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The Madison Premiere

Sundance Film Festival audiences
give hydro movie a big thumbs up

By Shannon Gettelfinger
Special Report

PARK CITY, Utah • As I stood in front of Mileti's Restaurant on Main Street in Park City, Utah, reminiscing with an old friend from this small ski town, a group of people passed by wearing hats prominently displaying the words "Madison, Sundance 2001."

As they walked by, they jokingly yelled, "Hey Davey!" My friend, his real name James Fields, waved and answered back to the "Madison" trio. After they passed by, he told us of a small part he had landed in a film that would be debuting at the festival. He had moved to Los Angeles four years ago to test his hand at acting and filmmaking. 
"I don't think they remember my real name," he joked. "I played a hydroplane boat driver named Davey in the film."
I replied with a laugh, "Davey, do you know where I am originally from?" He looked puzzled. I continued, "Madison, Indiana." 
Next thing I know I'm standing next to fellow Hoosier John Mellencamp at the premiere party for the movie "Madison." The party had a flavor much like that of the City of Madison itself. It was laid back and comfortable.
Much different from the Hollywood movie premiere glitz and glamour you see on television, this party had a hometown feel. Blue jeans replaced tuxedos, heaping plates of nachos replaced the expensive gourmet cuisine and margaritas on the rocks were the drink of choice.
Mellencamp enjoyed a cigarette and plate of nachos in the corner with his wife while in the next booth, "Madison" star Jim Caviezel conversed with friends. Director William Bindley mingled with the crowd making no real scene about the next few hours when his hard work would be displayed for hundreds to see. No one really made a fuss about the stars who were present. Crew members, filmmakers and hydroplane drivers from around the world enjoyed the night. 
After the party, the cast and crew funneled into the Eccles Theater, where hundreds, anticipating the films debut and world premiere, had already filled the seats.  "Sundancers," as locals call them, sat anxiously, awaiting their next movie as the room buzzed with titles of independent films seen earlier in the day. 
Going to the movies is usually a way to lose yourself in other parts of the world. But this time, when audience members entered the theater, they found themselves in a little place called Madison, Ind. As the lights went down and the film started, I found myself moving toward the edge of my seat. Scenes from the river town where I grew up filled the screen. I never felt the back of my chair again.
On the screen appeared Madison landmarks and landscapes that were both breathtaking and inviting.  And if you watched closely enough, familiar faces passed in the background. 
It was wild to see the likes of Tony Steinhardt, Markt Lytle and Betsey Vonderheide, just to name a few, on the big screen. I drove the people sitting around me crazy as I pointed out local favorites, such as the Broadway Fountain, the Brown Gym, Rogers Drug Store and, of course, Hinkle's Sandwich Shop. 
There's really only one word to describe what it was like to sit and watch my hometown look like a Hollywood fairytale "cool!" 
The movie brought back much more than all the memories of growing up in Madison. It also relived the excitement of those hydroplane boats racing up and down the Mighty Ohio. By now you probably know the story of the 1971 Gold Cup and the determination of the Miss Madison crew to make its hometown lady the "Queen of the Ball."
As it unfolded, I looked around the theater to see a group of filmgoers truly enjoying themselves. Most visitors who make their way to downtown Madison fall in love with the scenery and this time it was no different. The audience chuckled with the characters portraying the citizens of Madison, gasped as the hydroplanes raced furiously down the river and expressed excitement as the Miss Madison made history in our small river town. 
I'm not old enough to remember the Miss Madison winning the Gold Cup, but I can remember the enthusiasm that filled the banks of the Ohio every time she took to the water. And at the Sundance Film Festival, that same excitement filled the Eccles Theater. It was like being taken back to the crowds of people lined before the riverfront canopies to catch a glimpse of the boats. 
Just like standing there, the crowd cheered louder as the boats raced toward the finish line. As they approached the final seconds of the race and the checkered flag waved, the audience erupted in cheers. All hail the Miss Madison! 
In the Official Sundance Viewers Guide, the movie was described as a "standard Hollywood cliche, a film about following your dreams." This night the little town of Madison, Ind., showed the world what it feels like to make your dreams come true. 
The movie ended and the crowd, made up mostly of people who had been bouncing in and out of theaters all day, rose to their feet for a standing ovation. The credits rolled with many local names as Mellencamp sang about a small town called "Madison."
Actors Caviezel, Jake Lloyd and Bruce Dern joined Bindley and producer Martin Wiley on stage for questions about their experience. I had never seen it before the entire audience stayed. The group sighed as young Lloyd of "Star Wars" movie fame expressed little desire in wanting to be a hydroplane boat driver. He said that since doing the movie, he's "too unbelievably scared of racing."
An Indianapolis native, Bindley and his technical film crew did a magnificent job of showing the thrills of driving through the open water and the true sense of Hoosier pride that the City of Madison shared in 1971.
Crowds mingled with the films stars afterward for more than an hour. They took pictures and gathered autographs as they shared the pleasures of seeing this wonderful film. I sat back with a smile bigger than my hometown, proud to be from such a neat little place with a big heart. 
When the night was over, the Sundance 2001 buzz was "Madison."
"Hey Davey, nice job!"

• Shannon Gettelfinger is a 25-year-old native of Madison and a 1993 graduate of Madison Consolidated High School. She earned a broadcast journalism degree at Indiana University in 1997 and now works as director of sales development for WAVE-TV 3 in Louisville. An avid skier and instructor at Paoli Peaks, she attended the Sundance premiere showing of "Madison" while on a ski trip and wound up at the premiere party after running into an old friend. She wrote this article for the RoundAbout Entertainment Guide.

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