New movies dance their way to the big screen at Sundance


The Sundance Film Festival takes place in Park City, Utah each January. In 2017, buyers invested in many new and exciting movies including Casting JonBenet and Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower.

Molly Schiff, Contributing Writer

The Sundance Film Festival is an event dedicated to showing movies each January in Park City, Utah.  Each year thousands of people submit their films hoping to be featured in one of the nine theaters occupied by the festival for ten days.

The amount of films submitted reached an all-time high of 13,053 this year, but only 181 films were screened.  That’s not even two percent of the applicants.

“It must be so hard to get featured in Sundance.  Getting in seems like a huge accomplishment,” said sophomore Samantha Viel.

The Sundance Film Festival was founded in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1978 by Sterling Van Wagenen, John Earle, and Cirina Hampton Catania.

Its purpose was to draw more attention to Utah by attracting filmmakers.  In the festival’s first year, the founders played many films, most notably Deliverance, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Midnight Cowboy.  The goal was to show American-made films and films from industries outside of Hollywood.

The festival was moved to Park City in 1981 when the Sundance Institute took over the event.

The company also changed the time of the event from September to January, and made the official name Sundance Film Festival in 1991 after Robert Redford’s character from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

“My dad thought that the history behind Sundance was very interesting and made the event that much more fun to be at,” said sophomore Ryan Siegel.

Each year at Sundance, many different films are displayed.  They must be independently produced, giving everyone an equal opportunity to be featured at America’s most prominent film festival.

Gaining a spot on the big screen at Sundance greatly increases the chances of having a film bought by the distribution arm of a studio, such as Fox Searchlight, or an independent distributor, like A24.  Netflix and Amazon also recently started acquiring some of their films directly from Sundance.  Having a film shown at Sundance could be a one-way ticket to fame.

“It’s so cool how someone who isn’t even part of a professional studio can become famous because of Sundance. Having an equal opportunity, even if you aren’t as well-known, is amazing,” said sophomore Jessica Mark.

This year, most of the movies shown had a very strong focus on the environment.  These included the highly anticipated An Inconvenient Sequel, Al Gore’s follow-up to An Inconvenient Truth, and the return of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, which came back for a special twenty fifth anniversary screening.

Since the US improved relations with Cuba, Sundance decided to screen a number of stories from Cuba.  “Made in Cuba” was even created as a subgenre of the Special Events category.

This year at Sundance, many inspiring movies were purchased for very surprising prices.  Casting JonBenet was the first purchase of the year, going to Netflix.   It is a documentary of a six-year old American beauty queen, explaining how her Colorado hometown background with crime and mythologies shaped attitudes and behavior of the towns inhabitants.  Netflix picked up one of the more inspiring documentaries of the festival.

Another exciting film snagged by Netflix was Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower.  This Joe Piscatella film is about a teenager who is also a fierce political activist willing to fight anyone, even the Chinese regiment, for what he believes in.

“Netflix got some very inspiring films.  I can’t wait to watch them when they get added,” said sophomore Kayla McElroy.

Netflix acquired a whopping eleven movies from the festival, more than any other company.   Mudbound cost Netflix approximately 12.5 million dollars.

That is a lot of money for just one film, but because of its story and following it will make more people want to subscribe to Netflix.  It is set in World War II and has a central theme of friendship.   Every film acquired by Netflix will go on to better the company as a whole.

“Netflix is like the powerhouse of all online television,” said sophomore Sarabeth Schiff.

The 2017 Sundance Film Festival was a huge success, with many movie companies making some amazing purchases that audiences everywhere will soon be able to watch.  A Sundance movie marathon is right around the corner.