by Renee Cafaro
Wow did we pick a year to be in Park City! Sundance 2017 has made headlines for a box office hacking, a power outage, a blizzard, a star skiing accident, and a huge studio bidding war!
Sundance is always about the big stars, big news and the bigger parties, but this year it seemed to be a good year for bigger sizes too! On my way to Park City, I assumed I would be the only plus size woman hitting the scene in Sundance snow-bunny style. Much to my delight there were many more opportunities to be #bodypositive and see curvy women represented on screen.
When Robert Redford founded Sundance, it was envisioned as a haven for indie film projects and up and comers who might never get their projects greenlit in Hollywood without a little boost. Many box office hits have been discovered at Sundance like, Napoleon Dynamite, 4 Weddings and a Funeral, Blair Witch Project and Saw. It even is responsible for launching the career of Gabourey Sidibe with the premiere of Precious. So there is no questioning why this is one of the biggest events of the year to watch if you are in show business.
While we were there, we found a few plus size actresses and projects to keep an eye out for. First of all, the talk of the town has been the success of Patti Cake$, a film about a plus-size female rapper from New Jersey, sparking a major bidding war and landing a $9.5 million deal with Fox Searchlight. With 2 lead characters portrayed by curvy actresses, Bridget Everett and Australian newcomer, Danielle MacDonald, I’d say this is a big win for plus size women in film! You heard it here first, #SlinkSquad, this is about to be huge!
Just up Main St at alternative film fest, Slamdance, I met the team behind Canadian film Wexford Plaza, a feature that follows a security guard Betty, played by Reid Asselstine, through her everywoman journey of love and complicated relationships. Writer/Director Joyce Wong said she took from her personal relationship with weight to write the character of Betty, but what I loved is that this was a character that not portrayed in the usual way plus-size women are seen in films. “I really wanted it to be a non-issue,” Wong says about Betty’s weight in relation to her love life. Leading lady Reid said she is stunned by the positive response she had been getting around town and attributes that to her relatable appearance. “I think people are drawn to the movie because I look like a real person. You see these movies where (the lead) is having problems in her relationship…and you’re like ‘Whatever Kate Hudson! You’ll be fine!” Reid joked.
I couldn’t agree more. Life and love comes in all shapes, colors and sizes, so why not show it on screen? I am so proud of the women in film who are taking this issue head on. Women behind the screen at Sundance were also out in full force to discuss issues of image and the female story. I was honored to tell my tale of dangerous dieting, bullying and path to size acceptance as part of oral history project #SheStories. The woman behind SheStories is a plus size powerhouse herself. Anasa Troutman is an entrepreneur and credited as the creative genius behind India Arie. “It’s been so much fun and such an honor for my team and I to launch SheStories here at Sundance. I really am a storyteller at heart and to be able to come to the mecca of storytelling and share stories of love and freedom by and about women is literally a dream come true. I can’t wait to come back with more stories next year,” says Troutman.
I would be lying if I said that I was just there for the trailblazing cinema and elevated discussions. The fashion and the fame of Sundance is not to be missed! SLiNK co-sponsored one of the best red carpet events in town, the Creative Coalition’s Spotlight Awards. Some of Hollywood’s finest were honored for their work in arts advocacy and commitment to giving back. My friend and TCC president actor Tim Daly rallied the crowd around the mission to save the National Endowment for the Arts and it’s economic and social importance of the arts. He kicked the event off despite being on crutches, because this issue means so much right now as the NEA is on Trump’s chopping block. The night honored so many in the business including OITNB’s Laura Prepon, Nashville’s Connie Britton, and Julia Ormond whose award was presented by Game of Throne’s Peter Dinklage. I donned a perfect purple number by Eloquii and took to the red carpet interviews alongside friend and DJ to the Stars, Michelle Pesce. My squad for the night was rounded out by Refinery 29’s Laura Delarato and Latino comedy writer, Ernie Bustamante so over “fundraiser chicken” we had a LOT of chatter about stereotypes in media and how to bust them. Obviously, my favorite part was watching some of the biggest influencers at Sundance flip through their copy of SLiNK from the swag bags!
It was fun to hit the party scene and corporate hospitality suites up and down main street in my finest, functional ski resort wear, but I wish I could have been there just for a few days to take in the beauty of Park City and snatch up all of the southwestern, rhinestone cowgirl attire I saw for sale. I know I have little use for bedazzled red snakeskin or turquoise dreamcatcher jewelry in NYC, but it was oh-so-tempting!
At first glance it may have seemed to be a usual Sundance where Hollywood types teeter in the snow in fur-trimmed everything, but really it was a Sundance with a purpose. I felt this was a big year for women and a time to have informed dialogue about positive change. All too often, plus size women must make a joke at her own expense before being taken seriously, as if to clear the elephant in the room. After all of the breakthroughs this year, perhaps soon, women will be given richer roles and finally be out of the derogatory shadows of the “funny fat friend” or “sad girl who eats her feelings” tropes.