Arts and Culture

Viewing a 2021 Sundance Film Festival motion picture won’t require travel to Utah next month.

On Wednesday, the nonprofit behind the annual independent film festival, Sundance Institute, announced its plans for the seven-day event, running Jan. 28 – Feb. 3. The “meet audiences where they are” approach in light of COVID-19 and pandemic-related travel restrictions will include screenings via Sundance’s “custom-designed online platform, alongside drive-ins, independent arthouses and a network of local community partnerships,” according to a press release

In Kentucky, Louisville’s Speed Art Museum has signed on as one of the community partners, aka “satellite screens,” hosting Sundance Film Festival screenings Jan. 28 – Feb. 1.

“Receiving this recognition to partner with the Sundance Film Festival helps to raise the national profile of the Speed Cinema,” Dean Otto, the Speed’s curator of film, said in a press release from the museum. “I’m thrilled about this opportunity and looking forward to sharing some exciting film premieres in 2021.”

Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

The Speed Art Museum on April 2, 2020.

The annual event is considered one of the most prestigious film festivals in the U.S., a place where indie filmmakers can get their big break. Past breakout hits from the festival have included the 2004 indie comedy “Napoleon Dynamite,” the 2006 dramedy “Little Miss Sunshine” and Jordan Peele’s dark comedic horror film “Get Out” in 2017.

The museum release said screenings will be in the Speed Cinema and the museum’s Grand Hall “to allow for distancing of audience members.” 

“Capacity will be determined taking into consideration recommendations by both state health officials and the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].”

Details on which films will be screened at the Speed and how to buy tickets for the screenings will be released to the public Jan. 7.

“These partners are the backbone of independent artistic communities across the country, where filmmakers are born and cinephiles are developed,” said Tabitha Jackson, Sundance’s festival director. “We’re entering these partnerships because a healthy ecosystem for artists and audiences requires that independent cinemas across the country survive and thrive.”

Jackson, who is in her first year in this role, said it was important to find a way to carry on with the festival and acknowledge how “even under these impossible circumstances artists are still finding paths to make bold and vital work in whatever ways they can.”

The 2021 festival will debut each of its 70-plus selected films on its digital platform on a specific day and time, followed by a live Q&A, a format “designed to preserve the energy of a festival,” Sundance’s release said. 

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts Reporter.