The Sundance Film Festival started its ten day run last night with the screening of Mary and Max. Over 1,000 people crammed into the Eccles Theatre to catch the flick as well as a rare glimpse of tournament founder Robert Redford.

Redford welcomed the crowd with a short speech expressing his love for cinema, “Film-and all types of art-can show us the truth beneath and within the human experience.”

Following Redford, festival Director Geoffrey Gilmore also welcomed the crowd, thrilled about his decision to choose Mary and Max as the opening night film. Mary and Max is a claymation feature film by Australian director Adam Elliot. Adam Elliot is won an Oscar for his short animated film Harvie Krumpet, and Mary and Max is bound to win several awards as well. The film stars the voices of Toni Collette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Eric Bana. It tells the story of an unlikely 20 year long pen pal friendship between an 8 year old girl in Melbourne and a 44 year old Jewish man living in New York. The film is not only the first animated film to be chosen for the opening night film, but it is also the first Australian film to be chosen. Stating his reasons for choosing it, Gilmore simply said, “It’s just a great story.”

Park City is expected to get busier and busier as more visitors to the festival trickle in daily. While forced to wait hours for a table at any restaurant, strangers instantly strike up conversations about the films they have seen. Shuttles are constantly busing people theater to theater, while taxi drivers make anywhere from $500-800 a day. Local high school students rent out their parking permits for $350 for the duration of the festival. New filmmakers stand out in the cold all day long, passing out fliers and begging, “please come see my movie”. There is an undeniable sense of energy and excitement that accompanies the Sundance Film Festival, filmmakers and visitors are all thrilled to be there.

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