This time last year, I wrote to share some early thoughts about how we were approaching my first Sundance Film Festival as director — and the first Sundance to be held in the midst of a pandemic.
Since 1985, artists and audiences have gathered at the Festival to affirm the transformative power of independent film and media. And for all of those years, the Festival took place in our home state of Utah… until 2021, when we came together not in a place but in a moment, from places all around the world.
The 2021 Festival unfolded online and through Satellite Screens across the country. Bold, distinctive, expressive works met their first audiences. There were breakout hits and beautiful discoveries — and to our relief, people showed up! Last year’s Festival welcomed more young people and more people who had never been able to participate before. There was nothing “virtual” about the connections forged in the New Frontier space or the shared experience of watching films that have stayed with us ever since; all of this was real.
In other words: It was Sundance, in a new form.
Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels in the Great Basin Desert, Utah. | Photo by Heath
In six months’ time, we will have completed another trip around the sun. So much has already happened in the course of that journey: a year of immense loss, a year of births and possibilities, a year of fires and floods, a year in which extraordinary work has been created. As we celebrate the new possibilities sparked by last year’s Festival and navigate the ongoing realities of this pandemic, we are planning how to come back together to make meaning through art and ideas.
In January 2022, the Sundance Film Festival will be the site of a new convergence.
We are delighted that the community can once again make the annual pilgrimage back to the Festival in Utah, and we also invite audiences to join us online from wherever they are. In that spirit, I want to share some details that may help shape your plans:
- Submissions are closed, and we are building the program. The 2022 Festival program will be larger than last year’s, but we will maintain a tight focus (somewhere in the realm of 80 features). All official feature film selections will play both in person and online. We will hold in-person screenings in Park City, Salt Lake City, and at the Sundance Mountain Resort. As always, films will premiere in the opening half of the Festival, which this year will be from Thursday, January 20, through Tuesday, January 25, 2022, with additional screenings to follow through the end of the Festival. Online premieres will follow the in-person premieres, using our custom-built online platform that was home to last year’s festival. Awards will be announced on Friday, January 28, leading to a final weekend of award-winner screenings in person and online.
- Health and safety is paramount. As we plan for the 2022 Festival, one of our most important considerations is how best to safely bring together artists, audiences, volunteers, and staff from around the world. As part of our commitment to this community, we will be requiring all participants attending the Festival, or Sundance-affiliated events, in person in Utah to be fully vaccinated. We are providing this information now to ensure that all in-person participants feel comfortable attending, and can adjust their travel plans if needed. We will share our full details and processes for health precautions closer to the Festival, including theater capacity along with information on mask-wearing. We will continue to assess other elements of health and safety protocols regularly and in accordance with best practices.
- We’ll keep connecting local communities across the country. Regional cinemas and arts organizations and their audiences are a crucial part of independent filmmaking, and we are grateful for the new possibilities that have come from our partnerships with Satellite Screens. The 2022 Festival will continue the program we launched in 2021, working with up to 10 partners across the United States to connect directly with local audiences and artists. Each Satellite Screen will show selections from the Festival’s official program during closing weekend: Friday, January 28, through Sunday, January 30, 2022.
The soul of Sundance has always been in the coming together of a community: around new voices, new work, new forms, and new perspectives. During last year’s Festival, even when denied the chance to gather in a single place, the power of converging in a single moment was undeniable. We were able to expand the possibility of who could take part. And as we prepare for 2022, we remain committed to this invitation to new audiences.
It’s no coincidence that our festival bursts into life at the beginning of each new year. It is a time for new beginnings, to reflect on what has been, and to imagine what might come to be. We have taken this journey around the sun 37 times since 1985, and this ritual repetition, this annual pilgrimage, has only served to affirm the urgency, vitality, and expressive power of independent film and media. By fiercely holding space for independent perspectives and media created outside the mainstream market, we as a community can spark new narratives, protect bold critiques of power, and deepen our understanding of what is possible. It has never been more essential.
So, as we complete one orbit around the brightest star and prepare to begin another, let’s ask ourselves: What will be illuminated this coming year? What new possibilities will be revealed? How will this convergence change the nature of our trajectory in ways that we have not yet imagined?
For the bold, the curious, the independent-minded everywhere, I’m looking forward to seeing you in Utah and beyond in 2022.