Sundance expands borders, could reach Mexico in 2021

Held annually in the snowy heights of Utah, the Sundance Film Festival expands beyond the mountains.

Sundance, the premier independent film festival, will not move from Park City. But on Monday, organizers said films selected for next year’s edition will also be shown in at least 20 other cities, radically expanding its reach and connecting the event with local communities.

A selection of Sundance films will be screened simultaneously in independent and community theaters around the United States and other countries. Organizers said they are in talks with theaters in New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, Atlanta, Detroit and Mexico City, among many others.

This is one of the many plans for Sundance, which this year is preparing a different festival due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event, which usually gathers thousands in local buses, bars and cinemas in the middle of winter (and influenza season), is reviewing what it will be like if the protocols of social distancing are maintained by January 2021.

Like other festivals, Sundance hopes to cover the physical and virtual world. In addition to national expansion, it is preparing a more robust digital offering. Last week, the Toronto International Film Festival unveiled plans for a small event in September. Others, such as the Cannes Film Festival in May, the Tribeca Film Festival in April, and the SXSW in March, were forced to cancel due to COVID-19, although each preserved some components online.

Tabitha Jackson, the new director of the Sundance festival, said the new circumstances give the festival an opportunity to extend its reach and improve its accessibility. That, she said, is especially important for a festival dedicated to launching new voices in the cinema and expanding inclusion.

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“Every day reminds us of the power of what is newly visible to us, the importance of what we see,” Jackson said in a message to his staff. “I hope that this edition of the Sundance Film Festival, through the variety of perspectives that artists and audiences have in their different communities, we can also feel the power of the place where we are.”

Jackson stressed the need to be flexible. That, he said, includes potentially postponing the start of the festival for a week, until January 28, so as not to coincide with the date of the inauguration of the US presidency, January 20.

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