Kim Yutani, John Nein, and Dilcia Barrera at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. ©2020 Sundance Institute | Photo by Michael Loccisano
By Virginia Yapp
Over the years, the Sundance Film Festival programming team has curated some unforgettable lineups in Park City, sifting through thousands of entries every Festival season and melding their unique personal tastes to bring audiences the latest and greatest from visionary new voices as well as established auteurs from all over the world. The lengthy process of picking the films that eventually populate the Festival’s final program — from the genre-fueled Midnight to the form-defying galaxy of New Frontier — begins every summer with an open call for submissions.
This year’s call opened in June, and with early deadlines quickly approaching, we wanted to take a moment to introduce you to this year’s programming team. Under the leadership of Tabitha Jackson (returning for her second year as Festival director) and Kim Yutani (our director of programming), this year’s team welcomes Basil Tsiokos, who has joined as a senior programmer, alongside Ash Hoyle and Éva Williams, both of whom join as associate programmers (in addition to their previous roles at the Institute).
To give you a sense of who they are, where they’re from, and what has shaped their own cinematic language, we asked them to share their personal perfect double features and talk about the arthouse theaters that mean the most to them. Read on to meet the 2022 Sundance Film Festival programming team, and don’t forget to take a look at the upcoming submission deadlines.
Role: Director, Sundance Film Festival; I’ve been at the Institute for 7.5 years (and am serving as Festival director for the second year).
Perfect Double Feature: The heartbreaking simplicity of I Think This Is The Closest to How the Footage Looked (2012, Yuval Hameiri and Michal Vaknin), followed by Nostalgia for the Light (2010, Patricio Guzman) — life, love, loss, poetry, metaphor, and meaning. These two cinematic gifts are virtuosic in scale, and profound reflections on the power of looking. NO POPCORN. (I am choosing a short and a feature so you have time to get a drink and a snack afterward and google “saudade.”)
Favorite Arthouse Theater: The Scala, Kings Cross (RIP), a delicious and transgressive awakening to some shocking all-nighters.
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Role: Director of programming at the Sundance Film Festival; I’ve been with the Festival since I started programming shorts in 2006.
Perfect Double Feature: Any film by Céline Sciamma followed by Spy (2015, Paul Feig).
Favorite Arthouse Theater: My neighborhood Laemmle Theatre in Pasadena, the Playhouse 7.
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Role: Senior programmer (focusing on American narrative fiction and NEXT), and chief curator of New Frontier; I joined the Festival as staff in 1998.
Perfect Double Feature: THE (ART) oF BE(i)NG by J.B Ghuman Jr. and (antiquated) Augmented Reality by Christine Marie. Those films blew my mind always into the future, past, and twisted my body inside out.
Favorite Arthouse Theater: Bagdad Theater & Pub in Portland, Oregon.
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Role: Senior Programmer & Director of Strategic Initiatives, Sundance Film Festival; I’ve been with the Festival since 2003.
Perfect Double Feature: Wendy and Lucy (2008, Kelly Reichardt) and Umberto D. (1952, Vittorio De Sica). Who doesn’t love dogs?
Favorite Arthouse Theater: Of the many great arthouses, I’d go with the Sequoia Theatre in Mill Valley just because it’s where, as a teenager, I saw almost every movie that made me fall in love with movies, at least those of the arthouse, international, and independent variety. And because it was originally a movie palace, so it has the “still standing” thing going for it.
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Role: Senior short film programmer since 2001.
Perfect Double Feature: O’er the Land (2008, Deborah Stratman) and Park Lanes (2015, Kevin Jerome Everson).
Favorite Arthouse Theater: The Loft Cinema in Tucson, where I worked in the ’90s and still visit as much as I can.
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Role: Senior programmer focusing on U.S. Narrative Fiction, NEXT, Midnight, and Episodic. I’ve been here for almost 12 years. I became the assistant to the director of Programming in 2009.
Perfect Double Feature: Old Joy (2006, Kelly Reichardt), The Rider (2017, Chloé Zhao), Leave No Trace (2018, Debra Granik). My cheater triple-feature picks are all subdued yet deeply moving portraits of masculinity and the Pacific Northwest from three of the best working filmmakers.
Favorite Arthouse Theater: Inwood Theatre in Dallas, Texas, was my only option growing up. It smelled like old sweaty popcorn and Coke-soaked carpet, but I have so many memories of life-changing experiences seeing films there, like The Blair Witch Project (1999, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez) and Run Lola Run (1999, Tom Tykwer).
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Role: Senior programmer (focusing in documentary features); as a senior programmer, I just started at the end of June, but I’ve been affiliated with the Festival as a programming associate since 2005.
Perfect Double Feature: For narrative fiction, any 1950s to early 1960s Hitchcock — maybe To Catch a Thief (1955, Alfred Hitchcock) and North by Northwest (1959, Alfred Hitchcock). For nonfiction, Grey Gardens (1975; David Maysles, Albert Maysles, Ellen Hovde, Muffie Meyer) and Paris Is Burning (1990, Jennie Livingston).
Favorite Arthouse Theater: San Francisco’s Castro Theatre — I spent the greater part of the year between undergraduate and graduate school in SF’s cinemas, and I loved any chance to watch films at this historic picture palace.
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Role: Senior programmer (focusing on everything narrative fiction, including the U.S. and World Dramatic Competitions, NEXT, Midnight, and shorts); I started as a reader for the Feature Film Program in 2004, as a screener for the Festival in 2005, and have been full time in the programming department since 2010.
Perfect Double Feature: Inside (2007, Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo) followed by Aliens (1986, James Cameron).
Favorite Arthouse Theater: With shoutouts to my hometown Cabot Street Cinema and my current hometown’s terrific Nuart Theatre, I have to say that my favorite arthouse moviegoing experience was at the beautiful Astor Theatre in St. Kilda, Melbourne, Australia. It’s absolutely stunning.
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Role: Feature Film Programmer focusing on fiction, episodics/series and Offscreen, the curation of festival talks and conversations. I’ve been working for the programming department since 2007 when I was hired as an intern.
Perfect Double Feature: Excited to see a double feature of Stranger than Paradise (1984, Jim Jarmusch) and Sundance 2021’s El Planeta by Amalia Ulman.
Favorite Arthouse Theater: I loved LACMA’s Bing Theater (RIP). I grew up in LA and spent so much time there as a kid, but I also worked for the LACMA film department for over 4 years. Now I am excited for Vidiots to open in Eagle Rock!
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Role: Senior manager, Festival programming, and programmer (Midnight, general narrative fiction features, and episodic content); I joined the Festival in July 2005.
Perfect Double Feature: Probably the Wim Wenders films Wings of Desire (1987, Wim Wenders) and Faraway, So Close! (1993, Wim Wenders), just because I love the world he created across those two films and I still watch them both back-to-back more than any other cinematic pairing.
Favorite Arthouse Theater: I’m partial to the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville, Tennessee, because of the general facilities and thriving independent film community they serve in the area.
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Role: Programmer (focusing on documentary); I started in this role summer 2019, but I was a shorts programmer for the 2019 Festival, an associate programmer (documentaries) for the 2013–2015 Festivals, and a programming associate and screener for a few years before that, starting for the 2009 Festival.
Perfect Double Feature: Escape from New York (1981, John Carpenter) and Escape from L.A. (1996, John Carpenter) — welcome to the human race!
Favorite Arthouse Theater: The James Bridges Theater at UCLA. Not sure if this counts as an arthouse theater in the traditional sense, but it’s where I saw films that changed my life. Nearly every day there was something playing there, new and old, rare and familiar, for classes, UCLA archival programming, and private commercial screenings, frequently on film (and in the super-rare cases, nitrate!). It was a type of theatrical experience I feel lucky to have had.
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Role: Programmer and manager of the Programming Department, focusing on fiction films, including U.S. and World Dramatic Competitions, Premieres, Midnight, and NEXT. I’ve been with the Festival for six years this November, though I volunteered for a few years before becoming staff.
Perfect Double Feature: Back to the Future (1985, Robert Zemeckis) followed by Run Lola Run (1998, Tom Twyker) for a good night of mind-warping time-travel. 🙂
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Role: Feature film programmer (focusing on U.S. and world documentaries) at the Festival for two years.
Perfect Double Feature: In the Mood for Love (2000, Wong Kar-wai) and Cold War (2018, Paweł Pawlikowski). Doomed love affairs never looked and sounded so good… For docs, Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley and The Mole Agent by Maite Alberdi. Two brilliant filmmakers, two very different films that (in my head) are perfect together.
Favorite Arthouse Theater: There are so many! The one I miss the most since moving to LA: Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, NYC.
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Role: Associate features and shorts programmer, coordinator to the director of programming; I’ve been with the Festival for three years.
Perfect Double Feature: Daisies (1966, Věra Chytilová) and Heathers (1989, Michael Lehmann).
Favorite Arthouse Theater: The Bryn Mawr Film Institute in Pennsylvania — I most recently attended a midnight screening of The Shining there with my grandparents.
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Role: Associate programmer and Festival coordinator, New Frontier; I started working for New Frontier in 2017.
Perfect Double Feature: Marshmallow Laser Feast’s Sweet Dreams (Sundance 2019) and Tender Claws’ Virtual Virtual Reality (2017) for an existential romp through the most joyful dystopias ever rendered in virtual reality.
Favorite Arthouse Theater: The Museum of Other Realities — not a physical destination; you’ll have to put on a VR headset in order to find your way here
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Role: Short film programmer since 2010.
Perfect Double Feature: Victoria (2015, Sebastian Schipper) >> Run Lola Run (1998, Tom Twyker). Berlin, drama, adrenaline, danger, techno, radical vision and technical prowess!
Favorite Arthouse Theater: The Cameo Cinema in Edinburgh, UK — the place I discovered independent cinema.
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Role: Short film programmer since 2009.
Perfect Double Feature: This might sound insane, but Being John Malkovich (1999, Spike Jonze) and Bo Burnham: Inside (2021, Bo Burnham) were the perfect pair for me recently. Both full of longing and frustration, but also a sense of mischief and joy that you can’t help but be inspired by.
Favorite Arthouse Theater: The Egyptian in Seattle, now known as the SIFF Cinema Egyptian, is one of my favorite arthouse theaters. I’ll never forget seeing a midnight screening of Battle Royale there at the Seattle International Film Festival long, long ago.
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Role: Shorts programmer and associate director of the Indigenous Program; I’ve been with the Festival since 2013.
Perfect Double Feature: Close-Up (1990, Abbas Kiarostami) + By the Time It Gets Dark (2016, Anocha Suwichakornpong). The first time I ever saw Kiarostami’s film was a restoration of it at a festival, and it shifted my understanding of the possibilities of film and form. To double down on that, I’d follow it up with Suwichakornpong’s sophomore feature, which was the closest thing I’ve had to an out-of-body experience watching a film.
Favorite Arthouse Theater: The original Harkins Camelview in Phoenix. Growing up, Camelview was the venue that our local chain would play any foreign or independent films of note coming through town. I think I saw my first Todd Solondz film there, which I snuck into. Looking back, I associate that theater with my own early discoveries as a budding cinephile and this feeling of excitement that I was seeing stuff that I probably was too young to be watching.
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Role: Short film programmer. My Sundance journey began as an Feature Film Program intern in 2014. I later became assistant to the man/myth/legend John Cooper in 2017 and started programming shorts in 2018.
Perfect Double Feature: An homage to black love in America: Nothing But a Man (1964, Michael Roemer) followed by If Beale Street Could Talk (2018, Barry Jenkins).
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Role: Short film programmer since 2008.
Perfect Double Feature: Brazil (1985, Terry Gilliam) with The Hudsucker Proxy (1994, Joel and Ethan Coen), or The Getaway (1972, Sam Peckinpah) with Junior Bonner (1972, Sam Peckinpah).
Favorite Arthouse Theater: The Nuart Theatre in West LA. Having gone countless times since I was a small child, I just have way way too many formative memories of being exposed to independent and repertory cinema there, not to mention my first experiences with midnight movies. I’ll never forget seeing The Blair Witch Project there, waiting in a line that seemed to stretch for miles, or when a group of older kids let me tag along to a live The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And it’s right next to an incredible video store, CineFile. What could be better?
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Role: Associate programmer (specializing in shorts); the 2022 Festival will be my first rodeo as a programmer here, though I’ve previously screened shorts.
Perfect Double Feature: Eyes without a Face (1962, Georges Franju) and Holy Motors (2012, Leos Carax) — ah! Just “ah!” The connection between these two films is sooo meta. Separately, they’re each a wiiiild ride! Together, you have roughly 3.5 hours of fun existentialism. It’s great!
Favorite Arthouse Theater: IFC in the West Village, NYC. I have so many fond memories here, which include coffee and sandwiches (sorry, I snuck ’em in) while I spent my nights watching self-curated double features — their programming is . I’ve amassed a large collection of film postcards from their entry table, which also encouraged me to try quite a few new films. And I’ve spent too much time ogling the filmmaker T-shirts without ever buying them.