This year during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, amongst the corporate carpet bombing of branded swag up and down Main Street, there will be a venue for voices other than studio buzz machines, celebrity side projects and gossip columnists. While the exclusivity of the Sundance Film Festival has long fostered startup film fests to showcase other independent films alongside the star-studded lineup, this year brings a new kind of screening event to the cinephile maelstrom.
Filmmaker Donn "D.J." Viola was struck by the odds of inclusion in the coveted landmark independent film festival: Out of 11,700 entries, only 180 were chosen, 1.538%. Parallel to the Occupy Movement's empowering the bottom 99%, Viola sought to provide some kind of platform for the approximately 32 films made every day of the last year.
Going further, such a context could allow for more political films than might usually be included in the crop of Sundance selections. While Sundance has long been a strong supporter of environmental topics, the timeliness of a film festival is a unique challenge -- where the transformative Occupy Wall Street movement sprung up in October and swept the national discourse, the deadline for submissions to Sundance was in September.
Occupy Sundance will be a chance to watch movies covering the range of topics that have fed the Occupy movement: documentaries covering the Federal Reserve and Wall Street's incestuous ties, microfinance and social business, Citizens United and campaign reform, election integrity and voter suppression, media consolidation and broadcast activism, even the recent battle over public unions in Wisconsin. Going into a pivotal election year, these are issues that can't wait to submit to Sundance next year and hope to make the cut in 2013.
Viola asks, "What's the hardest thing to do at Sundance? See a movie. You have all these people who have come from all over, bundled up, packed into this small town, just to see movies, and everything is always sold out." In the meantime, Viola was discovering how hard it is just to get friends to watch a link to the short film he had poured his heart into, as people have become inundated with media to the point of meaninglessness. Bringing the overflow of quality content to the overflow of movie watchers in Park City seemed necessary.
And so Viola has set up a venue across from the Slamdance offices on Main Street at a restaurant where there will be a gallery of viewing stations to watch films from the Occupy Sundance collection. This offers another solution to the overwhelmed festival-goer -- the opportunity to see films at one's convenience. Some projected screenings of the timelier topics may be arranged, but as much as sharing films, the aim of Occupy Sundance is to facilitate connections and foster a temporary community. As the Occupy movement has brought thousands and thousands of people out from their insulated routines to discover like minds and organize, Occupy Sundance offers filmmakers, buyers, activists, and the uninitiated the chance to meet, learn about films and issues, and get the jump on how this medium will make a difference in 2012.
Occupy Sundance is open to those who show up, like the Occupy Movement. Filmmakers not attending but wishing to submit their films do not need to pay a fee, but do need to get their films in by January 17th. Visit the Occupy Sundance website for more info at www.occupysundance.com and follow on Twitter at @OccupySundance
Occupy Sundance will be at Cisero's Good Times Bar at the top of Main Street, across from the Slamdance offices, running Jan. 19 - Jan. 29th, from noon to 8 pm daily.
Follow John Wellington Ennis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/johnennis