Sundance Film Festival plans 2023 in-person return

Theaters like these have been unused by the Sundance Film Festival for two years. However, the Festival will resume in-person film screenings this January. The Sundance Film Festival announced on August 30 that after two years of meeting remotely, audiences can gather together once again, with both in-person screenings and online elements being offered. (Courtney Denning)

The Sundance Film Festival announced on Aug. 30 that after two years of meeting remotely, the film festival will be in-person.

The hiatus, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, caused the events to be held solely online. This year, they will offer both in-person and online screenings of the films.

In a press release, Sundance CEO Joana Vicente announced plans to have the festival physically meet together once again. Beginning January 19, filmmakers and audiences can screen films at events in Salt Lake City, Park City and the Sundance Resort. Then, on January 24, the films will be available online. The festival will end with screenings of the award winners on January 28-29, viewable both in person and remotely.

Since 1985, the Sundance Film Festival has been an outlet for independent filmmakers to release their art and gain critical acclaim. Submissions include feature films, short films, episodic content and more. It features categories such as “U.S. Documentaries,” “World Dramatic” and “Sundance Kids.”

Hannah Grace Carraway, an adjunct faculty member at BYU and freelance filmmaker, has been following the Sundance Film Festival for years. She has worked with many attending filmmakers and was a liaison for artists Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas on their feature, “Pahokee” in 2019. She said she was very excited for the return of in-person screenings of the films.

“It’s night and day,” Carraway said of the difference between live and remote viewings. “You can watch at your house but you miss out on the energy of being in the room with the director.”

However, Carraway said there will still be an online viewing option available. “It’s going to be more inclusive,” she said.

Amidst ongoing fears about the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sundance officials explained that the health and safety of Sundance audiences, staff, and volunteers will be the institute’s top priority. They have pledged to follow CDC guidelines and take precautionary measures such as requiring masks and weekly testing for staff and volunteers.

“I hope things get back to how they were in a safe way. I know theaters are really struggling,” BYU film student Blake Knecht said. “I think films were created to be viewed a certain way. And so I think not having that community aspect could change that the way that films are created.”

Film student Reagan Panah, agreed, saying, “There’s an energy in a theater where there’s an audience, like they’ve gathered for that purpose … I feel like in the home, my viewing of film is more often a casual experience.”

As film submission deadlines come to a close, with late feature films being accepted until September 26, filmmakers and enthusiasts can prepare for the new festival season with anticipation that has been building for two years.

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