The Sundance Film Festival opened Thursday night with four features, including a documentary examining America’s housing crisis, the fractured American dream and values humbled by today’s lacklustre economy.
The documentary, The Queen of Versailles, follows self-made billionaires Jackie and David Siegel, who, at first glance may not seem in touch with many Americans who have struggled in the current, downbeat economy. The film opens with the couple constructing their dream house: a 90,000 square foot mansion called Versailles, inspired by the French palace.
But director Lauren Greenfield said the story eventually came to resemble many of the lessons learned by those who have lost their homes, jobs and experienced the effects of the economic crisis. “The American dream has always been this idea of home ownership,” Greenfield said, but the film shows the Siegels dealing with the impact of the economy, like many in the US, and “how they downsize and cope with the situation”, eventually rediscovering what is important to them.
The Queen of Versailles is one of several high-profile films at the festival that show Americans tackling problems associated with the downturned economy and broken dreams.
Other opening night screenings included two fictional tales, Hello I Must Be Going, starring Melanie Lynskey as a demoralised, divorced 35-year-old who moves back in with her parents and Wish You Were Here, an Australian film starring Joel Edgerton as a man clinging to a shattered family.
Meanwhile, Searching For Sugar Man, competing in the world documentary section, completes the opening night line-up. It is one of many films there centred on musicians and shows two fans looking into the mystery of how a would-be 1970s rock icon declined into obscurity.
Overall, there are more than 100 fiction and documentary films showing at the festival that runs for the 10 days in the ski resort town of Park City, Utah.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2012.
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