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Sundance programmers preview 2023 lineup, hybrid models

The Sundance Film Festival is returning to Park City with a recently announced lineup , including the latest feature from the director Nicole Holofcener and Ira Sachs, biodocumentary about Brooke Shields and Little Ricahrd, and adapted from Cat Person and Eileen.

Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente, Director of Programming Kim Yutani and Senior Programmer John Nein talk The Hollywood Reporter

on this year’s festival, from the COVID emergency to lessons learned from jihadi rehab centers .

Going into this year’s carnival, how did you guys make the hybrid model of the decision?

Vicente This appears to be a running problem. We have a digital festival for two years. We designed a hybrid festival last year, but eventually had to move online due to the rise of Omicron. We felt that while we had to prioritize personally, we also felt we couldn’t turn down the platform that proved to be very successful at Sundance. We’ve been able to put out incredible films, some of which have won Oscars. Digital platforms allow us to gain greater reach and provide more access to audiences who may not think Sundance is for them. This will be a very powerful product. I think there are nearly 29 movies in the program available for digital audiences.

Do filmmakers or distributors have any objections to digital?

VICENTE That’s why we have built-in flexibility. We don’t ask for digital screenings of premieres or spotlight films, so we have the opportunity to have a conversation about the right parts of the film. Also, what is the right way for a distributor to want to launch a movie.

COVID is in a different place than we were this time last year. But is there any world in the world that does not celebrate the festival in person?

VICENTE We definitely feel like we will be there in person. It’s very different; everyone has learned how to live with COVID and take the precautions everyone needs to take. Going or not going will be a personal choice. We also take some steps in terms of capacity or shielding if needed. We believe we will provide a very safe experience.

Are there any topics or narrative trends you noticed in this year’s submissions?

VICENTE Works always reflect the world we live in and the issues we grapple with, from the war in Ukraine, to the protests in Iran, to reproductive rights, to other women’s issues.

YUTANI The really important thing this year is watching Three Iranian-made films by women: Persian version

, Joonam , and Xie Da . Here are three incredibly personal stories from filmmakers that really speak to the urgency of the moment. Taken individually, they’re both incredible movies. Together, they started a broader conversation about what was happening to women globally, especially in Iran.

NEIN [The movie] also reflects a lot of diaspora stories.

Most of the films that entered the theatrical competition at this year’s festival were not released. Is that intentional?

YUTANI This is something we keep talking about while watching the movie. But it’s always about the balance of program content. There are movies that are released and there are movies that are looking for sales. Our role at Sundance is to look at where we are at any given moment and be able to adapt; to be a festival that reflects the work we see. But also hopefully [we can] use our platform to influence the direction of the industry.

NEIN Some exciting discoveries from the filmmakers are Films with distribution rights. In some cases, distributors are those who develop audiences for fresh, independent, director-driven sounds. I’m watching a movie like All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt

in competition in America, and it’s a solid, extraordinary poetic vision of a movie . [A29 is releasing a movie. ] In some cases, some works were not released. But in other cases, you see these distributors themselves taking risks for some of the work they put into the market. Film festivals provide the opportunity to screen these films.

VICENTE This is where people get together Good opportunity to reflect the state of the industry. With so many integrations, it’s important for us to contribute and provide a diverse ecosystem to bring in new voices.

Sundance has long been home to documentaries, but non-fiction is dominating Hollywood It has grown tenfold in recent years. Is there a corresponding increase in submitted documentation?

YUTANI Every year we have the same problem, we face the embarrassment of wealth, these documentaries look at it from an American point of view, but also from an international point of view. Especially on the international front, these numbers have been increasing over the years. I think a lot of that has to do with the success these films have had when they’ve been exposed in the US market and the awards we’ve shown for the films.

After screening at film festival last year, doc Jihad Rehab Caused a lot of conversation and criticism, from reps to ethical issues. What is your process for reviewing sensitive documentaries? Have you implemented any changes since responding to Jihad Rehab?

VICENTE We’re always learning, and we’ve learned a lot from the conversations that took place after the screening and the many perspectives on that film. Some things have been discussed for some time regarding the safety and responsibility of the subjects, so we have changed the way we ask these issues in the submission form. But, again, this was actually discussed before [Jihad Rehab

], but we implemented it this year. The festival is the perfect place to screen potentially risky and thought-provoking films. Part of what we do is spark conversations around important issues in the field and our time.

What has changed in the submission process?


We have added a question to the submission form asking film teams to explain their relationship to the subject and what their duty of care and subject safety plan is. These answers are really something that we bring into our programming process and discuss in depth.

Joanna, you mentioned consolidation and the state of the industry. Where does Sundance stand in the entertainment industry as it continues to experience turmoil post-COVID?

VICENTE We are a very important part of the ecosystem. Not just the work we do in supporting artists throughout the year, but this incredible film platform. Everything we do is centered around the artist’s work.

Sundance Film Festival in Park City in January 19 to 19, and other virtual products.



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