Inside Sundance 2024: a global celebration of independent cinema

Film fans wait outside the premiere of the new film “Freaky Tales” directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck starring Pedro Pascal, Tom Hanks and Ben Mendelsohn. Film enthusiasts around the world gathered at the 40th anniversary of the Utah based film festival. (Photo by Emma Butler Price)

Thousands of film enthusiasts from around the world gathered at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City to celebrate independent cinema during the festival’s 40th anniversary.

The ten day festival has premiered a variety of independent films including new films from Pedro Pascal, Kristen Stewart and Saoirse Ronan.

Brady Lernihan, an attendee from Montana, said he was excited for all the different films he planned to see during his first time at the festival.

“I’m most excited to see ‘The Outrun’ with Saoirse Ronan and Paapa Essiedu,” Lernihan said.

Lernihan hopes to come back to the festival in the future after his first full day, he said.

“If I could come back every year I would. This is my first time and it’s sort of been an amazing day,” Lernihan said. “I just saw ‘Ghostlight’ and it was one of the best films I have seen in a very long time.”

Longtime friends Becky Rice and Devon Cantwell-Chavez began their friendship because of their love for independent cinema.

The two women started attending the Sundance Film Festival in 2018 and have attended annually, either in person or virtually, ever since.

Although Rice has since moved to Washington and Cantwell-Chavez to Canada, the two women make it a priority to attend the festival each year.

Cantwell-Chavez, who describes herself as pop culture deficient, said she appreciated the streamlined series of films Sundance offers.

“I got into pop culture late into life, and I am one of those people that gets paralyzed whenever I open Netflix,” Cantwell-Chavez said. “So Sundance is really nice, because I look at it as a way to almost be like a curated list of lots of different themes and topics.”

The festival is vital for independent filmmakers to share their unique stories to those around the world, Rice said.

“Those stories are always going to need to be told by people who aren’t quite getting that budget,” she said.

Rice believes the success and longevity of Sundance comes from the importance of sharing stories beyond the large blockbusters seen in Hollywood.

“There will always be a place and a need and a hunger for independent cinema,” Rice said.

Volunteers from across the country also come to help organize the festival each year and have the opportunity to see films during the festival.

Chris Borsodi, a seven year volunteer at Sundance, said the festival is unlike any other festival he has attended.

“There’s moments where I thought I saw something that I had no business seeing that never left my consciousness,” Borsodi said.

The importance of film festivals like Sundance extends beyond the scope of the film premieres and celebrity appearances, according to Bosodi.

“It’s not just about the film,” Borsodi said. “It’s about the brotherhood with the people you work with. So that keeps you coming back.”

The Sundance Film Festival will come to a close on Sunday, Jan. 28.

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