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Video Remarks Open Sundance Festival For 2020

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Sundance Institute
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The Sundance Film Festival opened for 2020 on Jan. 23rd with a significant change in its format.   The festival announced it was not holding an Opening Day Press Conference.   

The opening press briefing, with Sundance founder Robert Redford and other Institute directors fielding questions from the media, has been a mainstay for about 30 years.    The annual event was first held at the Sundance Resort in Provo Canyon, then moved to the Egyptian Theatre on Main Street.

Instead, on Thursday the Institute issued a “Day One Press Kit,” which includes a letter from Redford, a fact sheet, statistics, festival schedules, and statements on video from Sundance organizers.

Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam said the festival is the perfect place to be at a tumultuous time in our culture.      

“As we head into an election year, freedom of the press, and freedom of expression more broadly, are facing very serious threats in the U.S. and around the world.    And when it comes to media and storytelling, audiences seemingly have infinite choices in what they consume.   And there is a lot of great work getting made.   But increasingly, content is being selected by only a handful of globally-dominant entities, and served up by algorithms designed to keep you watching.   So when choices about what to watch are made for people by forces that aren’t always visible and can’t be controlled, not only do we miss out on challenging ideas and great art—it’s dangerous.  This is a critical time for each of us to question why things are the way they are, to ask whose voices are being marginalized and why, to notice whose perspectives we aren’t seeing, and why not.”

This year’s festival is the last for John Cooper, after 30 years with Sundance  and the last 11 as Festival Director.    Cooper said it’s been an insane, exhilarating ride, and through many changes over the years, they have supported artists and new storytellers in the independent film community.       

“Through it all, the character of this community has remained consistent.  I find the same spirit here that I remember finding in 1990, a long time ago.  It’s the spirit of openness, of genuine affection, of each other and for the work, and dare I say, independence.  And it’s this spirit of generosity—these are the qualities that make Sundance different, that make it what it is.  And as we continue to change and evolve, let’s always remember to foster this spirit as it carries us forward.  The stories we’ve collected this year reflect what’s pre-occupying independent artists from around the world.  And their stories will go on at this festival and create a new wave of culture.”

Cooper is moving into a new position as Emeritus Director.

And Kim Yutani, Director of Programming, said that they received a record number of submissions this year, over 15,000 and she and her team of programmers sifted through them to create an exciting program.        

“Our programmers represent a broad swath of backgrounds.  And we all have different experiences, different tastes.   We’re looking at our submissions with varying points of view and perspective.    We respond to works individually, and that leads to some passionate conversations.  We approach program discussions with respect for each other, but also bearing in mind what kind of program we want to put together for the best festival possible, while curating a program that reflects the culture, the moment, and the state of global storytelling.”

Sundance organizers Kim Yutani, John Cooper and Keri Putnam, in videos released by the Sundance Institute.

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