We’re doing Sundance 2021 at home this year, baby! It’s going to be a little weird, and my butt will probably meld with my couch cushions by the end of the week. But I bought a pass, and I’m ready to watch as many films as I can from January 28 to February 3. Challenge accepted.
Sundance and I have a long-term relationship; I started going to the Sundance Film Festival when I was sixteen and attending Park City High School. After class got out, I’d hop on the waitlist line and try to get a standby ticket for whatever was showing at the Eccles theater that evening.* On the weekends, my mom and I would try to get into four movies a day waitlisting. We loved it. When I moved down to Salt Lake City, I didn’t stop attending the festival every January. I became a Salt Lake City Sundance convert. The festival moves at a slower pace down the canyon (and the celebrities rarely show up at the Q&As), but I could usually get into whatever screenings I wanted—and locals passes that only worked for Salt Lake City screenings were cheaper. Plus, the filmmakers would always gas us up by saying that they preferred the Salt Lake screenings with “real audiences” to the industry audiences in Park City. The mostly local audiences, including me, loved to feel special, and the line always worked like a charm on us.
2020 was the first time I missed the festival in ten years; last year, I couldn’t justify traveling back to Utah, missing class at the beginning of the semester, and taking the time off work. So, while Virtual Sundance will definitely not be the same, I’m quite excited to be back at the festival in whatever form. So far, I’ve been impressed with the way the virtual festival has been set up. Everything has run smoothly, from a technical standpoint, and the user interface is conveniently centralized and easy to navigate.
I’m curious about how buzz will circulate during Virtual Sundance, as well as what things the festival planners have put in place to create a sense of community. The atmosphere is half the fun of a film festival, and I’m looking forward to exploring what that looks like in a virtual setting. For what it’s worth, maintaining a “festival atmosphere” in a virtual environment appears to be a priority of the festival planners. I want this diary to serve as a critique of Sundance’s virtual festival model as well as a record of the films I watch. So here’s what to expect with each entry: some thoughts about the Virtual Festival experience as the week goes on, a roundup of the films I’ve viewed each day, and then an assortment of whatever miscellaneous notes I’ve collected. This is the first time I’ve done a Sundance diary, so thanks for reading and going on this journey with me. Also, now seems like a good time for a reminder that anyone from anywhere in the U.S. can join the virtual festival this year! So, if you want to, you can totally get in on the fun if you have an internet connection and $15.
Tune in tomorrow for my Day 1 post! The festival starts today, but my diary posts will be a day behind since screenings go late every day. (My January 28 diary will go up on January 29, for example.) Let’s get this party started!
*The largest screening venue in Park City by capacity is the Eccles theater, which is also the Park City High School auditorium. Yes, it was weird to see celebrities stand on the stage where I did the fall musicals.