photo by Sandria Miller
By Leigh Clouse
Now less than a month away, we are excited to welcome both new and returning artists to the Sundance Film Festival! Over its 40 years, a number of artists have been invited back to the Festival to present new work or restorations of previous work, and participate in talks and other Festival events. The upcoming 2024 Festival is no exception to that warm reunion. In anticipation of what is to come, travel back in time with us through photos from the archives highlighting a selection of these artists’ presence at past Festivals. Click on each photo to enlarge them.
Steven Soderbergh’s first feature, sex, lies, and videotape, premiered at the Festival in 1989, winning the inaugural Audience Award. It went on to become one of the most successful independent films of its time and screened again at the Festival in 2009. Soderbergh has attended the Festival several more times to screen the period murder mystery Kafka in 1992 and a rough cut of his film The Girlfriend Experience in 2009. He has discussed topics such as the future of independent cinema and indie TV on various panels. His latest film Presence, a thriller shot wholly in one location, will screen as part of the Premieres section at the 2024 Festival.
Steven Soderbergh at the 1989, 1992, and 2018 Festivals. 1989 & 1992 photos by Sandria Miller. 2018 photo by Stephen Speckman.
Richard Linklater is no stranger to the Sundance Film Festival. One of his first features, Slacker, premiered at the Festival in 1991, and he has been invited back many times to screen such films as Before Sunrise (1995), SubUrbia (1997), Waking Life (2001), Before Midnight (2013), and Boyhood (2014), among others.
A panelist for discussions revolving around financing independent film and the importance of giving space to original perspectives, Linklater also was a 1999 Dramatic Competition Juror. Two of his works will be shown at the 2024 Festival: God Save Texas: Hometown Prison, one of three pieces making up the God Save Texas anthology in the Episodic section, and Hit Man, which will screen in the Spotlight section.
Richard Linklater at the 1995, 1997, and 2016 Festivals. 1995 photo by John Schaefer. 1997 photo by Fred Hayes. 2016 photo by Stephen Speckman.
Making her first appearance at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival with her short Snake Feed, which received an honorable mention for short filmmaking, Debra Granik has since returned to screen her work at the Festival several more times. Her Sundance Institute–supported Down to the Bone, which was inspired by Snake Feed, won a Directing Award and a Special Jury Prize for Acting at the 2004 Festival, and her next feature film Winter’s Bone received the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize as well as the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award in 2010. Her film Leave No Trace screened at the 2018 Festival. Over the years, Granik has participated in various panels, discussing topics such as story development, collaboration, and adaptation. Two episodes of her new documentary series, Conbody VS Everybody, which focuses on a former inmate working to reestablish himself and help other formerly incarcerated people through the development of his own gym, will play the Festival as part of the Episodic section in January.
Debra Granik at the 2004, 2010, and 2018 Festivals. 2004 photo by Jesse Grant for WireImage. 2010 photo by Calvin Knight. 2018 photo by Stephen Speckman.
Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden
The filmmaking duo of Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden began making their mark at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004 with their short Gowanus, Brooklyn, which tells the story of an intrigued student investigating her teacher’s secret life. The film won a jury prize for short filmmaking, and it gave shape to their Institute-supported feature Half Nelson, which premiered at the 2006 Festival. Since then, several of Fleck and Boden’s other films have also played the Festival, including the nuanced sports film Sugar in 2008 and the gambling buddy comedy Mississippi Grind in 2015. Their new film, Freaky Tales, which features four interconnected, multi-genre stories taking place in 1980s Oakland, California, will screen as part of the 2024 Festival’s Premieres section.
Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden at the 2006, 2008, and 2015 Festivals. 2006 photo by Duffy-Marie Arnault for WireImage. 2008 photo by Fred Hayes for WireImage. 2015 photo by Chelsea Lauren.
Ramona S. Diaz
Ramona S. Diaz’s illuminating work documenting Filipino history and culture has been showcased several times throughout the years at the Festival. One of her first documentaries, Imelda, chronicling the life and work of Imelda Marcos (the wife of the nationalist president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos), screened at the Festival in 2004. It won an Excellence in Cinematography Award that year. Her next documentary to play the Festival, Motherland (2017) — a portrait of one the planet’s busiest maternity wards — won Diaz the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Commanding Vision. A Thousand Cuts, which premiered at the 2020 Festival, highlights Filipino journalists as they document the government-sanctioned drug war led by Rodrigo Duterte. In turn, Diaz served as a Documentary Competition Juror at the 2023 Festival. Her latest work, And So It Begins, a documentary companion piece to A Thousand Cuts, will screen in the 2024 Festival Premieres section.
Ramona S. Diaz at the 2004, 2017, and 2020 Festivals. 2004 photo by Jeff Vespa for WireImage. 2017 photo by Stephen Speckman. 2020 photo by Jovelle Tamayo
Director Dawn Porter has screened several of her documentaries at the Festival over the years, including the Institute-supported Gideon’s Army in 2013 as well as Trapped in 2016. Gideon’s Army, a look at the work and struggles of three public defenders, received an editing award, and a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking was given to Trapped for its focus on reproductive rights advocacy. In 2022, Porter served as a World Documentary Competition Juror. Her Luther Vandross documentary, Luther: Never Too Much, will screen in the Premieres section at the 2024 Festival.
Dawn Porter at the 2013, 2015, and 2016 Festivals. 2013 photo by Fred Hayes for WireImage. 2015 photo by Abbey Hoekzema. 2016 photo by Jemal Countess.
Singer and songwriter Andra Day took the stage at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival as part of the Celebration of Music in Film, an event that paid homage to Nina Simone that year in honor of the premiere of What Happened, Miss Simone? She sang at the 2017 Celebration of Music in Film as well. Day will make her Sundance acting debut at the 2024 Festival, co-starring in the feature film Exhibiting Forgiveness directed by filmmaker and painter Titus Kaphar, which will screen in the U.S. Dramatic Competition section.
Andra Day performing at the 2015 and 2016 Festivals. 2015 photo by Ryan Cobane. 2016 photo by Jerod Harris
After receiving support from Sundance Institute through various grants as well as participating in labs, Yance Ford’s documentary Strong Island premiered at the Festival in 2017. Focusing on the aftermath of their brother’s murder and an unjust justice system, Strong Island received a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Storytelling. Since then, Ford has served as a Documentary Competition Juror in 2019 and appeared in Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen, which screened at the 2020 Festival. Their new film, Power, which explores policing in the United States, will be screened in the Premieres section at the 2024 Festival.
Yance Ford at the 2017, 2019, and 2020 Festivals. 2017 photo by Ryan Kobane. 2019 photo by Jonathan Hickerson. 2020 photo by Jen Fairchild.