Sundance Film Festival Diary Day Seven Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Curious about the reimagined 2021 Sundance Film Festival? Read my festival diaries. You’ll feel like you’re walking along virtual Main Street.

Themes of class, gender, politics, lift the documentary’ Writing with Fire,’ the story of women reporters in India.

The reimagined Sundance Film Festival wraps on day seven this year. It’s a calendar response to the virtual panels, screenings, and talks that would ordinarily occur onsite throughout Park City, Utah. Outside of satellite screenings at makeshift drive-ins across the United States, Sundance programming is virtual this year. As a virtual attendee, I’m excited to share that Sundance’s XR transformation is a great success, from the custom digital platform for premieres and talks to the networking opportunities via daily Artist Meetups. I know that many entertainment and media pros value the exclusive perks of being in Park City. If you’re at Sundance, taking a meeting at the WME Lounge, it’s a sign of creative talent and worth. The reimagined Sundance Film Festival transforms showbiz exclusivity into inclusivity with affordable costs of entry and accessible programs. I’m excited for the next steps in Sundance’s XR transformation.

What I’m Watching:

‘Writing with Fire’

Co-directors Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh tell the stories of Khabar Lahariya, India’s only newspaper run by Dalit or lower-caste women, in the compelling documentary ‘Writing with Fire.’ The women journalists of Khabar Lahariya write stories on social justice issues that directly impact poor Indians, from political corruption to unsafe working conditions and violent crimes towards women. Showing in the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, ‘Writing with Fire’ is a civic documentary that inspires audiences to follow in the footsteps of the women journalists of Khabar Lahariya and work towards equality and justice in their communities. Click here for my full review of ‘Writing with Fire.’

Sundance Festival Director Tabitha Jackson joins Kim Yutani, Director of Programming, for a lively chat to wrap the festival.

What I’m Learning:

Artistic Values Remain Priority at Reimagined Sundance.’

Sundance Festival Director Tabitha Jackson joins Kim Yutani, Director of Programming, for a wrap day addition to the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, a lively chat between the two festival leaders summarizing highlights from the previous week. Jackson and Yutani focus on talked-about films from the audience-friendly CODA, about the hearing teenage daughter of deaf adults, to Mother Schmuckers, a love it/hates its entry in the Midnight program. Virtual attendees focus on the festival’s digital spaces and XR tech. It’s noteworthy hearing Jackson and Yutani emphasize the real-time appearances of festival artists and the satellite screenings at film venues across the country. These physical footprints scattered throughout the digital programming make Sundance 2021 a hybrid community, and hybrid will continue to be the trend for future festivals.

“It (reimagined festival) worked more than we had any right to expect,” – Tabitha Jackson, Director, Sundance Film Festival

What’s New:

Instead of bonding like cabin mates at a 10-day summer camp, feature film jurors including Julie Dash, Cynthia Erivo, Hanya Yanagihara, Ashley Clark, Joshua Oppenheimer, Lana Wilson, Zeynep Atakan, Issac Julien, Daniela Vega, Kim Longinotto, Mohamed Said Ouma, and Jean Tsien work as a remote team. Instead of traveling across Park City in a tight pack, they embrace virtual work models to recognize the accomplishments of the 73 feature-length films of the 2021 Sundance Festival.

What’s the Same:

Patton Oswalt emcees a Sundance Film Festival awards ceremony featuring jurors presenting 24 prizes for feature filmmaking and seven for short films. Oswalt, a Sundance veteran, delivers a one-person show that wraps the festival with humor. Top awards got to audience favorites’ CODA’ and ‘Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)’ and edgier films like ‘Flee’ and ‘Hive.’

Behind the Screens:

Like many Sundance veterans, I head to SLC the morning after the awards ceremony to fly home and resume non-Sundance work. Members of the industry who stay an extra day have the opportunity to watch the jury prize and audience award winners. It’s a compelling perk, but most festival attendees are anxious to go.  A closing bonus of virtual Sundance is the opportunity to watch festival prize-winners throughout the final day from the comfort of your laptop, smartphone, or Smart TV. What did I watch on the last day of the Sundance Film Festival 2021? ‘CODA.’ ‘Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised).’ ‘Hive.’ ‘Writing with Fire.’ That’s a deep dive into high-quality storytelling.

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