The global pandemic has upended the film world in many ways, and film festivals were among the first to feel the heat. Held in late January, Sundance, North America’s most prestigious festival, just barely escaped the fate of festivals like the local Oxford Film Festival, which had to cancel their March screenings and scramble to mount an online presence as the economy collapsed around them. But Sundance will have no such luck in January 2021, when the epidemiological conditions will be worse than they were in the spring.
Like Indie Memphis, which had a very successful “online and outdoors” festival in October, Sundance has had time to observe and adapt to the new pandemic normal. In response, the festival is moving beyond its traditional Park City, Utah, home and taking its cutting-edge film slate to where people live.
“Even under these impossible circumstances, artists are still finding paths to make bold and vital work in whatever ways they can,” says Sundance festival director Tabitha Jackson. “So Sundance, as a festival of discovery, will bring that work to its first audiences in whatever ways we can. The core of our festival in the form of an online platform and socially distanced cinematic experiences is responsive to the pandemic and gives us the opportunity to reach new audiences, safely, where they are. And thanks to a constellation of independent cinema communities across the U.S., we are not putting on our festival alone. At the heart of all this is a belief in the power of coming together, and the desire to preserve what makes a festival unique — a collaborative spirit, a collective energy, and a celebration of the art, artists, and ideas that leave us changed.”
Sundance Film Festival director Tabitha Jackson
Indie Memphis is partnering with Sundance to bring festival screenings to the Malco Summer Drive-In, where the homegrown film arts organization anchored its 2020 festival. It’s not the first collaboration between the two festivals. Jackson gave the closing remarks at Indie Memphis’ 2020 Black Creators Forum.
“We are thrilled to be selected as a satellite partner for the Sundance Film Festival!” says Indie Memphis executive director Ryan Watt. “This is a special opportunity for the city of Memphis to take part in the most significant filmmaker-launching platform in the country. Our audience loved the Summer Drive-In during our recent film festival, and we are so grateful to Malco for making it available again for this special occasion.”
Sundance screenings will take place at the drive-in January 28th to Feb 3rd, with the exact lineup to be announced in the coming weeks. The Malco Summer Drive-In will join the ranks of venues across the country, including the Pasadena Rose Bowl, the Sidewalk Film Festival cinema in Birmingham, Alabama, and the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, that will host films. All 70 Sundance feature films will be streaming on their online platform, festival.sundance.org