SF to Sundance

Susan Gerhard December 8, 2006

It’s beginning to look a lot like Sundance, in some parts of the world at least. Here in the Bay Area, where we don’t have snow or slush to look forward to in December, we do have the slopes near the Sundance Film Festival to look forward to in January. At least three Bay Area-based filmmakers will be making the trek this year. The complete Sundance program has been announced bit by bit over the past few weeks, and among the films chosen are works by veteran Bay Area filmmakers Jon Else, Steven Okazaki, and Jay Rosenblatt. The sober topic of two of the films (Jon Else’s “The Wonders Are Many: The Making of Doctor Atomic” and Steven Okazaki’s “White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki”) is nuclear warfare. The third, Jay Rosenblatt’s docu-poem “I Just Wanted to Be Somebody,” reflects on horror of much lesser scale: life and times of Anita Bryant. The Sundance Film Festival runs Jan. 18-28.

1. “Wonders Are Many: The Making of Doctor Atomic”

Jon Else’s 1980 documentary “The Day After Trinity: J. Robert Oppenheimer and the Atomic Bomb” stands as one of the most compelling and complex looks at the making of the first nuclear bomb test in the desert of New Mexico, weaving a cast of characters and their unlikely obsessions into a story of breakthrough science and human horror. It’s only natural he would return to the topic with “Wonders Are Many: The Making of Doctor Atomic” to document the John Adams/Peter Sellars opera commissioned by the San Francisco Opera, which echoed the narrative Else had previously built. It screens in Spectrum, out of competition.

2. ““White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki”

Steven Okazaki reflected on the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima in the ’06 Oscar-nominated “The Mushroom Club,” and his new documentary for HBO features 14 survivors of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki decimations. It plays in the Festival’s Independent Film Competition: Documentary.

3. “I Just Wanted to Be Somebody”
Jay Rosenblatt is adept at reconfiguring historical footage into new shapes, and perhaps his latest will do for Anita Bryant — a strange creation of the late ’70s — what his previous did for Mao, Hitler, and Mussolini in “Human Remains.” It plays as one of the festival’s Documentary Shorts.