From 19 to 29 January, one of the world’s most diverse and exciting film festivals will once again attract crowds to Salt Lake City, Park City and Sundance Mountain Resort. Baroque Access finds out some of the highlights of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival
The annual Sundance Film Festival is the perfect opportunity to see some of the best work in today’s independent cinema scene. This year, it’s even bigger and better, with films on show from 22 countries. In fact, the Festival received a whopping 13,000 submissions, out of which 113 feature-length films will be screened, 98 of which will be world premieres. This will certainly draw the crowds, as it did in 2016. It’s expected that this year’s Festival will have many more than the 46,000-strong attendants who flocked to Utah last year.
Aside from a diverse selection of competing films this year, the Festival includes some new highlights, such as a New Climate Program, a selection of films that focus on climate change and preserving the environment. These new films are descendants of legendary Sundance documentaries such as An Inconvenient Truth.
The New Climate Program includes, amongst others, the film, Chasing Coral, in which a team of divers, photographers and scientists document the world’s changing coral reefs. Trophy looks at the multi-billion-dollar big game hunting industry, and Plastic China examines the working life of employees at a Chinese recycling plant. All of these subjects are very close to the heart of President and Founder of the Sundance Institute, Robert Redford, who started the Institute in 1981.
To assist filmmakers and artists in producing films for the festival, the Sundance Institute offers numerous grants worth more than $2.5 million, as well as workshops and labs throughout the year. The resulting films also include the Institute’s year-round public programming at festivals in London, Hong Kong and LA. For 2017, the final line-up is full of provocative, trend-setting independent films, including 66 that have been selected for the US Competition, World Competition and NEXT, as well as the New Climate Program mentioned above.
According to Redford, this year’s Festival “shows how art can engage, provoke and connect people all over the world”. Director of the Sundance Film Festival, John Cooper, describes the films in the 2017 Festival as showing “the human sides of issues, people and places we don’t often see”. Independent filmmakers, he says, “are challenging us to witness our world’s whole story. These artists, armed with their films, will lead us into the future.”
Amongst them are the American independent filmmakers competing in the US Dramatic Competition, which features 16 narrative feature films. Highlights include the world premiere of the children’s film, Brigsby Bear which features Claire Danes, Mark Hamill and Greg Kinnear, amongst others, To the Bone, with Lilly Collins and Keanu Reeves and The Yellow Birds, featuring Jennifer Aniston, Toni Collette, Jack Huston and others.
In the US Documentary Competition, contenders include Casting JonBenet, which documents the unsolved death of 6-year-old American beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey. The World Cinema Dramatic Competition includes 12 films from emerging talents around the world including offerings from South Africa, Germany and Australia. In the World Cinema Documentary Competition, there are 12 fascinating documentaries by international filmmakers of note, from Finland, Ireland, Bulgaria and China.
The Festival culminates in an Awards Ceremony, where a selection of films from both the documentary and dramatic categories are chosen to receive a selection of awards in each of the Festival’s four competition categories.