2017 Sundance Film Festival: The 2017 Political Festival

The 2017 Sundance Film Festival, which took place from January 19-29th, 2017 at Park City, Utah, drew crowds from all of the world to witness world premieres of independent films and political movements such as The Women’s March, which took place on January 21st, 2017. There is a strong case that this year’s Festival was politically driven and trying to push a certain political agenda.

According to NoFilmSchool’s IndieFilmWeekly podcast hosted by Jon Fusco, Emily Buder, Oakley Anderson-Moore, and Liz Nord, there were 878 film screenings, 22 screens, 16 venues and 71 panels and music events at the festival as of January 26th, 2017. As for the films themselves, they were corresponding to the current aura of politics and tension in the United States and abroad in various conflicts: “… there was a lot of intrusion from the outside world this year and in that sense, the Festival became a little more progressive and politically minded to sort of match that tone” (Nord, Fusco, & Anderson-Moore 2017).

The Festival experienced a cyber-attack on January 21st which knocked the computer systems of the Box Office of the Festival out of commission for most of the day. The podcasters speculate, as many others have, that Russia was a possible candidate for the source of the hack due to several films that were critical of Russia (Nord, Fusco, & Anderson-Moore 2017). Even though those in attendance insisted that there was no political intention or leanings in the Festival, and if there were such tendencies towards politics, it was unintentional, it sure felt that the Festival was more politicized than previous years:

…the whole situations surrounding Sundance had a very political feeling, which was interesting that Jon mentioned in the press conference with Redford, where he said that it’s not a political festival… However, the festival’s programming suggested otherwise, “An Inconvenient Sequel”, Al Gore’s climate change documentary, and the sequel to “An Inconvenient Truth” was the opening night film. Every section of the program contained explicitly political films… almost every Q&A had a section ripped directly from CSPAN; the discourse on the ground was basically the question: is every film a political film? (Nord, Fusco, & Anderson-Moore 2017).

The issue of the political spectrum invading the film festival circuit is that the goers of said festival focus more on the politics surrounding the festival than the product of the festival themselves, which is the films. The films offer comment on the outside world, especially politics, and they should, but the issue of this is that it brings attention to a largely polarized conversation that is so opinionated and full of confirmation bias that it is better to stay out of the outside world when at film festivals like Sundance and go back to said world when it’s over.

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