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"When you find out someone you know has failed, but you love them anyway, let all of us go there together."

Spoken by director Sheldon Candis before the premiere screening of his film "LUV," Monday at Park City's Eccles Theatre, those words rang throughout the duration of the Sundance Film Festival.

Why? In part, because Baltimore native Candis lived the story that unfolds in his him.

Like his film's 11-year-old character Michael Rainey, Jr., Candis himself had an uncle whom he admired, through good times and bad.

No actor in the film knows that back-story better than Charles S. Dutton. Also a Baltimore native, Dutton not only served time in prison before earning his master's degree in acting from the Yale School of Drama. He knew Candis' uncle.

"We were co-defendants many years agao, in our other lives. My other life," Dutton said during Monday's red-carpet line-up.

Dutton, perhaps best-known for his role as Dillon in the 1992 film "Alien 3," said he first met with Candis in a little Baltimore coffee shop to talk about the story outline that would later become "LUV." He found himself so impressed with Candis' student reel from USC, that he then phoned famed actor Danny Glover, who later agreed to star in the film.

Dutton's real-life story is the stuff of legend. Forced in solitary confinement during his stint in prison, he had the good fortune to take an anthology of African-American plays in with him for reading. Mulling over the plays of August Wilson helped him through those dark days, he said.

"If I hadn't found [that book] I'd have been dead 35 years ago," Dutton said. "It's what saved my life. It's what gave me purpose. It's why I always say that I know the transformational power of the arts first-hand. If you had more arts programs in cities facing dilemmas, you'd have less crime."

—Ben FultonLUV screens again ... Friday, Jan. 27, 9:45 p.m. • Broadway Centre Cinema 3, Salt Lake CitySatuday, Jan. 28, 9 a.m. • Egyptian Theatre, Park City

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