Sundance 2022 is in Full Swing, and Fully Online


2022 Sundance Film Festival (Courtesy Sundance Institute)

By Frank Gardner, Assistant Arts Editor


Sundance 2022 is here, and for the second consecutive year it’s completely online. Though this wasn’t always the plan, Festival Director Tabitha Jackson is confident it’s the best option for keeping everyone safe and ensuring things run smoothly. 

The Pivot to a Virtual Festival 

In a press conference Thursday morning, Jackson expressed her distaste for the word everybody keeps throwing around: virtual. “I don’t like saying virtual because there’s nothing unreal about it. The essence of a festival is a gathering, a convergence of the work, the makers and the receivers, who are the audiences.”

This gathering was initially imagined to be a hybrid festival with both in-person and online screenings options. In a last-minute move, Jackson announced two weeks ago that this year would be completely online. The initial plan to offer some virtual screenings meant that it was a very smooth transition to a completely online platform. Jackson said that it was “very easy because we designed the festival to be hybrid, so the online component already existed.”

The hard part then, she said, was managing the disappointment of festival-goers and those in the industry excited to finally be meeting again after two long years apart. However, the decision should be unsurprising to most as Utah is struggling hard against the omicron variant. With case numbers now more than double what they were last winter, barely 60% of the population fully vaccinated, and legislation at the state level barring mask mandates, it’s no wonder Sundance organizers made the decision to go virtual.

This Year’s Selections

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic both in organizing the festival and in movie production during the last couple years, Sundance 2022 is proving to be one of the most innovative yet. Chief Curator Shari Frilot attributes this in part to the hurdles caused by the events of the last two years that have forced filmmakers to get creative. “One of the things that is really notable and inspiring is we saw the lockdown affect our theater community and our dance community, and we are seeing the community turning to creative technologists in astonishing ways,” Frilot said, mentioning projects like Cie Gille Jobin Company’s “Cosmogony” and Sam Green’s “32 Sounds.”

Director of Programming Kim Yutani notes the diversity of the 2022 festival’s offerings as some of the most wide-reaching yet, with 82 films selected out of 14,849 submissions from 24 different countries. “As we went into our submission season, we wondered if it would be feast or famine with this ongoing global pandemic. We weren’t sure how that would affect creative output. I’m happy to say, submissions were really healthy, and once again we were surprised that artists found ways to sustain themselves to make work, despite the challenges.” 

A Reflection of Our Times 

Yutani, and other organizers also mention the political themes and contemporary subject matter of many of the films. “We saw a lot of work that looked at the current state of the environment and we have works that address climate politics,” she said. “We also saw films that deal with injustice, especially from the viewpoint of people of color and women, and we noticed a lot of films around reproductive rights.”

This is certainly evident just from scanning the synopsis’ of the films in this year’s selections. It’s difficult to find films without at the very least undercurrents of political and socially challenging themes.

In years past, Sundance has been a champion of these kinds of films but has sent mixed messages about its own responsibilities. The festival includes a land acknowledgement before every screening, stressing the importance of supporting Indigenous resistance and environmental protection, while at the same time offers a platform for the sale of NFTs which are known to be hugely destructive to the environment

As with every year, the takeaways from Sundance should come not from festival organizers but from the independent voices of community leaders, activists and storytellers who offer up the labors of their creative efforts to be critically engaged with and enjoyed by all. 


More information, tickets and screenings, visit the Sundance official website.