2019 Sundance Film Festival Guide
Salt Lake City―Beginning January 24th, filmmakers and film lovers from around the world will descend upon Salt Lake City, Park City, and Sundance Mountain Resort for the 10-day Sundance Film Festival. One of Utah Film Commission’s top priorities is to ensure that locals can take advantage of the festival experience that takes place every January in their backyard.
“Sundance Film Festival is a world-renowned event that happens in our backyard. There are so many ways to experience the festival as a local – through film, music, VR or just fabulous people watching,” said Virginia Pearce, director of Utah Film Commission. “The state of Utah is a proud supporter of the Festival and we want to help locals of all ages take advantage of what the Festival has to offer.”
Utah Film Commission will be at the Festival Co-op at 608 Main Street during the Festival. The venue is free, open to the public, and will highlight the Utah Film Tour, which showcases the classic film locations in Utah.
Here are some tips and tricks to navigate the 2019 Sundance Film Festival – including a list of films with content that is appropriate for a broader audience.
Free Screenings for Utah Locals
Townie Tuesday is offered to Summit County residents the first Tuesday of the Festival, January 29 at the Redstone Cinemas (7pm) and Library Center Theatre (9pm). If planning to attend, you need to be 18 years or older and make sure to bring your ID as proof of residence. You can request your ticket through eWaitlist two hours before the screening time.
Best of Fest brings some of the award-winning films to Utah locals through free screenings in Park City, Salt Lake City, and Sundance Mountain Resort on Monday, February 4, the day after the Festival. If planning to attend, make sure to bring your Utah ID as proof of residence and request your ticket through eWaitlist two hours before the screening time.
Bring the Kids
Sundance Film Festival partners with the Utah Film Center to create the special category just for families. The whole family can enjoy watching a Festival film at these age-appropriate and feel-good film screenings.
ABE (ages 12+)
The Israeli Jewish side of his family calls him Avram. The Palestinian Muslim side Ibrahim. His first-generation American agnostic lawyer parents call him Abraham. But the 12-year-old kid from Brooklyn who loves food and cooking prefers, well, Abe. Just Abe.
The Witch Hunters (ages 8+)
Ten-year-old Jovan often escapes reality by immersing himself in a fantasy world. This all changes when he befriends his new classmate Milica, and the adventure to hunt her “witch” stepmother starts.
The Elephant Queen (ages 8+)
Athena is a mother who will do everything in her power to protect her herd. When they are forced to leave their water hole, they embark on an epic journey across the African savanna in a tale of love, loss, and coming home.
For 20 years running, ASCAP Music Café will return to Park City, Utah to bring your new favorite music to the Sundance Film Festival. Artists include Lakeith Stanfield, Madison Cunningham, Crys Matthews, and many more.
Throughout the Festival, there will be a variety of panels taking place that will invite audiences into the discussion of storytelling. The various panel programs include Power of Story, Cinema Café, New Frontier Panels, Festival Panels, and Partner Panels. There is something available for everyone. Please note that most of the panels are open to credentials holders and public as space permits, but the two Power of Story panels require a ticket.
New Frontier exhibition at the Sundance Film Festival showcases emerging media storytelling, multi-media installations, performances, and films. This year, New Frontier projects will be housed at New Frontier at The Ray and New Frontier Central in Park City. Please note that New Frontier Central is open to credentials holders and public as space permits, and the New Frontier at the Ray requires a ticket.
Don’t have tickets? No problem. The Sundance Film Festival 2019 app provides access to the online eWaitlist. All you need to do is log into the app 2 hours before a film will begin to receive an eWaitlist number. Each screening with open seats will sell tickets to the eWaitlist based on availability. It’s a great way to see films without purchasing tickets in advance.
Leave the Car
Driving in Park City can be challenging during the Festival – parking is scarce and the roads tend to be icy. If you’re driving to Park City, leave your car at one of the parking lots and use the free shuttles – they are an amazing resource to utilize. Free parking is available the Ecker Hill Park and Ride (2500 Kilby Rd., off the Jeremy Ranch exit from I-80) and the Richardson Flat Park and Ride (off of the Kearns Blvd. exit from Hwy. 40) each offering free shuttle service to select locations throughout Park City.
This list of films have been curated for a wider audience. You can see the whole program and longer descriptions at sundance.org
This year’s call-to-action films highlight documentary subjects that inspire change and create awareness surrounding various social and political issues.
Always In Season (Documentary)
When 17-year-old Lennon Lacy is found hanging from a swing set in rural North Carolina in 2014, his mother’s search for justice and reconciliation begins, as the trauma of more than a century of lynching African Americans bleeds into the present.
A psychiatrist makes rounds in ERs, jails, and homeless camps to tell intimate stories behind one of the greatest social crises of our time. A personal and intense journey into the world of the seriously mentally ill.
Midnight Traveler (Documentary)
When the Taliban puts a bounty on Afghan director Hassan Fazili’s head, he is forced to flee with his wife and two young daughters. Capturing their uncertain journey, Fazili shows firsthand the dangers facing refugees seeking asylum and the love shared by a family on the run.
Sea of Shadows (Documentary)
The vaquita, the world’s smallest whale, is nearing extinction as its habitat is destroyed by Mexican cartels and the Chinese Mafia, who harvest the totoaba fish, the “cocaine of the sea.” Environmental activists, the Mexican navy, and undercover investigators are fighting back against this illegal multimillion-dollar business.
Cultural Exploration Films:
Travel around the world and become immersed in conflicts faced by nomadic beekeepers in Europe to insurgent candidates across the United States.
American Factory (Documentary)
In postindustrial Ohio, a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant and hires two thousand blue-collar Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America.
Gaza brings us into a unique place beyond the reach of television news reports to reveal a world rich with eloquent and resilient characters, offering us a cinematic and enriching portrait of a people attempting to lead meaningful lives against the rubble of perennial conflict.
When nomadic beekeepers break Honeyland’s basic rule (take half of the honey, but leave half to the bees), the last female bee-hunter in Europe must save the bees and restore natural balance.
Knock Down the House (Documentary)
A young bartender in the Bronx, a coal miner’s daughter in West Virginia, a grieving mother in Nevada, and a registered nurse in Missouri build a movement of insurgent candidates challenging powerful incumbents in Congress. One of their races will become the most shocking political upset in recent American history.
In a small agricultural town in the Florida Everglades, hopes for the future are concentrated on the youth. Four teens face heartbreak and participate in the rituals of an extraordinary senior year.
Become inspired by historical figures both unknown and known in a mix of fiction and non-fiction films.
Ask Dr. Ruth (Documentary)
A documentary portrait chronicling the incredible life of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a Holocaust survivor who became America’s most famous sex therapist. As her 90th birthday approaches, Dr. Ruth revisits her painful past and her career at the forefront of the sexual revolution.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
Against all the odds, a 13-year-old boy in Malawi invents an unconventional way to save his family and village from famine. Based on the true story of William Kamkwamba.
The incredible, against-all-odds story of sailor Tracy Edwards, who skippered the first all-female international crew in the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Race.
Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen (Documentary)
An intimate portrayal of pioneering filmmaker Merata Mita told through the eyes of her children. Using hours of archive footage, some never before seen, her youngest child discovers the filmmaker he never knew and shares with the world the mother he lost.
Words From a Bear (Documentary)
A visual journey into the mind and soul of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Navarro Scott Momaday, relating each written line to his unique Native American experience representing ancestry, place, and oral history.
Be prepared to sit on the edge of your seat while watching these narrative feature films.
Years of carrying out executions has taken a toll on prison warden Bernadine Williams. As she prepares to execute another death-row inmate, she confronts the psychological and emotional demons her job creates, which ultimately connect her to the man she is sanctioned to kill.
A ragtag group of undocumented youth (Dreamers) deliberately get detained by border patrol in order to infiltrate a shadowy, for-profit detention center.
The Biggest Little Farm
Two dreamers and a dog embark on an odyssey to bring harmony to their lives and the land. As their plan takes a series of wild turns, they will have to reach a far greater understanding of the intricacies and wisdom of both nature and life itself.
After discovering a disturbing video from a night she doesn’t remember, 16-year-old Mandy must try to figure out what happened and how to navigate the escalating fallout.