With less than two months until Day One, the Sundance Institute announced new hires on its programming team, as well as new initiatives to enhance the support for independent storytellers and broaden access to the festival.
The 2019 Festival will showcase work drawn from over 14,200 submissions, a record high.
Kim Yutani, the festival’s recently-named director of programming, said that “this year’s record-breaking number of submissions are phenomenally strong: we’re invigorated and inspired by the work we’ve been seeing.”
He added that the “incredible and growing programming team has refined our curation processes, ensuring that the conversations we have as we programme continue to centre, as always, on a festival that represents a wide range of filmmakers and on-screen experiences. We’re also continually evolving our process to incorporate data and research findings.”
The new hires mentioned by Yutani include expanding and refining the programming and screener teams, with an eye towards fresh perspectives and varied decision-making voices. Dilcia Barrera joins as programmer; Stephanie Owens as associate programmer; Sudeep Sharma as shorts programmer and Ana Souza (formerly a programming coordinator) is promoted to manager, programming-associate programmer. Including these new additions, women comprise half of the Sundance Film Festival programming team. Tabitha Jackson, director of the Institute’s Documentary Film Programme, will programme a strand of panels under programmer John Nein.
This year’s festival will include a forum for exciting talent from the institute’s signature artist development labs and programmes in order to present new work to industry attendees, alongside a special artist-only programme of keynotes, screenings, gatherings and seminars. From 29-31 January, the Sundance Institute Talent Forum will feature some of the most promising storytellers from across the institute’s various disciplines, ready for the next step with their careers or projects. This new, highly curated, invitation-only programme aims to create a signature experience for artists and industry alike.
Similarly, the institute’s media relations team is collaborating closely with other organisations and festivals to expand the ranks of attending critics, as well as renovating its own processes. For the first time ever, applicants for currently-underway press accreditation are being asked to provide demographic information. The team has announced that it is committed to allocating a minimum of 20% of top-tier press passes to critics from underrepresented communities—that is, women, people of colour, LGBTQIA+ people, and people with disabilities—in order to enrich the critical discourse around films showcased at the festival.
Furthermore, the festival has also vowed to also deepen the qualitative experience for the press, ensuring that new applicants, who may be covering the festival for the first time, can best navigate accreditation, attendance, and reporting.
The Sundance Film Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most ground-breaking films of the past three decades, including Sorry to Bother You; Won’t You Be My Neighbour?; Eighth Grade; Get Out; The Big Sick; Mudbound; Beasts of the Southern Wild; Fruitvale Station; Whiplash, Brooklyn; Precious; The Cove; Little Miss Sunshine; An Inconvenient Truth; Napoleon Dynamite; Hedwig and the Angry Inch; Reservoir Dogs and Sex, Lies, and Videotape.
The Festival is a programme of the non-profit Sundance Institute.
Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, the Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organisation that provides and preserves space for artists in film, theatre, and new media to create and thrive. The Institute’s signature labs, grants, and mentorship programmes, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the US and globally. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programmes connect audiences to artists in igniting new ideas, discover original voices, and build a community dedicated to independent storytelling.