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The Sundance Film Festival is a film festival that takes place annually in the state of Utahmarker, in the United Statesmarker. It is the largest independent cinema festival in the U.S. Held in January in Park Citymarker, Salt Lake Citymarker, and Ogdenmarker, as well as the Sundance Resortmarker, the festival is the premier showcase for new work from Americanmarker and international independent filmmakers. The festival comprises competitive sections for American and international dramatic and documentary films, both feature-length films and short films, and a group of non-competitive showcase sections, including the New Frontier, Spectrum, and Park City @ Midnight.


Sundance 2002

Utah/US Film Festival

Sundance began in Salt Lake City in 1978 as the Utah/US Film Festival in an effort to attract more filmmakers to Utah. It was founded by Sterling Van Wagenen (then head of Wildwood, Robert Redford's company), John Earle and Cirina Hampton Catania (both serving on the Utah Film Commission at the time).

With Chairperson Robert Redford, and the help of Governor Scott Matheson of Utah, the goal of the festival was to showcase strictly American-made films, highlight what the potential of independent film could be and to increase visibility for filmmaking in Utah. At the time, the main focus of the event was to conduct a competition for independent American films, present a series of retrospective films and filmmaker panel discussions and to celebrate the Frank Capra Award (given the first year to Jimmy Stewart); it highlighted the work of "regional" filmmakers who worked outside the Hollywoodmarker system.

The jury of the 1978 festival was headed by Gary Allison, and included Verna Fields, Linwood Gale Dunn, Katherine Ross, Charles E. Sellier Jr., Mark Rydell, and Anthea Sylbert.

In 1979, Sterling Van Wagenen left to head up the first year "pilot" program of what was to become the Sundance Institute and Cirina Hampton Catania took over as Executive Director of the Festival. Over 60 films were screened at the Festival that year, the Frank Capra Award went to Jimmy Stewart and panels featured many well-known Hollywood filmmakers. The Festival made a profit for the first time. In 1980, Catania left the Festival to pursue a production career in Hollywood.

Several factors helped propel the growth of Utah/US Film Festival. First was the involvement of actor Robert Redford. Redford, a Utahmarker resident, became the festival's inaugural chairman and having his name associated with Sundance gave the festival great attention. Secondly, the country was hungry for a venue that would celebrate American-made films as the only other festival doing so at the time was the then fledgling Dallas Film Fest. Response in Hollywood was unprecedented as major studios did all they could to contribute their resources.

In 1981, the festival moved to Park City, Utah and changed from September to January. The move from late summer to mid-winter was reportedly done on the advice of Hollywood director Sydney Pollack, who suggested that running a film festival in a ski resort during winter would draw more attention from Hollywood.

In 1984-85, the now well-established Sundance Institute, headed by Sterling Van Wagenen, took over management of the US Film Festival and changed the name to Sundance. Gary Beer and Sterling Van Wagenen spearheaded production of the inaugural Sundance Film Festival which included Program Director Tony Safford and Administrative Director Jenny Walz Selby.

Sundance Institute

Management of the Festival was taken over by the Sundance Institute, a non-profit organization, in 1985. In 1991 the Festival was officially renamed the Sundance Film Festival, after Redford's character The Sundance Kid from the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.. Many famous independent filmmakers, including Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Soderbergh, James Wan, Edward Burns and Jim Jarmusch had their big break at Sundance. It is also responsible for bringing wider attention to films such as Saw, Garden State, Super Troopers, The Blair Witch Project, Better Luck Tomorrow, Primer, Reservoir Dogs, Little Miss Sunshine, El Mariachi, Clerks, Thank You for Smoking, sex, lies, and videotape, The Brothers McMullen and Napoleon Dynamite. Three Seasons was the first in Festival history to ever receive both the Grand Jury Award and Audience Award in 1999, the same as God Grew Tired of Us and QuinceaƱera in 2006.

From 2006 through 2008, the Sundance Institute collaborated with the Brooklyn Academy of Musicmarker (BAM) on a special series of film screenings, performances, panel discussions, and special events bringing the institute's activities and the festival's programming to New York City.In January 2009, the festival was marked by a early exodus of celebrities who turned up for the first few days of the festival, but left early to attend the inauguration of the first African-American president, Barack Obama, in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, January 20, 2009.

Growth of the festival

The Festival has changed over the decades from a low-profile venue for small-budget, independent creators from outside the Hollywoodmarker system to a media extravaganza for Hollywood celebrity actors, paparazzi, and luxury lounges set up by companies that are not affiliated with Sundance, though the Festival itself has tried to curb these activities in recent years, beginning in 2007 with their ongoing "Focus On Film" campaign.

In popular culture

In August 1998, South Park, an animated show on the network Comedy Central, came out with an episode where the directors of the festival move it to a "different small mountain town", that of the show's main setting South Park, in order to "drain it and morph it into a new LA".

In Entourage, one of the independent movies which Vincent Chase stars in (Queens Boulevard) premiers at the Sundance Film Festival, and gains its popularity from there on.

In The Simpsons episode Any Given Sundance, Lisa enters a documentary about her family into the Sundance Film Festival.

See also



Further reading

  • Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film by Peter Biskind (Simon & Schuster, 2004)
  • Party in a Box: The Story of the Sundance Film Festival by Lory Smith (Gibbs Smith Publishers, 1999)
  • Sundance - A Festival Virgin's Guide by Benjamin Craig (Cinemagine Media Publishing, 2004)
  • Sundancing: Hanging Out And Listening In At America's Most Important Film Festival by John Anderson (Harper Paperbacks, 2000)

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