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Amelia Nielson-Stowell: Sundance film developed in Utah

Sergio Garcet, played by Ron Blair, peers over the badlands of southern Utah's San Rafael Desert in the film "Memories of Overdevelopment."
Sergio Garcet, played by Ron Blair, peers over the badlands of southern Utah's San Rafael Desert in the film "Memories of Overdevelopment."
Photo provided by 'Memories of Overdevelopment'

PARK CITY — It's in one of the last scenes of "Memories of Overdevelopment" when protagonist Sergio Garcet declares: "I've reached a point in my life where the best thing I can do for humanity is to be far away from it."

And where is the main character when he makes his manifesto? The badlands of southern Utah.

Based on a novel by Edmundo Desnoes (and a sequel to the film "Memories of Underdevelopment"), the Sundance film follows Sergio (Ron Blair), a writer and professor who flees the underdeveloped Cuba for America during the Cuban Revolution.

Unable to process the revolution or his own relationship troubles, Sergio is now escaping overdevelopment, bouncing between major cities like New York and Paris until he moves to a remote cabin amid the red rock of Wayne County.

"I loved it. The silence. The location was so inspiring," said director Miguel Coyula, 32.

The bilingual film was shot over five years in five different countries. But why shoot those scenes in Utah when the novel had Sergio ending his journey in upstate New York?

Coyula said a friend showed him a picture of a cabin in Utah, and Coyula knew that was the perfect place to shoot.

"It really reflects the emotional state of the character," he added.

Indeed, the film contrasts the loud, overbuilt Las Vegas strip with the peaceful, rural Utah community.

In it, Sergio settles into his desert cabin, and is soon greeted by two females of the local Latter-day Saint Relief Society organization.

They leave a Book of Mormon and a plate of M&M-topped Rice Krispie treats on his doorstep.

He develops a relationship with one of the ladies, Dorothy, who tells him he shouldn't apologize for ignoring her earlier efforts of fellowship.

"A lot of gentiles tend to avoid us," says Dorothy, played by Reb Fleming, a Weber State alumna.

The Utah scenes conclude with Sergio wandering through the San Rafael Desert, scattering his brother's ashes and searching for dinosaur bones. Instead, he finds an astronaut, played by Trent Harris, a Salt Lake filmmaker known for his eclectic Sundance films like "Plan 10 from Outer Space."

The astronaut is working at the Mars Desert Research Station, a simulated Mars habitat outside Hanksville that is maintained by a group called Mars Society.

Coyula said this scene is important because it's the only alternative for Sergio — "Mars, because there's nobody there."

Filmmakers described the film as experimental. Coyula said it was "very unusual for Cuban cinema."

"Cubans think they are the center of the world, and I wanted to show that they are faceless."