Culture / Travel

Experiencing the Natural Beauty of the Sundance Film Festival From Afar

A Unique Year for the Influential Event Highlights Its True Artistic and Environmental Missions — and Brings Great Works Close to Home

BY // 01.25.21

While Instagram won’t be buzzing with snowy scenes from Sundance Film Festival in 2021, the unique year for the annual, independent event allows its true mission to shine. Sundance, first held in 1978, has become one of the most influential American festivals and a sacred tradition of Utah, but it was originally founded for two purposes: environmental preservation and the celebration of artistic freedom.

Instead of Park City’s Main Street buzzing with celebrities, the festival will go almost entirely virtual in 2021 — an online platform will host Sundance from January 28 through February 3. Although the event will look different this year, the integrity of it will be upheld through the work of the Sundance Institute, a nonprofit founded by Robert Redford, along with the festival’s new director, Tabitha Jackson — the first woman and person of color to lead.

But a decade before the Sudance Film Festival even emerged, Redford purchased an area of land in the canyon (then known as Sundance) in the late 1960s, where he cultivated a community committed to concerving the balance of art and nature. Fast forward more than 50 years, and that piece of land (now Sundance Mountain Resort) still offers an atmosphere steeped in cultural heritage, a vital thread and connection point to the Festival. It also serves as an artist colony, where travelers can take a variety of in-studio classes, and has been raising environmental awareness for decades.

Redford recently sold Sundance Mountain Resort, but the integrity and spirit of its origins remain. Plans are underway to improve the infrastructure of the mountain, including the addition of ski runs and a high-speed lift. They will also expand both the guest and skier facilities, part of which will include the addition of a new day lodge. The sale to Broadreach Capital Partners and Cedar Capital Partners is a part of a long-term plan to build upon the resort’s legacy, but will help create an even more illustrious (but always remarkably laid back) retreat when traveling is safe once again.

The 2,600-acre resort includes 1,845 acres of land preserved through a conservation easement and protective covenants to preserve the land for future generations. Naturally, one of the many benefits of skiing at Sundance (another popular pastime that goes hand in hand with the Festival) is enjoying pure, uninterrupted and protected Utah nature. The resort also boasts the only mountaintop lodge in Utah, called Bearclaw Cabin. (Perfect for those looking to literally up their Instagram game.)

So though Sundance Film Festival won’t be bursting at the seems with in-person greetings and glamorous mountain party scenes, the very fiber and mission of the event remains in an unbreakable fashion.

Sundance Comes to Texas

The online offering features seven days of premieres, virtual events and artist talks, as well as cutting-edge XR exhibitions. The Festival organizers have also partnered with independent cinema communities across the U.S. and beyond to safely host in-person events.

Good news for Dallas residents (plus, Houston and Austin), as The Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff made the cut and will screen 13 of the Festival’s 70 featured films. Capacity is limited to 100 people, and the Theatre is following the CinemaSafe Guidelines that all movie houses across the country have adopted for indoor screenings. This includes plexiglass, hand sanitizer stations, touchless concession and box office transactions. There are drive-in options available as well, and all Sundance Film Festival details and ticket information can be found on The Texas Theatre’s website.

In Houston, five of the Festival’s most anticipated films will premiere at Moonstruck Drive-in Cinema at East River on January 31, February 1 and 2nd.

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