Sundance 2021 Will Go Online, Expand to Partner Cities

Credit: Sundance
We're seven months away from Sundance 2021. How is the festival going to be different this year?

What does the 2021 version of the renowned festival look like in the middle of a global pandemic and fight for civil rights? On Monday, June 29, Sundance Film Festival director Tabitha Jackson presented a vision for what that might be.

For anyone who's ever been on the ground at Sundance (and many other similar fests), it involves a lot of crowded spaces. You wait crushed together in chilly tents outside the Eccles, or pack into shuttle buses to make the next screening, or duck into a crowded cafe on Main Street just to get warm.

Obviously this is not going to be possible in a world affected by COVID-19.

Jackson acknowledges that currently, public gatherings are allowed in Utah, but the scope and approach of the fest will need to be greatly altered. For the first time ever, Sundance will go beyond Salt Lake City and Park City.

The festival will be not only in Utah but also "at least 20 independent and community cinemas across the U.S. and beyond," Jackson writes.

"Utah has been the home of the Festival for close to 40 years and always will be," Jackson writes, "but the 2021 Festival will extend beyond Utah and will be co-created by and for different communities in different locations, preserving what is magical about experiencing films on the big screen with others—even if at a smaller and socially distanced scale."

Utah will have the full slate, while each partner location will show a tailored selection of the official films along with independently selected programming.

Sundance will also have an online home.

"Audiences will have the opportunity to view the curated program and take part in discussions and special live events online via a brand-new platform," Jackson writes.

This online model has proven successful already this year. For instance, Oklahoma City's deadCenter Film Festival went almost entirely virtual this summer and got a special nod from Martin Scorsese. Austin's SXSW was less fortunate, forced to cancel literally the week before the fest. They scrambled to put their programming online, with mixed reactions.

What do you think of Sundance's plans for a more sprawling version of their festival? Let us know in the comments!

Jackson took over as festival director in February 2020. Read the full release on the Sundance website    

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