Volunteers in front of the Egyptian theater, in Park City, for the midnight showing of Wuthering Heights. -Maomi Sunshine Blackburn

The largest independent film festival in the U.S. is happening next month in Park City. The 2017 Sundance Film Festival will take place this year Jan. 19 to Jan. 29. Full of culture, innovative films and attendees from all over the world, Sundance Film Festival is definitely something you won’t want to miss and is totally accessible to students.

The Sundance Film Festival occurs annually in Park City, attracting adventurous individuals, daring entertainers and creative aspiring artists. The festival is comprised of thousands of volunteers and employees, even more submitters of films and videos, and tens of thousands of actual attendees. Over 46,000 people attended the film festival last year alone.

Beginning first as a local film market in 1978 with Robert Redford and Sterling van Wegener at the head of the event, the festival initially screened American films only in the hopes of creating a larger film market in Utah. Additionally, the festival was held during the autumn season in the month of September.

A few years later the festival relocated to Park City and switched its running time to winter in the first month of the year. In 1991 the title was officially changed from “The US Film Festival” to “Sundance Film Festival,” instigated by Robert Redford’s iconic character in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

According to the official Sundance Film Festival website, Robert Redford, President and Founder of Sundance Institute, said, “From the passion and chaos of creativity, independent filmmakers make decisions to harness that energy, break new ground and tell their stories. This year’s Festival reflects every step of that journey, and shows how art can engage, provoke and connect people all over the world.”

Today the festival boasts unprecedented amounts of attendees from all over the world, including film submissions and competitors. Additionally, the festival has grown to include various types of venues, accommodations, lodgings, restaurants and events. The majority of the festival takes place on Main St in Park City in conjunction with local businesses and theaters, however there are additional screening locations in Ogden, Salt Lake and Sundance Resort, in Provo.

This wide range of venues can be an added experience after or in lieu of attending a film screening. These venues have various options for dinner, entertainment and lounges hosting artists from all aspects of the festival as well as the general public. Some of these venues include the Sundance Headquarters and Base Camp, the Filmmaker Lodge, New Frontier, Sundance Music Café, Salt Lake Festival Café and a Merchandise Store.

Though, the highlight of the festival is of course the films. Local and international filmmakers alike showcase their work at the festival each year, some of which might even make it to the big screen later on. Keep a look out for the films you see this year to potentially be released in national cinema. “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Bend it Like Beckham,” “Blackfish” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” are all movies that received their first film debut at the Sundance Film Festival.

There were over 13,700 submissions for the upcoming 2017 competition, with categories in U.S. Dramatic, U.S. Documentary, World Cinema Dramatic and World Cinema Documentary. Additional programs include episodic storytelling, feature films, film music, episodic, virtual reality, Ignite, Native Programs—focusing on the Native American population—and theatre.

Upon screening, a jury comprised of various artists from the global art community evaluate and judge the film.  Toward the conclusion of the festival, awards are announced and given on the evening of the Sundance Film Festival Awards ceremony.

In addition to standard film and documentary categories, Sundance is also hosting a new program this year called “New Climate Change.” The program has a geared focus toward climate change and environmental preservation. Showcasing 15 new films under this category, Sundance hopes to continue the conversation from previous years’ innovative and holistic focuses on our environment.

John Cooper is the current director of the festival and said in a statement on the festival’s website, “The films in this year’s festival show the human sides of issues, people and places we don’t often see. Independent filmmakers, with their fearless, bold perspectives, are challenging us to witness our world’s whole story.”

Arguably, the best aspect of the festival, above the glamour, excitement and pure thrill of the environment, is the groundbreaking films that challenge current issues and create a voice for stories that need to be heard.

Redford also said, “Sundance deepens the resolve of artists, bringing them together in a creative community so that they know they are not alone.”

The festival creates a prime opportunity to be in the literal opening stage beginnings of the latest creative, controversial and stimulating entertainment of our society. Despite the prestige and thousands of attendees, the festival has created a fairly just system for obtaining attendance. A few different ticket options exist providing selections for the avid movie goer to the one time film person.

You can purchase a ticket for a desired movie (granted it isn’t sold out) the day of for $20-25. You must buy in person the morning of the festival and the boxes open at 8 a.m. There is a limited amount of tickets for each screening.

Another option is buying tickets online. Tickets are available 36 hours before the specific show time and range from $20 to $25. You must pick up your tickets at the theater no later than two hours before screening time.

The “Shorts Ticket Package” is $50 and includes tickets to 5 short screening programs in any location. This option is exclusive to students and youth and is a purchased online prior to screening. Additional “package” options are available for tickets as well, ranging from $600-$50.

Check out the official Sundance Film Festival website for a comprehensive list of film screening and descriptions, additional ticket information, venue contacts and entertainment opportunities.




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