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The 2022 Sundance Film Festival runs from Jan. 20 - 30, in Park City, Utah

Sundance and other Park City Festivals news, past and future.   #sundance @sundancefest


Sundance Diary: Spring Film Festival Highlights

Friday, January 26----The Sundance Film Festival is a busy event for the hundreds of US and international film festival programmers, promoters and administrators who must spend many hours in the dark sampling films in all the different Sundance categories. Not only is there pressure to view as many films as possible over the course of a hectic 10-day period, but the Festival is a golden opportunity to promote their event, network with distributors and filmmakers, and create a footprint of visibility in a very crowded festival field.

I had the chance to spend quality time with several film festival reps, who revealed plans for their upcoming events. Tearlach Hutcheson is a charismatic Aussie who has worked in the Dallas theatrical market for many years with the Landmark and Magnolia theater chains. Less than 4 weeks ago, he accepted a new challenge as Managing Director of the AFI Dallas International Film Festival, a debut festival to be held in The Big D from March 22 to April 1. The Festival will present a ten day program of international and independent films, which at over 200 screenings makes this debut event one of the largest festivals in the country.

Hutcheson is joined by long-time Dallas film guru Michael Cain who serves as the Festival's Artistic Director. Cain, a well known presence on the festival circuit, was spotted at innumerable Sundance press screenings and receptions, promoting the upcoming event. The Festival has raised an impressive $3.5 million budget, which is outstanding for a first-time effort. The link to the American Film Institute offers immediate international branding and communicates the quality approach to be taken in the programming and administration of the event.

"We see this as a cultural event to include all segments of the population of the city of Dallas", Hutcheson shared with me at an informal tete-a-tete in the lobby of the Yarrow Hotel earlier this week. "We will screen at such established arthouses as the Landmark Magnolia Theater and Angelika Film Centre, as well as have a base at Victory Plaza, where we will use the largest outdoor media screens in the country." With announcements of the film lineup set to be made in the next few weeks, Hutcheson confirmed that actress legend Lauren Bacall and Oscar-winning director Sydney Pollack will be honored at the event. To find out more about the Festival, log on to their website: AFI Dallas International Film Festival.

The Sarasota Film Festival, in only its 9th year, has become a major destination for filmmakers and industry professionals. The Festival will unspool in the city dubbed "Florida's cultural center" on the beautiful Gulf of Mexico on Florida's west coast, from April 13-22, 2007. The Festival's Managing Director Jody Kielbasa remains at the helm, after rumors earlier this year of his being wooed to head up a rival festival event. "I'm staying in Sarasota", Kielbasa told me at a meeting at the Delta Lounge on Main Street in Park City earlier this week. "I think that we are poised to make incredible strides in the next few years, and I wanted to be here to make that happen." The Festival has increased in visibility in the past few years, due to the addition of Tom Hall as Programming Director, and the Festival's mission to mix the stardust of Hollywood celebrities with the needs of independent filmmakers. "We are on a definite growth track", Kielbasa said proudly, "and I see great things on the horizon."

Aside from his year-round duties as the Festival's Managing Director, Kielbasa is also involved in the local film scene. He is one of the producers of THE DEAL, an international thriller currently in pre-production, to star Meg Ryan and William H. Macy, who is also co-producing.. There is substantial private capitalization from Sarasota investors in the project. Principal photography will begin in late March 2007 in Capetown, South Africa. "William H. Macy was a Festival honoree a few years ago and this project evolved out of the time he and his wife Felicity Huffman spent in Sarasota", Kielbasa recounted. "This project reinforces the fact that there are savvy investors in Sarasota and people who love cinema and are ready to invest in it."

Kielbasa and Hall will announce the Festival line-up in mid March. To get more information on submitting a film or attending the event, log on to the Festival's website: Sarasota Film Festival.

While Dallas and Sarasota are definite up-and-comers, another festival event is celebrating a historic anniversary this year. The San Francisco International Film Festival, to be held in the City by the Bay from April 26 to May 10, will mark its 50th anniversary this year, making it the first film festival in North or South America to reach this milestone (only Venice and Cannes are older).

The addition last year of Graham Leggat (formerly of New York's Film Society of Lincoln Center and Museum of Modern Art) to the post of Managing Director of the San Francisco Film Society has given the Festival and its year-round events a charismatic champion and a savvy industry insider with an impeccable reputation for quality and diversity. And the folks know how to throw a great party. The soiree last Monday, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Festival was, appropriate to San Francisco's historic Italian-American heritage, held at one of Park City's most expansive Italian restaurants. The venue was packed with industry insiders assembled to toast the International's half-centenary, as well as the 10th anniversary of film website Indiewire, who co-launched the website last year.

"We have a historic and moral obligation to knock everybody’s socks off”, Leggat gleefully announced. That means a lot of exciting events that will be tied to the Festival this year. Already announced are special award tributes to George Lucas (a Northern California institution) and an Opening Night Gala to be held in the historic beaux-art City Hall, with Mayor Gavin Newsom officiating.

At the soiree, Leggat announced a number of exciting new intiatives. The Festival will present the world premiere of FOG CITY MAVERICKS, directed by local filmmaker Gary Leva, at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre. The film is a loving tribute to the extraordinary cinematic achievements of San Francisco Bay Area filmmakers, including such supreme talents as Brad Bird, Bruce Conner, Carroll Ballard, Chris Columbus, Clint Eastwood, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, John Korty, John Lasseter, Phil Kaufman, Walter Murch, Sofia Coppola and Saul Zaentz. George Lucas and several fellow Fog City Mavericks will be on stage for the introduction of the film and take part in a Question and Answer session from the stage after the screening.

SFIFF 50 has also announced the launch of The International Online, an exciting new concept in the online presentation of Festival films, designed by the Film Society and Jaman, a premier online community for world cinema. The International Online will offer online screenings of a select group of Festival feature films at better-than-DVD quality. The films selected will be available worldwide for download to a limited number of viewers during an exclusive window of time following their SFIFF theatrical screenings.

“The groundbreaking partnership with Jaman enables us to give the San Francisco International Film Festival a truly radiant worldwide reach,” Leggat said in a prepared statement. “For the past 50 years, the International has been bringing the world to San Francisco. Now The International Online will bring our films and filmmakers to the world.” For more information on submitting a film or attending this year's milestone, log on to the Film Society's website: San Francisco Film Society.

Wow....the above events are making this writer's mouth water. I predict a busy March and April as these exciting film festival events raise the bar for quality film-going experiences. My advice? Be there, or be square.

Sandy Mandelberger
Sundance Online Dailies Editor


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