The Sundance Film Festival celebrates life after COVID

The Sundance Institute hosted a dinner honoring filmmaker Luca Guadagnino, Ryan Coogler, Nikyatu Jusu and W. Kamau Bell on Thursday night. There was a fundraising component to support the Institute’s work; Vicente said that these have been financially challenging years for the institute.

Chiwetal Ejiofor, from left, Rosalie Craig and Emilia Clarke appear in a scene from The Pod Generation, a film directed by Sophie Barthes.

Chiwetal Ejiofor, from left, Rosalie Craig and Emilia Clarke appear in a scene from The Pod Generation, a film directed by Sophie Barthes.Credit:AP

Sundance isn’t just a festival, after all. Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, the not-for-profit institute supports aspiring filmmakers year-round with labs, grants, and mentoring.

“The festival is this amazing platform to celebrate and share with the audience,” said Vicente. “But really, as Robert Redford says, the engine, the most important work we do, happens all year round.”

The filmmaker Sophie Barthes, whose film The Pod Generation among the firsts, traces her career back to the Sundance Institute. Their first short film debuted at the festival almost 20 years ago and marked the beginning of a relationship that has lasted to this day. Over the years she has participated in the Director’s Lab, the Composer’s Lab and the Writers’ Lab. It was here that she made her debut with her first feature film, cold soulswith Paul Giamatti, in 2009.

“I wouldn’t be here without Sundance,” Barthes said in a recent interview. “You have helped my career a lot. I had about 50 consultants, the best of the best in the business. It was like film school on steroids. It’s the best thing that can happen to a filmmaker because as soon as you join the family, they help and support you.”

The Pod Generation is a futuristic satire about a New York couple (played by Emilia Clarke and Chiwetel Ejiofor) who use an “artificial womb” to conceive. She didn’t want to explore such distant advances as artificial pregnancy and AI therapy, and explore ideas like distance parenting.

“It’s a satire about how we’ve lost so many of our instincts through this modern life that we’re trying to reinvent the wheel, and it’s going to be very funny,” Barthes said. “I find it really fun to research parenting psychology, especially in New York.”


She hopes the film will stimulate a debate about our relationship to technology. It will also be part of the Beyond Film talks taking place outside of theaters in Park City throughout the week. The themes range from the transition from television to film, with Air Stewardess Director Susanna Fogel des cat lover will premiere at the festival with Randall Park and Marlee Matlin. There will be talks about producing your first feature film and even Burnout with Majors, food writer Ruth Reichl and graphic novel writer Adrian Tomine. Many of the sponsors, from Acura to Adobe, are also hosting timely conversations about climate change in films, reclaiming transnarratives, building inclusive productions, and even getting into Sundance.

The festival has continuously developed in recent years. Although face-to-face was a priority, they also committed to a hybrid format. This year around 80 films will be available online for ticket holders. The digital package, Vicente said, sold out very quickly. “The last two years have been successful, but nothing can replace the personal experience of watching movies on the big screen,” Yutani said.

The Sundance Film Festival runs through January 29th.


Find out the next TV, streaming series and movies to add to your must-sees. Get The Watchlist delivered to you every Thursday. The Sundance Film Festival celebrates life after COVID

Jaclyn Diaz

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