Sundance Film Festival is considered the premiere independent film festival that kicks off all festivals at the beginning of every year in Park City, Utah. Films like “Precious” and “Sex, Lies and Videotapes” have not only debuted at Sundance, but received large distribution deals to further their global success. Today Sundance continues to premiere independent narratives and documentaries, but the festival is now filled with plenty of Hollywood power. Paralleling Sundance, is the Slamdance Film Festival which also takes place in the same city at the same time. The nearly 20 year old film festival spawned when a group of filmmakers weren’t accepted into Sundance, so they started their own festival. The year-round organization helps foster the development of unique and innovative filmmakers.
“The Sublime and Beautiful”, written, directed and produced by Blake Robbins, is a perfect example of independent filmmaking, which was shot in under 2-weeks with a cast of mainly unknown, and new actors. Robbins used his own children to play his 3 kids in the film, which is about the tragic loss of his kids due to a car accident committed by a drunken driver. His wife, played by Laura Kirk, gives a subtle and understated performance of a woman who is doing everything in her power not to ruffle the feathers of her husband. The audience is fully aware, even prior to the tragedy, that this couple is simply going through the motions as husband and wife. Kirk’s acting is truly effective by what she holds back, rather than over emoting. Aside from a standout, and frankly hilarious scene, when David and Kelly attend David’s holiday work party, shortly after the loss of their kids, Kelly appears to be losing it from the absence of her husband by her side, and the whispering of voices wondering why they attended the party in the first place. She holds court reprimanding the other guests that they shouldn’t hug people that they barely know, as she storms out of the party screaming, “woman with dead kids, walking out this fucking door”. The scene is priceless!
Robbins used non-traditional directing styles on set like eliminating the abrupt command, ‘Action’ and the clapper to signify the beginning of each scene, thus opting for a more organic culmination of scenes to develop. Each of the main character’s performances in “The Sublime and Beautiful”, are raw and real, simply by what is unspoken. Scenes with Katie, played by Anastasia Baranova, who plays David’s perceived lover, and Matthew Del Negro, who plays David’s best friend Mike, help fuel the storyline that deals with extreme grief. Both characters are at a loss for words, and successfully play people that are uncomfortable and lost when it comes to consoling someone they love. And Robbins’ choice of a Kansas in the winter help paint a picture of a normal American working class family.
The true acknowledgement of vision goes to Blake Robbins for executing and producing a film when no one wanted to fund it, but he proceeded anyway. Robbins says the inspiration came from two things, “my best friend Greg died from a brain tumor when I was 27. He’d been sick for 3 1/2 years. That experience became a lens through which I view life. Six years prior my Dad’s sister, my Aunt Jeannie, was struck head-on by a drunk driver a week before Christmas driving home from a theater rehearsal. Tragedy can strike the most ordinary day.” Robbins says that “The Sublime and Beautiful” is a love letter to my kids, for if I lost them I don’t know that I could survive it”. “The Sublime and Beautiful” is an unapologetic film that doesn’t preach or tie up loose ends. It does show how grief can consume our lives leaving behind a sense of numbness.
“The Sublime and Beautiful” makes it’s world premiere at Slamdance Film Festival on Saturday, January 18th at 10:30am and on Monday, January, 20th at 4:45pm at the Main Screening Room, Treasure Mountain Inn. Visit: ThesSublimeMovie.com