SUNDANCE, UTAH – JANUARY 21: Sundance Film Festival Director of Programming, Kim Yutani speaks onstage during the 2023 Sundance Film Festival Directors Brunch at Sundance Mountain Resort on January 21, 2023 in Sundance, Utah. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)
By Katie Small
The scenic canyon road from Park City to Sundance Mountain Resort is surrounded by sweeping valley vistas and frozen lakes dotted with the colorful tents of ice fishers. On the morning of Saturday, January 21, a bright clear sky and brilliant sun shone down on glistening snow as buses full of filmmakers made their way up the mountain for the annual Directors Brunch.
The Brunch provided a calm space for filmmakers to chat and get to know each other, away from the hectic bustle of Park City. Directors connected over their shared experiences as creators, the films they hope to see during the Festival, and the excitement and intensity of the spotlight.
Kim Yutani, director of programming, kicked off the celebration with a land acknowledgement, followed by recognition of the Institute programming staff in attendance and the impressive work of this year’s filmmakers. “Our film directors are at the heart of the Festival and the heart of the Institute, and without you all sharing your bold and inspiring work, Sundance would not be where it is today,” Yutani said. “With our first in-person Festival in three years, we’re so grateful to be back on the mountain, especially grateful to all of you for joining us.”
Yutani handed the mic off to Joanna Vicente, who described her excitement for her first in-person Festival as the CEO of the Institute. “It’s been so incredible to be back together in-person,” Vicente said. “The past few years have brought extraordinary challenges along with opportunities, and we’ve seen filmmakers use both, to create work that challenges, inspires, provokes, moves, and questions. You play a critical role in making sense of our world – you take risks, tell stories without compromise, and create work that entertains and sparks conversation. Your work connects us with one another, reveals truths, and opens minds.”
Vicente explained that this year’s theme, ‘All Eyes on Independents,’ recognizes the power of gathering together to celebrate bold, risk-taking work that has the potential to spark essential dialogue. She then invited Institute board member Amy Redford to the stage for a keynote address to the filmmakers.
Redford imparted words of wisdom on behalf of her father, Sundance Institute founder Robert Redford. A filmmaker herself, she understands the work that goes into making a film, the excitement of premiering it at Sundance, and the challenging period of decision making as filmmakers navigate acquisition deals and distribution. “Here is my unsolicited advice: I invite all of you to take [a] pause,” Redford said. “You own this, you did it, no one can take that away. Here at Sundance, there is affirmation and possibility and hope — and there is also noise and cacophony to test your resolve. Just know that you hold the key. You hold your story,” she continued. “Trust your intuition and your insights, not only about your stories, but about the people you hand them to. Be as inquisitive about them as you are your characters.”
Redford then announced that all filmmakers from this year’s Festival will be the inaugural class of the Sundance Institute’s new Artist and Alumni Committee. “We will be asking you questions and inviting you in, so that we can hear from you and we can stay in touch,” she explained. “Filmmakers have their finger in the wind way before most of us, to show us the world we didn’t even know we had been living in, and will live in. You are our conceptual eyes and ears.”