Sundance Diary Day Four Sunday, January 31, 2021

Experience the reimagined Sundance Film Festival 2021. Read the festival diaries. You’ll feel like you are in Virtual Park City.

Filmmaker Theo Anthony examines the complex web of cameras, policing, and justice in the thought-provoking documentary ‘All Light, Everywhere.’

The opening weekend of the reimagined Sundance Film Festival has come to a close with critical truths about the reimagined Sundance Film Festival during a year of significant change. Sundance 2021 is the most accessible edition of the long-running festival thanks to a custom digital platform delivering XR activations, talks, sponsor programs, screenings, networking opportunities, and filmmaker Q&As with ease and reliability. After a year of virtual brainstorms and summits, the reimagined Sundance stands out as a thought leader regarding virtual content and experiences.

“What would make a great experience,” asks Tara Hein-Phillips, Chief Product Officer at Sundance, speaking at the Virtual Den Experience from Sundance partner, Dell Technologies. “…How do we capture the essence of Sundance and move that into a digital space?”

Affordability and inclusion are values that emerge from an all-digital Sundance. I remember countless conversations with Sundance filmmakers about the high costs of bringing casts and crews to Park City. They want their teams to be part of the Sundance celebration and magic. For many indie productions, the costs of lodging and travel are beyond reach. Throughout Sundance 2021, it’s been inspiring watching the post-premiere Q&As featuring full casts and crews via Zoom. Sure, actors and filmmakers miss sitting with festival audiences and experiencing their reactions first-hand. Still, the benefits of a more accessible and affordable Sundance are impactful.

What I’m Watching:

All, Light, Everywhere

Making its premiere in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the all-digital Sundance Film Festival 2021 and winner of a Special Jury Prize for Nonfiction Experimentation, ‘All Lights, Everywhere,’ challenges audiences to take a sprawling journey from the Scottsdale, Arizona headquarters of Axon Enterprise, a manufacturer of technology and weapons products, to the training rooms at the Baltimore Police Department, a sizable Axon customer. Filmmaker Theo Anthony challenges his audience, but the film rewards via unique visual storytelling and an innovative look at police surveillance.  Click here for my full review of ‘All Light, Everywhere.’

A diverse group of Sundance artists, filmmakers, and storytellers imagine what an artist-positive world would look like in the 2030 at a festival panel on worldbuilding.

What I’m Learning:

‘Worldbuilding Toward 2030’

Karim Ahmad, Director of Outreach & Inclusion, Sundance Institute, introduces a diverse group of festival artists, filmmakers, and storytellers for a virtual design sprint imagining what an artist-positive world would be in the year 2030. It’s inspiring listening to artists like Joe Brewster, Yance Ford, and Rosario Perazolo Masjoan describe a future world that supports marginalized communities and recognizes artists as essential workers helping people move through emotions.

What’s New:

Festivalgoers visiting the New Frontier section can transport to Amsterdam via do {not} play, an activation from IDFA DocLab, and the International Space Station via Space Explorers: The ISS Experience from the immersive storytelling studio Felix & Paul.

What’s the Same:

A reimagined Sundance Film Festival includes the festival awards recognizing the exceptional artistry and craft from Sundance 2021 storytellers. Early festival awards include the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize for an outstanding feature about science or technology. Congratulations to ‘Son of Monarchs’ for the Sloan Prize. The Amazon Studios Producers Award for Nonfiction goes to Nicole Salazar for Philly D.A. Congratulations to all 2021 Sundance award recipients and storytellers!

Behind the Screens:

Swap stories with an experienced Sundance artist and industry pro, and you’ll learn fun tips like storing something to eat in your messenger bag or parka pockets. Festival days are non-stop grinds with little time for sit-down meals. What’s a new value from the reimagined Sundance? I can stream into the festival from my office and eat lunch while watching panels and screenings. Maybe I’ll show a bagel into my pants pocket for festival nostalgia.

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