A Brief History of the Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Film Festival is the largest independent film festival in the United States. Established in 1978 by the heads of Robert Redford’s Wildwood Company, it is held annually in the snowy climes of Park City, Utah, by the Sundance Institute. It was named for his character in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. As they describe on their website, Sundance seeks to discover, support and inspire independent filmmakers from all over the world and to introduce audiences to their new work. The festival was founded in response to an identified need for more avenues to show and celebrate American-made films, and was very well received by the press and the public. A great highlighter of new talent and also regional talent that worked outside the Hollywood system, the festival had over 45,000 attendees last year.  It also holds film retrospectives, hosts expert panel discussions, and gives out both jury voted and audience voted awards.

sex, lies, and Heathers

1992: Mira Nair and Robert Redford

1992: Mira Nair and Robert Redford

The Sundance Film Festival became a landmark in the area of independent film, and something filmmakers and actors aspired to exhibit at. A number of today’s directors have made their name first at Sundance including Steven Soderbergh, Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Robert Rodriguez and James Wan. It was a platform for talented filmmakers to gain attention, and be offered funding for distribution of films that would never have normally seen the light of day. In recent years however it has been criticized as becoming too Hollywood, taken over by big names and production companies, large studios, marketing placements, established stars and the ensuing paparazzi. The Sundance Film Festival has been accused of focusing only on the money and forgetting its roots in finding the little people and discovering the fresh talent. Independent and unknown directors are reportedly finding it harder and harder to get a viewing at Sundance, a problem which the Institute is now making concerned changes to address.

1992: Quentin Tarantino and Ronna Wallace

1992: Quentin Tarantino and Ronna Wallace

Steven-Soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh

In an effort to refocus, Sundance is increasingly appointing smaller independent companies as official media outlets for the Festival. In 2017 filmmaker Matt Duhamel from Utah-based Metamora Films will cover the Sundance Film Festival, the second time for this production company. Metamora Films works from similar ethos as Sundance itself, in order to highlight educational, meaningful and independent films. Metamora works centrally in areas of social issue, aiming to expand compassion, tolerance and understanding for those parts of society that tend to go misunderstood. Continuing the work of transforming hearts and minds through film, Matt Duhamel is a filmmaker seeking to cover thought-provoking and inspirational film screenings, and is certain to find this at Sundance. He aims to highlight the most outstanding socially aware films to celebrate both the message of the film and the talent of the filmmaker.

-Adam Scott, Guest Blogger for Metamora Films

 

An official festival vehicle

An official festival vehicle

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