NORMAL — The buddy system is alive and working well for Twin City native Chris Harding.
His new buddy comedy, "Blindspotting," which the University High School grad co-produced, has been awarded the coveted top slot at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
Namely, it's the opening night attraction Thursday.
Sundance, of course, takes its name from one of the most popular buddy comedies in movie history: 1969's "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," which co-starred festival founder Robert Redford as the Kid.
Harding, who hails from U High's famously fertile Class of '01 (home of fellow arts travelers Pokey LaFarge, Dan Hubbard and Nick Africano), calls landing the choice opening night berth "a really big deal for a little film like ours."
"It's a huge honor ... that opening night slot is the most coveted," agreed Chris' proud mom, Ann Harding of Normal, who'll be traveling to Park City along with equally proud dad C.P. (C.P. got a cameo in Chris' acclaimed thriller of four years ago, "The Guest," which played an exclusive run at Bloomington's Galaxy 14 in October 2014).
"Blindspotting" stars Daveed Diggs, best known for his Tony- and Grammy-winning turn as the Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson in the original Broadway run of "Hamilton."
Here, Diggs plays Collin, an ex-con nearing the end of a long probation in Oakland, Calif., where he grew up, and now undergoing trendy gentrification.
On his probation's last day, along comes Miles (Rafael Casal), Collin's trouble-making best friend from way back to "completely derail his path back to the straight-and-narrow, sending the Bay boys on a spiraling collision course with each other."
Diggs and Casal not only co-star but also co-wrote the script and joined Harding on the production end at Snoot Entertainment, indie home of such acclaimed Harding-produced thrillers as "You're Next" (2011), "The Guest" (2014) and "The Last Survivors" (2015, aka "The Well").
The New York Times recently singled out "Blindspotting" as one of the "Six Films to Know" at this year's Sundance (doing the math, that's six out of 110 films from around the globe being screened).
IndieWire.com names the film one of Sundance's "8 Surprises and Hidden Gems," and calls it "poised to fulfill a need (for) American movies with people of color finding success with a wide audience."
Harding's entry into the film business came when he was a student at DePaul University in Chicago, studying business and film.
"One day I was walking to film class and came upon a movie shooting downtown," he recalled. There was a service trailer parked nearby.
The movie was 2006's "Stranger Than Fiction," starring Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman.
"I said, 'Wow, what do I have to do to get on the crew?' I wanted to get on a set and get my hands dirty. The woman I was talking to said, 'OK, be here at 4 a.m. Sunday."
It just so happened that the next morning was also graduation day, but Harding was willing to skip the ceremony to get his hands dirty.
"Don't be crazy," said the woman from the trailer. So he attended the ceremony and showed up at 4 a.m. Monday instead ... and landed a job as production assistant.
There's been no turning back in the 12 years since, with Harding's IMDb page currently listing nearly a dozen producing credits.
"Blindspotting," though, represents something more connected to the mood of the times.
"We're starting to feel the pressure," admitted Harding a week before the big opening night soiree in Park City.
"But we're confident that we've made a good movie."