Sundance Film Festival
One of the most prestigious showcases of independent films takes place every year in Utah. The Sundance Film Festival is the largest of its kind in the USA and is held in January across four different venues. These are Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and the famous Sundance Resort, the ski resort owned by Robert Redford, taking its name from his character in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
The event began in a small-scale way in 1978 in Salt Lake City and was founded by Redford and two colleagues. Known in those days as the Utah / US Film Festival, it grew in recognition, respected by everyone in the movie industry. The Sundance Festival presents new American films and films from around the world, including feature length, short films and documentaries. There are both competition and non-competition entries. Various prizes are awarded including the Grand Jury Prize and the Special Jury Prize.
Robert Redford also founded the Sundance Institute, a non-profit organization, which supports people in the film industry and their projects. It also serves to manage the Sundance Film Festival. The festival received its current name in 1991 and actors, producers and directors from mainstream Hollywood and the independent sector continue to flock there. Celebrities endorse it and the world’s media descend on it each year. Several independent directors launched their careers at the festival, including Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, and Steven Soderbergh. Even to be selected for screening brings a lot of status to any film.
Another organization bearing the Sundance name is the Sundance Channel, a cable network dedicated to broadcasting independent movies and documentaries. It also publicizes what’s happening at each new Sundance Film Festival. Each feature or short attracts its own publicity, boosting its success and distribution. In 2008, 200 films were shown at the festival. Audiences can buy tickets in advance or day of show tickets. The 2009 dates have been announced as January 15th – January 25th, and the 2010 festival will be from January 21st – January 31st.
Of course, it’s always nice to win prizes and the prize winners at Sundance Film Festivals can just about guarantee box office success and critical acclaim around the globe. The Grand Jury Prize for Drama in 2008 went to Frozen River, a story about smuggling illegal immigrants. The Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema Documentary for that year was awarded to Man on Wire, the film about daredevil Philippe Petit and his high wire walk between New York’s Twin Towers in 1974. Other films to receive awards in 2008 were Captain Abu Raed, Patti Smith: Dream of Life, and Choke.
Robert Redford has achieved worldwide fame and respect as an actor and director and is to be commended for putting something back into the industry that has brought him so much success. The future of Sundance looks secure and will be a lasting legacy for film lovers everywhere.