In January 2022, the Sundance Film Festival will return to Utah, but those attending in person will have to be fully vaccinated, said Festival Director Tabitha Jackson.
Filmmakers and audiences can not wait to return to Utah, for the Sundance Film Festival 2022, after a 2021 edition that moved online, as the pandemic forced the organizers to break what was a tradition since 1985, when artists and audiences started gathering at the Festival to affirm the transformative power of independent film and media. For every year after, the festival took place in its place of birth in Utah, until 2021, when COVID-19 changed the world.
The 2021 Festival unfolded online and through Satellite Screens across the country. Bold, distinctive, expressive works met their first audiences. As Festival Director Tabitha Jackson said “there were breakout hits and beautiful discoveries — and to our relief, people showed up! Last year’s Festival welcomed more young people and more people who had never been able to participate before. There was nothing ‘virtual’ about the connections forged in the New Frontier space or the shared experience of watching films that have stayed with us ever since; all of this was real.”
As Tabitha Jackson notes, “it was Sundance, in a new form” and that’s the reason why the online experience is back in 2022. As organizers of the various festivals around the world have discovered, the “virtual” events expand to new audiences, beyond what would be possible with any in-person festival. There are challenges, but there are rewards, too, as we all have witnessed.
The seven day Festival held in 2021 reached a total audience 2.7 times larger than at the typical 11-day Utah edition, despite the shorter duration and with fewer feature films (73) than the festival’s typical 120 features. Audiences participated from all 50 states and 120 countries. This resulted in a total of audience views of more than 600,000 — 2.7 times (168%) more than in 2020.
Vaccines are mandatory, mask-wearing being considered
Still, it’s good that the Sundance Film Festival 2022 returns to Utah. But it’s going to be a festival different from any other before, because there will be one key rule for all those participating: those attending in person in Utah to be fully vaccinated. The organizers are following what is now becoming a trend and possibly the only path to keep everybody safe: “no vax, no service.”
“Health and safety is paramount,” said Festival Director Tabitha Jackson, adding “As we plan for the 2022 Festival, one of our most important considerations is how best to safely bring together artists, audiences, volunteers, and staff from around the world. As part of our commitment to this community, we will be requiring all participants attending the Festival, or Sundance-affiliated events, in person in Utah to be fully vaccinated.”
The information is provided now, she continues, “to ensure that all in-person participants feel comfortable attending, and can adjust their travel plans if needed. We will share our full details and processes for health precautions closer to the Festival, including theater capacity along with information on mask-wearing. We will continue to assess other elements of health and safety protocols regularly and in accordance with best practices.”
Submissions to the festival are now open
After the success of the 2021 edition, the Sundance Film Festival 2022 will keep connecting local communities across the country. Tabitha Jackson says “regional cinemas and arts organizations and their audiences are a crucial part of independent filmmaking, and we are grateful for the new possibilities that have come from our partnerships with Satellite Screens. The 2022 Festival will continue the program we launched in 2021, working with up to 10 partners across the United States to connect directly with local audiences and artists. Each Satellite Screen will show selections from the Festival’s official program during closing weekend: Friday, January 28, through Sunday, January 30, 2022.”
In January 2022, she continues, “the Sundance Film Festival will be the site of a new convergence. We are delighted that the community can once again make the annual pilgrimage back to the Festival in Utah, and we also invite audiences to join us online from wherever they are.”
Submissions to the festival are open as the program is being built. The 2022 Festival program will be larger than last year’s, but will maintain a tight focus (somewhere in the realm of 80 features). All official feature film selections will play both in person and online, and, says Tabitha Jackson, “we will hold in-person screenings in Park City, Salt Lake City, and at the Sundance Mountain Resort. As always, films will premiere in the opening half of the Festival, which this year will be from Thursday, January 20, through Tuesday, January 25, 2022, with additional screenings to follow through the end of the Festival. Online premieres will follow the in-person premieres, using our custom-built online platform that was home to last year’s festival. Awards will be announced on Friday, January 28, leading to a final weekend of award-winner screenings in person and online.”
As a final note in her message, Festival Director Tabitha Jackson wrote, “the soul of Sundance has always been in the coming together of a community: around new voices, new work, new forms, and new perspectives. During last year’s Festival, even when denied the chance to gather in a single place, the power of converging in a single moment was undeniable. We were able to expand the possibility of who could take part. And as we prepare for 2022, we remain committed to this invitation to new audiences.”
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