Name: Alok Vaid-Menon
Sundance project: Alok Vaid-Menon, a poet, performer and scholar, is the subject of “Alok,” a short documentary directed by Alexandra Hedison and produced by Jodie Foster.
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Alok Vaid-Menon arrived in Park City, Utah, sartorially prepared. “I’ve been doing three outfit changes every single day,” says Vaid-Menon, who uses they/them pronouns. “It was really important to me because people kept on saying, ‘People don’t dress up at Sundance; it’s very low key.’ I’m like — low key is antithetical to everything that I am as a human being. And two, this is a celebration, and I think fashion is a daily practice of celebration. It’s about saying: I’m alive, I’m here, I’m excited to be here, I want to be here, I want to celebrate it.”
A few days earlier, Vaid-Menon wore Mara Hoffman’s Red Luna gown to the premiere of “Alok,” a short documentary directed by Alex Hedison. The concept behind their look was “a rose in the snow; a juxtaposition of new life emerging in the new year, of beauty coming out of desolate coldness.”
Vaid-Menon was excited to share a sliver of their world onscreen with Sundance audiences and beyond. “Touring and my friends are both my favorite parts about being alive, and the film encompasses both of those universes for me,” they say. “So I’m excited for people to have a peek at the things that bring me the most joy.”
Vaid-Menon and Hedison became quick friends after meeting over brunch with Jamie Lee Curtis. “[Hedison] was like, ‘I think I want to follow you on tour.’ It was one of those kind of punk moments of, let me just bring a camera; I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Vaid-Menon says. “And we had no idea what it was going to be.”
The documentary, which features several of Vaid-Menon’s friends, ended up being a tribute to community and connection. “What I always am trying to express in the world is that friendship is the antidote to loneliness,” Vaid-Menon says. “And it is possible to find people who feel just as chaotic, just as confused and just as delighted as you.”
The film was also an opportunity for them to reach a wider audience. “So much of my work in the past has been on the stage,” they say. “It’s only one time, it’s ephemeral. What’s exciting about film for me is leaving evidence.”
Midway through production, Hedison’s wife, Jodie Foster, came onboard as a producer for the project. The film was also supported by the Not All Films producing team, including Natalie Shirinian, Elizabeth Baudouin and Meggan Lennon.
After Park City, Vaid-Menon is heading back on tour, with two weeks in India and Nepal, followed by dates in the U.S. and Europe this summer. Before the premiere of “Alok,” they had arrived in Utah early to perform two sold-out shows in Salt Lake City, which raised funds for Encircle. The nonprofit provides support for LGBTQIA+ youth in Utah.
“That was extremely meaningful to me to begin this Sundance with connecting to what I’m about and recognizing that no matter what accolades or recognition I get, I’m going to try my best to always be a part of something greater: that ‘we.’”
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