Sundance Film Festival’s director outlines vision for 2021 event

Tabitha Jackson. Photo Courtesy:

UTAH, June 29, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — Sundance Film Festival’s new director Tabitha Jackson outlined her vision for the 2021 event in a letter Monday.

“As we plan for our 2021 festival — my first in the director’s chair — and with submissions now open, I wanted to give you an early insight into how we are thinking,” she wrote. “This is not an announcement, but rather an invitation into the process of building something together this year. There are very few certainties in these uncertain times, but we are lucky to have as our North Star a well-defined and decades-long mission of championing the independent voice.”

The letter went on to say: “The 2021 Sundance Film Festival will be a grand partnership of communities. It will take place live in Utah and in at least 20 independent and community cinemas across the U.S. and beyond. Utah has been the home of the festival for close to 40 years and always will be, but the 2021 Festival will extend beyond Utah and will be co-created by and for different communities in different locations, preserving what is magical about experiencing films on the big screen with others — even if at a smaller and socially distanced scale.

“While the full program plays out in Utah, each of our partners will host a bespoke slate from the official selection alongside complementary programming of their own. Their communities acting as vibrant hubs of creativity, maker culture, and adventurous audiences. This plan acknowledges the vital role of the independent cinema network in our ecosystem. We are in exploratory discussions with cinemas from LA to Louisville, from New York to Nashville, from Austin to Atlanta, from Detroit to Denver, from Minneapolis to Mexico City — with many more to come.

“At the center of all our planning, the 2021 Sundance Film Festival will have an online home, making the festival accessible in a way it never has been before. Audiences will have the opportunity to view the curated program and take part in discussions and special live events online via a brand-new platform. This will be the nucleus of the festival, a showcase for a world of new work, and home to a global community of festivalgoers who will encounter the art, the artists, and each other. A one-stop point of access, designed to create a participatory experience which brings all the elements and locations of the festival together. It will center our values of engagement, inclusion, and entertainment, and connect artists with the first audiences as their work meets the world.”

Jackson also writes that organizers are building in flexibility, including a different start date than Jan. 28 “to provide some room between the U.S. presidential inauguration and the start of the festival.”

The letter added: “Our model intentionally allows us to dial up or dial down the live gatherings (especially in our Utah home) and festival length as conditions dictate. The structure as we are currently conceiving it will remain intact — a festival that for this year is live and digital and is co-created with partners. A festival that will serve our communities where they want to be, given conditions of pandemic and economy. A festival that is more than the sum of its parts, but whose parts are all driven by values and the opportunity to think a different thought.”

Jackson said that she also had a conversation with founder Robert Redford about the 2021 event.

“We spoke about our animating purpose, about the importance he places on gathering together in person, and about the role of art itself,” the letter said. “But it was this provocation that I found as profound in its generosity as it was liberating in its effect: ‘I invite you to think not just outside the box, but as if the box never existed.’

To read Jackson’s full letter, click here.


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