2018 Sundance Film Festival poster (source: online)
Sundance film festival was established in 1981 (Hoffman 302) in Park City, Utah (Turan 31). In America, Sundance has become the outstanding film event which is definitely differs from that of in Los Angeles and be seen as the navigation of independent film movement. Moreover, it has also become one of the most influential film festivals worldwide (Turan 34-35). The festival developed rapidly since its establishment; cite the festival’s dramatic competition an example, 250 film submissions in 1995 whereas by the year 2000, the number has increased in 849. Another significant evidence is seats sale, a huge expand of nearly 900% could be seen in the festival’s seats sale from 15,750 in 1985 to 135,922 in 1999 (Turan 32). As a film festival (that has not the international standard), why does Sundance has such a successful influence around the world? Why is it popular from the beginning? What effect does the festival has on filmmakers and the film industry? (Even in a snow town where ‘ten feet of snow can accumulate in ten days’ and thus rare movie theaters can be built.)
Instead of being a film competition or a celebrity party, Sundance film festival, in my view, more like an elastic entrance in which filmmakers (especially for young) could really get some career chance once they step forward. Could you imagine a picture that a young director in a film festival grips on a film critic’s shoulder and said, ‘see my film and change my life’? It might sounds unreal at any film festival but at Sundance, it could (Turan 31). For independent filmmakers, Sundance is regarded as a dream factory where “Sundance is my family and cinema is my religion”, said from Talal Derki whose documentary of Father and Sons has won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at 2018 Sundance film festival awards ceremony. Since the word of ‘religion’ is mentioned, let’s talk further about the relation between religion and film. In Lyden’s words, to find a movie that is obviously related to religion is not an easy thing. However, in 2018 Sundance, several films both explicitly and implicitly reflect religion and cultural beliefs (2).
From left to right: Talal Derki and his award-winning film Of Father and Sons
Back to Sundance is a springboard for filmmakers. Among the 13,468 films this year, many of their directors are first time filmmakers and more notable, many are women (including 37% of the features as well as 51% of the shorts were directed by women) which is considerably higher than the industry average (Lyden 1). Moreover, for film talent, Sundance is a best place you could find them (Turan 37). Even Hollywood studios often consider the Sundance as an unmissable library of human resource. One more very interesting point from Turan, it is said that in early period of Sundance film festival, a group of students from film school could sell gummy bears while talking to directors.
As a layman, I do not really know what will Sundance develop in the next decade, whether it will increasingly similar with Hollywood, or become an international independent film festival. Or allowing film school student to sell gummy bears! I can only sure that Sundance has become more important, more successful and reach a higher standard than other local film festival because its focus on the diverse stories, independent artists and the bold creative visions.
Turan, K. “Sundance.” Sundance to Sarejevo: film festivals and the world they made, University of California Press, 2002, pp. 31-48
Hoffman, Jascha. “Walking the edge at Sundance.” Nature, vol. 493, no. 7432, 2013, p. 302. Nature, http://www.nature.com.ezproxy.lib.monash.edu.au/articles/493302a
Lyden, John C. “Sundance film festival 2018.” Journal of Religion and Film, vol. 22, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-3. Gale Cengage Academic OneFile, http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.monash.edu.au/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA537719939&v=2.1&u=monash&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w