Sundance Film Festival opens in Park City
The largest American independent film festival Sundance Film Festival intends to use the restrictions associated with the coronavirus pandemic for the festival expansion throughout the United States.
This was stated by the director of the festival Tabitha Jackson during a virtual press conference ahead of the opening of the film screening on Thursday, January 28. It was attended by the correspondent of the Russian service “Voice of America”, accredited at the festival.
Fueling the ecosystem
For the first time in 43 years of existence, the festival, founded by actor Robert Redford in the resort town of Park City, Utah, will be held in a hybrid format, combining online movie streaming and real screenings in cinemas. In addition to online screenings on the festival’s digital platform, films will be screened via satellite in twenty arthouse cinemas in the United States, as well as in select museums and drive-ins in various states. These halls will show Sundance mini-programs of 10-12 festival films..
The organizers of the show have assured that all antiquarian rules, including the wearing of masks and social distancing in cinemas, will be strictly observed..
For decades, Sundance has enjoyed a reputation as a pivotal show for independent film production and has launched talented debutant filmmakers from around the world into the global orbit..
Most of the films will be shown twice. Viewing “windows” of full-length feature films are limited to a few hours according to the schedule posted on the festival website. After the premieres, directors, playwrights and actors will answer questions from moderators and a virtual audience. A digital platform specially designed for Sundance allows viewers and journalists to exchange opinions in chat and virtually “hang out” after watching in the festival club.
“We attach great importance to direct dialogue between filmmakers and viewers,” said Tabitha Jackson. – It is vital to maintain the festival status, to energize the entire global ecosystem
independent cinema. Principles such as ethnic and gender diversity, inclusiveness and tolerance are fundamental to us, they are in the blood of Sundance. “.
Founded in 1978 by Robert Redford and the main project of the Sundance Institute he also founded, the festival launched the careers of such directors as Steven Soderbergh and Darren Aronofsky, Damien Chazelle and Ryan Coogler, and many others..
At the current festival, 72 feature films from 29 countries will be shown (last year there were 118). According to newly minted festival producer Gina Duncan, who previously served as vice president of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in New York, the majority of the program consists of world premieres. About half of the films were directed by women and LGBT people.
“We had to deal with many of the problems associated with the pandemic,” said Gina Duncan. – In fact, we are flying in an airplane, which we are completing on the fly. In fact, Sundance is the first festival that took shape entirely in a covid era, as if inside a pandemic. There is a silver lining, and we have leveraged the global availability of streaming to expand our festival audience. For the first time, Sundance Chairs films are available for commercial streaming in most of the United States. “.
The tight schedule of the festival and the abundance of films put viewers and film critics before a difficult choice. What is desirable to see and what can be donated? So, on the opening night, the road movie One for the Road was shown, most of which was filmed on location in Thailand, the documentary In the Same Breath, which analyzes the attempts of Chinese propaganda to downplay the scale of the pandemic in Wuhan, and a retro concert “Summer of Soul” about the 1969 Harlem Music Festival, which went down in history as “Black Woodstock”.
; Summer in style; soul
Country of the deaf
The undisputed favorite of the opening day was the family melodrama “The Code” (CODA) directed by Shean Heder, filmed in the melancholic seaside town of Gloucester, Massachusetts. CODA is an acronym for Child of Deaf Adults.
At the center of this oversaturated intimate story is a recent high school graduate, 17-year-old Ruby Rossi (British actress Emilia Jones), who is faced with an agonizing choice. Being the only normal hearing in a deaf family, she is desperately needed by her parents and older brother, hereditary fishermen, as a mediator in communication with the outside world. On the other hand, Ruby is a naturally gifted singer whose talent was discovered by a singing teacher (a brilliant work of the Mexican Eugenio Derbez). He strongly recommends that she go to the Boston College of Music..
Ruby’s mother plays Marlee Matlin, the only deaf actress to win an Oscar (for her role in Children of a Lesser God in 1986), and her father is also deaf actor Troy Kotsur, who has starred in television series, including the popular Mandalorian.
At the virtual Q&A session held after the premiere of The Code, Sundance Program Director Kim Yutani, director Shian Heder said that she had learned the language of the deaf especially for the film. She said she admired the dedication and high skill of the actors involved in the film..
In this drama, you can see the stereotypical script moves, but for the most part they do not cause irritation, the film critics note in the first reviews. The main achievement of the film is a truthful, non-complimentary and at the same time sympathetic presentation of the life of the deaf, forced to adapt to existence in a “normal” environment, often hostile to them..
Keith Erlbland, a columnist for IndieWire, believes the Koda is sure to attract the attention of a mass audience. “You can’t help but love the film,” she notes. – The formula for success will certainly work, even in new storyline territory. “.
The pandemic affected not only a radical change in the format of the festival, but also the very theme of films, reflecting the tremendous changes in the lifestyle and consciousness of millions of people..
The Sundance 2021 program includes the horror film In the Earth about a deadly virus, filmed last summer in 15 days. The documentary Life in a Day 2020 was directed by Kevin MacDonald and produced by Ridley Scott. They selected footage reflecting various aspects of the pandemic from 300,000 amateur videos.
Sundance Festival will end on February 3.
Journalist, film critic, correspondent for the Russian Voice of America Service in New York.