The Sundance Institute announced that contrary to its initial plans, the Sundance Film Festival will not be its first fully hybrid event. Due to the Omicron variant of Covid-19, the festival is online only.
Last year, the Sundance Film Festival took place entirely online due the pandemic. The 2022 Sundance Film Festival was going to be held both online and in-person, against the background of Utah, but the pandemic has changed plans and forced the Sundance Institute to rapidly, as we’re less than two weeks from the event, announce that the Festival’s in-person Utah elements will be moving online this year. Despite the most ambitious protocols, the Omicron variant with its unexpectedly high transmissibility rates is pushing the limits of health safety, travel and other infrastructures across the country, say the organizers.
The Sundance Institute said that “while we’re disappointed to not provide the full hybrid experience and gather in-person as intended, audiences this year will still experience the magic and energy of our Festival with bold new films and XR work, the discovery of new storytellers, direct encounters with artists, and an innovative globally accessible social platform and gallery space. Our partner community will also be adding a vibrant dimension to the festival with a rich mix of conversation, talent talks and events.
The decision was difficult to make, as the teams organizing the 2022 event “have spent a year planning a festival like no other” but, the Sundance Institute noted, “while it is a deep loss to not have the in-person experience in Utah, we do not believe it is safe nor feasible to gather thousands of artists, audiences, employees, volunteers, and partners from around the world, for an eleven-day festival while overwhelmed communities are already struggling to provide essential services.“
Gathering together in whatever way we can
The decision made by the Sundance Institute should give everyone reason to pause and think. As the organizers said “as a nonprofit, our Sundance spirit is in making something work against the odds. But with case numbers forecasted to peak in our host community the week of the festival we cannot knowingly put our staff and community at risk. The undue stress to Summit County’s health services and our more than 1,500 staff and volunteers would be irresponsible in this climate. It has become increasingly clear over the last few days that this is the right decision to make for the care and well-being of all of our community.”
On a bright note, the Sundance Institute hopes that the 2022 edition will gather the interest of the international community. The organizers added that “the Festival is important not only to the artists and audiences who gather each year, but also as the most essential fundraiser for underwriting the Institute’s year-round artist support work. We are thrilled to be able to convene the 2022 edition of the Sundance Film Festival online, building on the success of last year. In addition to reaching global audiences, we forged a path for immersive online experiences that we are building on in 2022. And while we will be proud to again deliver an incredible digital experience of the 2022 Festival, our belief in the unique power of gathering in person as an independent storytelling community remains.”
The Festival will begin Thursday, January 20, 2022 as planned, so the community will gather together online to celebrate independent storytelling and introduce remarkable artists and their work to the world. Eleven days of online programming will proceed, with screening schedule adjustments to account for an online only schedule. The seven satellite partners will host screenings for their local communities from January 28-30.
On a final note, the Sundance Institute added this: “we believe in the transformative power of artists and their work. Today, as we navigate all that the pandemic throws at us we go back to what is certain: Gathering together — in whatever way we can — is profound. Community matters. We follow the artist. So, we look forward to sharing with you the extraordinary work that fuels our Festival, experiencing it together, and celebrating the artists who will change the culture.