Each year, Park City, Utah, with an average population of about 9,000 people year-round, most of them self-proclaimed ski bums, transforms into a filmmaker’s paradise. For 10 days in January, thousands of people from all over the world flock to the Sundance Film Festival, hopeful and eager to be inspired.
This year was no exception; the festival spanned from Jan. 18-28, showcasing work from American and international independent filmmakers. With over 40,000 attendees, Sundance is the largest independent film festival in the United States.
Among this year’s winners, Desiree Akhavan’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post and the child slavery documentary Kailash took home Grand Jury Prizes, while Andrew Heckler’s Burden and first-time filmmaker Ruby Valdez’s The Sentence also received honors in the Audience Awards.
“It’s amazing to be in the company of all of these people who are just as passionate about filmmaking as you are, if not more passionate,” said junior Joseph Stoltzfus, who attended this year’s festival. “You can feel the energy in the room and the appreciation for the art and the craft of this thing that we all love to do. It’s an honor to be able to experience it.”
Attracting everyone from small-time filmmakers to Hollywood celebrities to everyday film enthusiasts, Sundance has grown from a small, locals-only startup to an internationally-acclaimed film extravaganza.
“It’s an opportunity to support these people who are taking huge risks to come out here and showcase what they love to do. I have so much respect for their willingness to put everything they have into their art and their story. It’s beautiful,” said senior Lizzy Kim.
Jonathan Pickett, a PLNU alumnus and member of People People Media Co., a boutique media house based in Palo Alto, California, also attended Sundance this year as an Associate Producer of The Driver is Red, a short, true-crime documentary that was screened at the festival.
“It was my second time at Sundance, though first time as a filmmaker, and it’s a whole different experience attending with a film,” said Pickett. “It means the world. Sundance is the dream for every filmmaker from the moment they start out, so to be able to go right after graduation was an unreal experience… and a potential game-changer for my whole career, I couldn’t be more stoked for the opportunity we had.”
This year’s festival marked Sundance’s 40th year of giving people from all different backgrounds and experiences the opportunity to create, inspire and appreciate the art of storytelling. Without further ado, let the countdown to next year’s festival begin.