What was originally intended as a showcase of a popular Canadian radio show at the Sundance Film Festival turned into a poignant remembrance of Canadian ski champion Sarah Burke, who died Thursday in Salt Lake City after a training accident put her in a coma nine days ago.
Jian Ghomeshi (pictured), the host of Canadian arts and entertainment radio show Q, handled the startling news of the day with as much grace as possible. While most of the people on hand at The State Room were there to see a few interviews with Sundance filmmakers and some live music courtesy of Denver-based indie-poppers Tennis, Ghomeshi instead opened the proceedings with a brief but powerful eulogy for his fallen countrywoman, followed by a moment of silence.
That was all before the real Q program starting taping its normal two-hour broadcast to be aired on CBC and satellite radio on Friday. After a brief monologue in which Ghomeshi described his first impressions of Salt Lake City after a night spent on the town, and a quick tune by Tennis from their upcoming album, Young and Old, Ghomeshi introduced James Redford, Robert's son and a filmmaker himself, whose documentary The D Word: Understanding Dyslexia, is premiering at the festival this year.
For those of us in the audience unfamiliar with Q or Ghomeshi, the interview offered a good indication we were in store for an evening of intriguing interviews, not mere celeb-pimping. Yes, there were a couple of jokes about Redford's dad, but the interview focused (refreshingly, among the celebrity-journalism hordes that descend on Park City this time of year) on the actual subject of Redford's movie.
Also joining the show were the filmmakers of Indie Game: The Movie, a doc exploring independent video-game design and the nerdy dudes making up that world; Yung Chang, the director of China Heavyweight, a doc about wannabe boxers in China; and director Jennifer Baichwal, who this year comes to Sundance with Payback, a movie version of author Margaret Atwood's book about wealth and justice, and the lack thereof in the world. Atwood joined Baichwal for the interview, and it was the best of the night.
Ghomeshi offered another, on-air, homage to Burke halfway through the taping, and it was no less powerful than the moment the crowd shared before taping began. What followed was a charming few minutes with KRCL's Troy Williams and Salt Lake Tribune polygamy-beat reporter Lindsay Whitehurst, who Ghomeshi invited onstage to dispel some popular myths about Utah for his Canadian listeners. Williams was his usual vibrant self, earning his "gay mayor of Salt Lake City" nickname by talking up the gay community and illustrating why The Advocate named SLC the "gayest city in America" recently. The banter among the three surely changed some minds that think of Utah as a collection of its all-too-common conservative, overly religious stereotypes.