Sundance Film Festival

While the rest of the world is focused on that piece of theatre going on in Washington, this is Sundance, 2020, the year we all hope to see clearly. The films seem to cover the usual topics: women, the middle east, visionaries versus cutthroats, black filmmakers and films, LGBQT films, immigrants, young white professionals and their problems and coming up fast around the far turn are the elderly – you know, old people, so make that coming around the far turn slowly but steadily—and the problems of fading away gracefully, or fancifully, or just plain meanly.

Harlan Jacobson for WBGO News

Just as Hollywood drags 2018 way past the finish line with the Oscars set for Feb. 24 of this year, the Sundance Film Festival which closes this weekend kicks off the new year with 112 independent films, 56 of which compete in the US Dramatic and documentary categories, and World Dramatic and documentary competitions. 

Sundance was a minority mashup this year, pretty hip, and had the old white guys on the run. Here are titles to look for, fresh outta Sundance.

Crystal Moselle’s Skate Kitchen is almost the perfect Sundance film.

First, it is written, produced and directed by a woman—one of some 45 features at Sundance directed by women this year of the 120 spread out over nine main sections, including US and international feature and documentary competitions. Second, it’s characters and milieu are quintessentially young, mostly broke and minority born. Thirdly, it’s proudly no-budget.


2017 was, all in all, a good year for movies. The quest for the perfect too often drives out the arrival of the merely wonderful and good in parts. We’ve been hectored by the self-esteem tyrants that we are sublime creatures who deserve only the very best every second of the 24-hour day — in food, clothes, cars, beds, books (whatever they were), TV, and seats at spectacles, music, and movies. The demand for perfect self-offerings prevents us from appreciating what is merely wonderful and good in parts. We short change ourselves that way, particularly when it comes to film.

Harlan Jacobson
Susan Jacobson for WBGO

What a work of man Sundance is, namely Robert Redford. It’s his legacy, after all, far more than the Way We Were or All the President’s Men or that near-silent film he starred in, ALL IS LOST, as a sailor adrift at sea. The 33rd Sundance Film Festival wraps up this weekend.

If you stop thinking of film as art—the 7th art, in fact—which the majority of Americans don’t anyway—and think of it for a second as a product, Sundance didn’t invent the independent film. But it did find a way to make it a business.