There are many film festivals that take place all over the globe, but Sundance is something special. Taking in place in Utah it is the largest independent film festival in the country, and though it may be pretty nippy there in January, Sundance is full of hot new films that will soon be taking the world by storm.
The festival in responsible for giving many notable names their big breaks such as Quentin Tarantino with Reservoir Dogs where it premiered in 1992 subsequently being picked up for distribution by Miramax Films. Jim Jarmusch also first garnered major attention at Sundance with his film Stranger Than Paradise in 1985, it won the Special Jury Recognition Dramatic award after winning the Caméra d’Or at Cannes the previous year. It is also responsible for the rise of films such as Donnie Darko, Saw, Little Miss Sunshine, (500) Days of Summer and Napoleon Dynamite.
"Taking in place in Utah it is the largest independent film festival in the country, and though it may be pretty nippy there in January, Sundance is full of hot new films that will soon be taking the world by storm"
However, the big winner from the festival this year was the slave drama The Birth of a Nation, not to be confused with the intensely racist 1915 D. W. Griffith film of the same name, picking up the Grand Jury Price and Audience Award for the U.S. Dramatic category. Other films that have achieved this accolade include Fruitvale Station (2013), Whiplash (2014) and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015) who were all highly successful. The future of The Birth of a Nation looks equally rosy as Fox Searchlight paid out a whopping $17.5 million for the distribution rights, which is a Sundance record, and there are whispers of a 2017 Oscar run.
The winner of the Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Documentary this year was Weiner which focuses on the failed campaign and texting scandal of New York congressman Anthony Weiner. Previous winners include the acclaimed The Wolfpack (2015) which told the story of the Angulo brothers who were locked away from society in their New York City apartment by their parents. Rich Hill won the award in 2014 and focuses on three boys and their lives in an American town, this was similarly acclaimed.
It seems pretty clear that recognition at Sundance is valuable, with so many classics, and also new favourites, winning big after showing here it is hard to ignore. Sundance is a place of possibility where there is everything to win and almost nothing to lose. Even though the festival is mysterious and murky to most people, we should definitely keep an eye on the winners from this year. If they replicate the success of their predecessors it is quite possible that we will see them at awards ceremonies next year picking up the top awards. Or, perhaps we will be watching the very films themselves ten or twenty years from now. It is hard to say, but it is easy to say Sundance is special, it may be indie, but it is a powerhouse of cinema.