Now that Sundance is virtual, how will the Film Festival remain relevant to the Utahns?

PARK CITY, Utah (ABC4) – Since 1978, the Sundance Film Festival has offered innovative independent films directly to the mountains of Utah. Until last year, that is.

It won’t be surprising to learn that the annual film festival – which is the largest, and arguably the most famous, of its kind in the country – has been forced to switch to a virtual format in 2021 due to the COVID-19 in progress. pandemic. But for some, it came as a shock when festival organizers announced that the festival would also be virtual this year.

“While it was a tough decision for us, it was ultimately, I think, the most responsible thing we have to do for our entire community,” Kim Yutani, director of the community, told Sundance Film Festival programming.

Sundance made the announcement last week, less than two weeks before the festival’s January 20 start date. According to the Sundance Institute, the decision was made due to the growing number of COVID cases across the country.

This has been a blow to many Utahns, who eagerly await the pomp, glamor and appreciation of artistry that accompanies the annual festival.

“Many [of locals] I can’t wait to see these movies and can’t wait for LA and New York to be brought to Park City. Ten days of that big city feel, where you have celebrity chefs coming and doing pop-up restaurants and lots of fun stuff, you don’t have to do in Park City the other 355 days a year, ”says Brooks Kirchheimer, who owns and operates the Hearth and Hill restaurant in Park City. “It’s great fun, and especially for young people, especially those who may be interested in the arts and entertainment, it’s an opportunity for them to get involved.

But although COVID has prevented Sundance from happening again in Utah, organizers are working to ensure the festival stays true to its roots and continues to resonate with the Utahns.

“The residents of Utah are always on our minds when we plan a Sundance Film Festival,” Yutani said. “We definitely missed going to Utah. Much of our programming team is based in Los Angeles and the mountain will be missed.

In order to stay relevant to the Utahns, the Sundance Film Festival is offering two free screenings for anyone residing in the state of Utah. The first screening will take place on Saturday January 22, the festival’s first weekend, and the second screening will take place next week, January 29, with the opportunity to see one of the Best of Fest award-winning films. .

Sundance also hopes to attract audiences in Utah with its selection of films. Yutani notes that one of the movies she can’t wait to see is called Summer, which was shot entirely in Utah. The film is by festival veteran James Ponsoldt, and is described by Yutani as “a Support me kind of movie, but for girls.

In addition, Sundance will continue its student screening program, which aims to provide high school students in Utah the opportunity to view festival films. If the programming, like the festival, has been face-to-face since its creation, this year it will also be virtual.

“I’m just going to miss being in the Eccles auditorium and seeing all the high school kids in the halls while I wait to do my intros,” Yutani said with a wistful smile.

But even though COVID has made an in-person festival impossible yet again, as they say in the show biz: The show must go on. We just hope that next year this show can be in Utah again.

Austin Facer contributed reporting for this article.

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