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The Importance of the Indie Genre: Sundance Film Festival

By Laura Brack and Sydney Russ in Arts & Culture

The Sundance Film festival returned to Utah on January 21st to showcase another year’s worth of indie films to an audience filled with film enthusiasts.

The Sundance Festival has a well-established history, beginning in 1978, and finally returning again in 2016 to Utah from January 21-31. Many came from all over the US to enjoy the premiered films. These pictures are always chosen carefully, with thousands of submissions every year.

“They've got relatively well known cast members, but up and coming directors and screenwriters, which is always an interesting combination,” said aspiring filmmaker and Boulder High School student Maya Caulfield about a few premiers at the event.

The crowd, including Caufield, was subject to varying types of films, from the dramatic to the downright silly.

Some of the films, including “Dark Night” and “The Birth of a Nation”, provide social commentaries on sources of conflict in today’s society. Others, like “The Chickening”, embody the humorous aspect that makes the festival so well-accredited with the masses and critics alike.

Each film is independently directed and shot, with no affiliation to any big Hollywood producers. For those aspiring to be in the business, the ride up is always difficult with Hollywood’s need to satisfy big ticket films over the more risky business of more original titles.

That’s why the event is especially important for those like Caufield. The festival has been the starting ground for many aspiring filmmakers. Wes Anderson, the Coen Brothers, and Quentin Tarantino all began their film careers with entries in Sundance.

“Indie films will always be a stepping stone,” said Caulfield, “but I don't think it's a bad thing to move on. A bigger budget can help you realize your vision more fully.”

Submissions total in above 12,000 per year. The competition is stiff, but it provides an initiative for independent filmmakers to reach a larger audience.

At the end of the festival, the films are pitted against each other in the final awards ceremony. It contains categories for every kind of film. Animation, documentaries, and all varieties of short films are considered carefully for each category. The three most well known awards are the U.S. Grand Jury Prize, The Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic, and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. dramatic.

This year, one of the most anticipated films, “Swiss Army Man”, a comedy-drama starring the renowned Daniel Radcliffe, won the Direction award for dramas. “The Birth of a Nation” took the U.S. Grand Jury Prize, with the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award going to “Morris from America".

The awards aren’t the only important part. The rest of the festival has the possibility to be just as inspirational for event-goers. Other popular attractions include the Filmmakers Lodge, which allows anyone to have conversations with the writers and directors of the films.

“Seeing one of those panels last year inspired me towards my current career path,” said Caulfield.

Events like the Sundance Film Festival are important for the film industry. They provide a chance for indie film creators to be recognized as well as inspiring students like Caufield to go for a career in the filmmaking business.

Even more than the chance to get popular, they give a fresh perspective on filmmaking with productions that are allowed to stray from Hollywood’s constraints. The Sundance Film Festival and events leave the door open for

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