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The Sundance Film Festival

Related: film festival - USA

Long known as a celebration of the new and the unexpected, the Sundance Film Festival puts forward the best in independent film from the U.S. and from around the world. Each year, the Festival draws 30,000 people from 27 countries and presents a ten-day program of more than 200 films to an audience of directors, writers, producers, actors, film aficionados, and industry leaders. Highlights from the 2004 Sundance Film Festival were the award-winning films DIG!, Primer, Maria Full of Grace, and Down to the Bone, and the critically acclaimed films Control Room, Napoleon Dynamite, The Motorcycle Diaries, Super Size Me, Tarnation, and Garden State.


The Sundance Film Festival is arguably now the leading film festival in the United States, and ranks amongst the top five events of its type in the world. Held annually in Park City, Utah, the festival is the premiere showcase for new work from American and international independent filmmakers. The festival comprises competitive sections for American and independent dramatic and documentary films, and a group of non-competitive showcase sections, including the Sundance Online Film Festival.

The festival was started in 1978 as the Utah/US Film Festival in an effort to attract more filmmakers to Utah. At the time, the main focus of the event was to present a series of retrospective films and filmmaker panel discussions; however it also included a small program of films made outside the Hollywood system.

The festival may well have ended up being nothing more than a small, regional event, but two key factors helped push it down the road to greatness. The first of these was the involvement of actor Robert Redford who, at the time, was one of the biggest movie stars in the world. Redford was a local Utah resident and became the festival's inaugural chairman of the board, and having his name associated with the festival allowed it to garner a great deal more attention that it may otherwise have been able to achieve on its own.

The second factor was the festival's move from September to January; in other words, from summer to winter. The move was reportedly on the advice of Hollywood director Sydney Pollack, who suggested that running a film festival in a ski resort during winter would result in "Hollywood beating down the door to attend."

Management of the festival was taken over by the Sundance Institute, a non-profit organization, in 1985, and in 1991 the festival was official renamed the Sundance Film Festival. Many famous independent filmmakers, including Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, and Jim Jarmusch had their big break at the festival. The festival is also responsible for bringing wider attention to films such as The Blair Witch Project, El Mariachi, Clerks, and sex, lies, and videotape. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundance_Film_Festival [Oct 2004]

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