Understanding Sundance

Photo credit by Free from Wix

For the past 39 years the Sundance Film Festival has allowed film enthusiasts from all around the world to gather in Utah.

Sundance, formally called the U.S. Film Festival, was launched in 1978 by chairman Robert Redford and founders: Sterling Van Wagenen, John Earle and Cirina Hampton Catania. Currently, the institute has a staff of 170 people hailing from in Park City, Los Angeles and New York City.

Sundance provides a space for film, theater, film-composing and digital media artists to learn and create. Alongside this, Sundance has over 350 interns and give out over $2.5 million in grants each year, according to its website.

According to Sundance, the festival has expanded to 10-day event, spreading over three cities with an attendance of more than 40,000 people a year. Because the festival ranges from Park City to Salt Lake City to the Sundance Mountain Resort, it’s convenient to rent a room at one of the 50 nearby hotels. Because there are a total of 15 theaters, its recommended that patrons use the festival’s free shuttle system helps viewers go theater hopping.

In 2004 “Saw”, directed by James Wan, made its debut at Sundance playing for three consecutive nights. The gory horror film became wildly successful and earned a spot in theaters later in October.

“I think ‘Saw’ is a classic horror movie, especially for this time of year. ‘Saw’ has a lot of gore and violence in it, but it also has a few twists which makes it a good horror movie,” senior Diana Barahona Macias said.

According to “Saw” Films, the movie- which was shot in only 18 days’- centers on two men locked in an industrial bathroom who are given instructions on how to escape. In the meantime, a group of police are trying to hunt down a “Jigsaw killer”.

“Saw has several different movies, each one adding more violence, weirdness or just something new. With this, the audience is always on their toes,” senior Madison Barone said.

Photo credit by Free from Wix

Alongside “Saw”, Sundance premiered the comedy “Napoleon Dynamite” the very same year.

“Napoleon Dynamite is such a weird and awkward yet funny movie. The movie is basically about him [Napoleon] helping his friend Pedro run for class president and their journey to that,” Barahona Macias said.

According to Rolling Stone, after premiering at Sundance, the movie caught the interest of Fox Searchlight Pictures and Paramount Pictures. In June 2004 the movie was released for a limited amount of time but then went national in August.

“I feel like a lot of people our age have seen Napoleon Dynamite because it’s so popular. It’s funny with a lot of dry humor and with that comes loads of quotable lines,” Barone said.

A few years later, in 2009, “Precious” took Sundance by storm, winning the grand jury award as well as the audience award, making it one of only two films to win both awards in a decade. According to “Entertainment Weekly”, the film was originally named “Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire”, which looked at the life of an abused Harlem teen who was pregnant for the second time by her drug addict father.

“I watched this movie with my mom and at first I was surprised. The movie was a bit of a downer yet it was a nice refreshing change from a stereotypical movie,” Barone said.

“Precious was a great movie. It’s just heavy and sad material. The actors were awesome and the story didn’t sugarcoat, much but the ending was uplifting and inspirational,” Barahona Macias said.


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