Independent's Day

Since its inception more than a decade ago, the Sundance Film Festival has enjoyed two emblematic successes. The first, Steven Soderbergh's sex, lies and videotape, came along in 1989, when the festival was still more or less what founder Robert Redford had in mind, an intimate forum for independent filmmakers to screen their work and nurture future projects. In the six years leading up to the second, The Brothers McMullen, Sundance had ballooned into a market for free-spending distributors, but Ed Burns' tepid comedy epitomized what remains an enduring trend: the tailoring of low-budget indies as a calling card to attract Hollywood millions. Marina Zenovich's awful documentary, Independent's Day, pays lip service to this problem, but it's mostly just an hour-long advertorial for the official festival line, which Redford half-heartedly qualifies as "a monster, but a good monster." It should come as no surprise that Zenovich received finishing funds from Sundance, or that its cable channel programmed her film upon completion. An outsider's perspective is crucial to any documentary—as recently evidenced by Barbara Kopple's unrevealing, Woody Allen-approved Wild Man Blues—but only a zesty percussive score hints that Independent's Day has any perspective at all. Though such compelling subjects as Tom DiCillo (Living In Oblivion), Neil LaBute (In The Company Of Men), Greg Mattola (The Daytrippers), and Soderbergh voice reservations about the state of independent film, their interviews are cut into such tiny snippets that the dissent hardly registers. If Sundance is the wild party Zenovich suggests, Independent's Day behaves like one of its shamelessly ingratiating guests.

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