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Sundance Film Festival returns home

Incoming Sundance Film Festival Director Eugene Hernandez, CEO Joana Vicente, director of programming Kim Yutani, and senior programmer John Nein.
Parker Malatesta
Incoming Sundance Film Festival Director Eugene Hernandez, CEO Joana Vicente, director of programming Kim Yutani, and senior programmer John Nein.

Sundance leaders held a press conference on Main Street Thursday to kick off the first film festival in Park City in two years.

Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente is attending her first festival in Park City since being appointed to the leadership role last year.

After two years of virtual festivals, she said she’s excited to experience the magic of being together in-person.

“I mean I feel that in a way, like film festivals are more important than ever," Vicente said.

"Because they create this space where we come together to celebrate film, to discover new voices, and to have those moments of being surprised. Of going into a screening that you know nothing about, and that’s usually the things that kind of shake you, and transform you, and make you sing.”

Vicente said the institute wants to attract younger and more diverse audiences. She added that they’re excited to continue streaming movies online in an effort to make the festival program more accessible. Vicente also said they’re excited to lean more into the Salt Lake City market.

At the event, the panel introduced an additional feature film in this year’s program. Doug Liman’s documentary debut “Justice,” which focuses on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual abuse scandal, will have its world premier at the Park Avenue Theater Friday night.

Sundance Director of Programming Kim Yutani said she hopes the film will add a new perspective to the national news story that exploded in 2018.

“It’s a very powerful documentary that we felt was important to add,” Yutani said. “We saw it practically yesterday, and it’s a film that I think challenges existing narratives. I think it asks tough questions and I think it also promotes conversation, which we hope all of our films and program do.” 

Liman directed the Vince Vaughn comedy “Swingers” and the Tom Cruise action thriller “Edge of Tomorrow.”

With that add-on, the festival’s full slate now includes a total of 111 feature films from 28 countries.

Sundance Senior Programmer John Nein said he hopes audiences at the 39th annual festival focus on directors taking storytelling to a new level.

“What strikes me is the tremendous sort of vitality and originality the storytellers have put into pushing the form," Nein said.

"And sort of finding ways to infuse their work with narrative and poetic energy in a way that makes them distinctive. I hope that’s what people talk about.” 

Nein highlighted recent additions to the program including a documentary about NBA star Steph Curry, and another doc titled “Beyond Utopia,” which follows families as they attempt to flee North Korea.

To stay up to date with Sundance, visit festival.sundance.org