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Sundance audience reacts to Heath Ledger's passing

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Tuesday evening’s screening of August was marred during the post-show Q&A when an I-can-only-assume-journalist sitting behind me decided to use the second question to ask star Josh Hartnett for his reaction to the death of Heath Ledger. To its credit, the audience responded immediately with boos, jeers, and shouts of “COME ON,” and a festival volunteer approached the man, trying to get him to drop the subject. But he persisted, yelling over the crowd until Hartnett had no choice but to take the microphone and quietly call Ledger’s death a great loss to the movie industry. The actor then continued the rest of the Q&A — which included at least one cry of “You were fantastic!” from the crowd — with an impressive level of professionalism, considering.

Walking out of the screening, I was struck by how sick and conflicted I had become. Far be it from me to pass judgment on how another reporter does their job, as I cannot know the circumstances surrounding that individual’s decision to ask a very private question in a very public forum. I can only hope his career was on the line. Meanwhile, my heart goes out to the friends and colleagues of Ledger who are still at Sundance tonight. Let’s hope people remember their humanity as the necessary work of covering his passing goes on.

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