January 21 – Sundance Film Festival Begins

Posted on January 21, 2016

Starting today in Park City, Utah, the Sundance Film Festival is the largest independent film festival in the United States. It's a showcase for new works from filmmakers all around the world.

There are competitions for American filmmakers and separate ones for international filmmakers – with separate sections for feature-length films, short films, dramatic films, and documentaries.

This is the festival associated with actor / filmmaker Robert Redford and his company, Wildwood. The movie that made Redford a major star was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – and Redford played the Sundance Kid. Hence, the name. (The name became “Sundance” in 1991, about 13 years after the festival began. It used to be called the US Film Festival.)

The film festival was originally held in August of 1978, in Salt Lake City, and it was only for American-made films. Its goal was to attract more filmmaking to Utah. But, with Redford's association drawing lots of attention to the festival, with Hollywood giving a surprising amount of support to the festival, and with well-known filmmakers contributing to the festival's success, the festival grew quickly and was profitable almost from the very beginning.

In 1981 the venue was changed to Park City – a ski resort – in January – perfect ski time!

Now there are several hundred films in competition, out-of-competition sections and even smaller festivals springing up at the outskirts of Sundance, including Slamdance, Nodance, Slumdance, It-dance, X-dance, Tromadance, and so forth.

Some really famous directors got their first big break at Sundance, including Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino. Some films became famous because of Sundance, including Garden State, Napoleon Dynamite, and Little Miss Sunshine.

  • Here is a short video sharing bits-and-pieces from the award-winning “Shorts.” 

  • Here was last year's call from a filmmaker to find some cool people to feature in this year's film. Wonder who he ended up picking? 

  • Here is a short video about how to become a filmmaker. 

Also on this date:

Anniversary of the introduction of the smallpox vaccine

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