as much as “Moneyball” did in 2011 – I don’t remember any of the details, but I have a slightly better understanding of a sports concept I didn’t understand at all before. Without being familiar with the nuances of sports management, I was not only able to follow the storyline, but found it engaging and captivating. My only moment of confusion came at the very end of the film, which, don’t worry, I won’t spoil for you! I wasn’t sure exactly what had happened to get us to that point, but I did understand the end result and sometimes maybe that’s enough!


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