Park City, Utah is a town with a population of 8,000, best known for ski slopes, spas. . . and the Sundance Film Festival. Named after The Sundance Kid, Redford's character in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, over 20,000 people are expected to attend the 2017 festival and watch nearly 100 films being screened. Bringing glamour to the snow-covered town will be the biggest ever line-up of movie stars - and associated paparazzi - making the trek up from southern California. UKHotMovies.com brings you the lowdown on the year's first major film festival.
What began in 1981 as a little film festival out West, instigated by Robert Redford to stimulate and encourage innovative and alternative cinema, has now bloomed into a major stomping ground for the international film community. It's now arguably the world's premiere competitive marketplace for independent film.
In fact, the Festival has been so successful that some credit it with helping to blur the lines between big budget Hollywood fare and Indie cinema. Sundance is now considered to be in the same league as Venice and Cannes. Major celebrities, film executives, and film patrons attend the Festival, making it popular not only for the quality of films shown, but also for stars who make appearances as Hollywood migrates to Park City.
Within the last fifteen years, Corporate America has also taken notice of the festival by setting up independent marketing operations during the festival. Today, controversy surrounds the
festival for its shift to star-driven films, corporate sponsorships, and marketing tie-ins that have helped christen it with the nickname of "Swag-fest". Some of the organisers have regularly criticised the fact that he festival has become a press event for celebrities, with stars like Keira Knightley, Demi Moore, Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Federline attending it.
Sundance's biggest draw is the world premieres of many of the films participating in the festival. In the past, such films as The Good Girl, Love and Basketball, and The Motorcycle Diaries have celebrated their world premieres.
Sundance distinguishes itself by being the United States' party festival. As celebrities swarm on Park City, a full-blown ten day party begins. Festivities begin early and end late, if at all. If you get home before dawn, then you haven't really experienced what the SFF has to offer!
Something is always happening. In 1996, the Festival experienced a snow storm no one could have expected. With 10 feet of snow falling within the span of 10 days, celebrities, movie lovers, and crews were trapped indoors. However, few had any complaints as everyone enjoyed the relaxing time offered by the mandatory hibernation, and the Festival still went on so few people missed screenings and premieres during the week.
From the U.S. Film Festival to Sundance Film Festival
In 1978, the Utah/U.S. Film Festival was founded at Trolley Corners Theatre in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Festival was first created based on retrospection and guest appearances by seasoned actors, actresses, directors, and other movie professionals. However, Arthur Knight, a professor of film at USC, suggested the Festival include a competition that would feature films outside of the Hollywood realm with lower budgets and regional stories. During the first year, the most popular section was the series of competition films.
The festival may well have ended up being nothing more than a small, regional event, but two key factors helped push it down the road to greatness. The first of these was the involvement of actor Robert Redford. Redford was a local Utah resident and became the festival's inaugural chairman of the board, and having his name associated with the festival allowed it to garner a great deal more attention than it may otherwise have been able to achieve on its own.
The second factor was the festival's move from September to January; in other words, from summer to winter. The move was reportedly on the advice of Hollywood director Sydney Pollack, who suggested that running a film festival in a ski resort during winter would result in “Hollywood beating down the door to attend”.
1981 marked major changes for the film festival. The quieter, more serene location of Park City attracted a flood of visitors. Retrospective films took a back seat to premieres, independent films, and documentaries, thus expanding the Festival's most popular selections.
Famed writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez spearheaded a movement in 1989 to promote Latin film makers work at the Festival. He supervised the creation of six films based on his stories for Latin-American film makers to produce that year. The films received a warm reception from audiences.
In 1990, the Festival finally took on the name of the Sundance Film Festival. During this year's Festival, viewers gave honor to the first African-American film maker to create numerous films in Hollywood, Melvin Van Peebles. Peebles was an inspiration to all black film lovers to take part in the industry with success as a goal.
Over 100 feature films and 60 short films were presented in the 1995 record-breaking Sundance Film Festival. Sold-out crowds roamed the streets and contributed to the excitement of film makers. Additionally, personal documentaries, animation, Native American film makers all received special screenings. During the 1996 Festival crowds reached almost 10,000 people with numerous new offerings for the year.
The 1,300 seat Eccles theatre built in 1998 shot Sundance into the future. The move to shadow Ridge Lodge and the new cinema in the city centre of Park City allowed the Festival more control over and space for activities.
The year after the millennium, 2001, saw yet another jump into the future for Sundance. As the internet became increasingly popular, the Sundance Film Festival went online. Sundance Online Film Festival provides digital projection for many digital films. The Online Festival lasts throughout the year as the previous year's films remain online for viewing.
With the likes of Paris Hilton, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston strutting their stuff at the 2006 festival, it received the highest audience figures ever - and ever increasing derision from the independent film sector.