2015 Sundance Docs in Focus: THE ROYAL ROAD

royal roadToday’s Sundance profiles cover the festival’s cutting edge New Frontier section, beginning with fest alum Jenni Olson’s THE ROYAL ROAD, an essay about memory, nostalgia, and California.

Sundance Program Description:

If you’ve ever found yourself on the outside looking in, then you are probably familiar with the coping strategy of acquiring the identity of a movie character in order to gain legibility within the situation. The central character of Jenni Olson’s mesmerizing essay film is a gender dysphoric, Midwestern tomboy who is drawn to borrowing masculine personas from Hollywood characters as a mode of understanding how to deal with being drawn to unavailable women.

A fascinating and unlikely reinvention story, THE ROYAL ROAD simultaneously explores cinematic spiritual channeling, the conquest and colonization of Mexico and the American Southwest, fading historical Californian urban landscapes, and the passions found in butch identity to achieve an achingly beautiful and poetic defense of remembering. Probing roads from El Camino Real, to the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, to the road right outside the front door, Olson crafts a deeply intelligent and transcending observation of the human condition that reaches for redemption in the embrace of history, nostalgia, mindfulness, and sheer beauty. If you give yourself over to it, it will crack you wide open.

Some Background:
This film marks director/producer Olson’s fifth at Sundance following 575 CASTRO ST (2009), THE JOY OF LIFE (2005), MEEP MEEP! (2001), and TRAILER CAMP (1996). Joining her as producer is Julie Dorf, Olson’s wife, who associate produced 575 and co-produced JOY. Consulting producer Michael Ehrenzweig previously produced PARAGRAPH 175 (2000) and THE CELLULOID CLOSET (1996), while Paul Marcarelli (co-producer, I AM DIVINE) and Deb Kinney serve as executive producers. Editor Dawn Logsdon previously cut Sundance alums THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND (2003) and PARAGRAPH 175.

Why You Should Watch:
Adeptly weaving together the (pseudo?) autobiographical with the darker side of colonial history through the lens of nostalgia, Olson achieves a lyrical synthesis of sound and vision between her knowing, playful monologue and the formal compositions of the path taken by the titular highway to connect California’s historic missions, compelling the audience to pay attention at every turn.

More Info:
For more information, visit the film’s website – which includes a newsletter signup – and Facebook page. Check out the film’s trailer. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2015 Twitter list.

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.