| ParkRecord.com

Did the coronavirus spread at Sundance? It’s possible, state epidemiologist says.

Could the coronavirus have been spreading in Park City during the Sundance Film Festival in January, several weeks before the first confirmed case in the area was diagnosed?

State epidemiologist Angela Dunn didn’t rule it out Wednesday after The Hollywood Reporter published an article detailing anecdotal accounts of several Sundance attendees in the film industry who said they became severely ill with symptoms of the disease during or shortly after the festival.

“It is definitely possible that COVID-19 was circulating at Sundance,” Dunn said during a press briefing.

With the pandemic still in its early stages when the festival began in late January, few Parkites and Sundance-goers were likely concerned about contracting the disease. The festival, bringing more than 100,000 people to Park City, kicked off two days before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed on Jan. 21 what it says was the first known case of the coronavirus in the U.S., involving a man in Washington state. 

Though there were not known cases in Utah at that time, Dunn said officials took some steps to guard against COVID-19 during the festival.

“Sundance seems like it was a really long time ago, but it was definitely at the beginning of this outbreak,” she said. “We worked really closely with the Sundance planners and Summit County to set up screening and education for all the Sundance-goers about symptoms. Because at that point, we hadn’t had any cases, and so we were really just monitoring for symptoms.”

It wasn’t until March 11 that the first known coronavirus case in Summit County was announced. The county soon became a hot spot for the virus, much like other mountain resort towns in the West that bring in droves of ski vacationers.

After a countywide stay-at-home order was put in place toward the end of March, the spread of the disease slowed, leading officials to lift the order May 1. As of Thursday, there have been 382 confirmed coronavirus cases in Summit County and no reported deaths.

It’s not uncommon for Sundance attendees to become sick during the festival, a result of the amount of handshaking and mingling that happens during the 11-day event, held each January during the traditional flu season.

The Sundance Institute said in a prepared statement that it is not aware of any confirmed cases of COVID-19 at this year’s festival.

“The health of our guests is very important to us so we’re very troubled by reports that any of our festival attendees were unwell either during or after our January edition,” the statement said.

The statement added that festival organizers continue to prepare for next year’s event, with an eye toward safety.

“As we plan for the 2021 Sundance Film Festival we are coordinating with health authorities at local, state and the federal level and considering all measures to ensure the safety of the Sundance community, including social distancing in theaters and other public spaces and increased sanitation practices.”

Dunn advised people who believe they may have contracted the coronavirus during Sundance to seek an antibody test through their health department or health provider. Antibody tests are used to determine whether someone has had the coronavirus, though health experts have said the accuracy of antibody tests varies.

“Other than that, there’s not a lot of interventions that would be useful to public health at this point,” she said.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with a statement from the Sundance Institute.

Sundance Institute serves up the 2020 film festival feature awards

After 10 days and 128 feature films, the 2020 Sundance Film Festival’s Awards Ceremony took place Saturday, with jurors presenting 28 prizes for feature filmmaking. Honorees, named in total below, represent new achievements in global independent storytelling. Bold, intimate, and humanizing stories prevailed across categories, with Grand Jury Prizes awarded to Minari (U.S. Dramatic), Boys State (U.S. Documentary), Epicentro (World Cinema Documentary) and Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness (World Cinema Dramatic).

“At Sundance, we believe art can break through noise and polarization. In volatile times like these, democracy and storytelling aren’t separate – they’re inextricably linked,” said Keri Putnam, Sundance Institute’s Executive Director. “Congratulations to each and every one of tonight’s winners, and to all the extraordinary artists who joined us at the Festival.

“As my final Festival as director comes to a close, it has been the honor of a lifetime to stand with these artists, and to see their work meet audiences for the first time,” said John Cooper, Sundance Film Festival Director.

Putnam also announced Tabitha Jackson as the incoming Director during the ceremony; that news release is available here.

The awards ceremony marked the culmination of the 2020 Festival, where 128 feature-length and 74 short films — selected from more than 15,100 submissions — were showcased in Park City, Salt Lake City and Sundance, Utah, alongside work in the Indie Episodic category, panels, music and New Frontier.

Steven Yeun appears in “Minari” by Lee Isaac Chung, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

This year’s jurors, invited in recognition of their accomplishments in the arts, technical craft and visionary storytelling, deliberated extensively before presenting awards from the stage; this year’s jurors were Rodrigo Garcia, Ethan Hawke, Dee Rees, Isabella Rossellini, Wash Westmoreland, Kimberly Reed, Rachel Rosen, Courtney Sexton, E. Chai Vasarhelyi, Noland Walker, Haifaa Al Mansour, Wagner Moura, Alba Rohrwacher, Eric Hynes, Rima Mismar, and Nanfu Wang. Gregg Araki was the sole NEXT juror.

Feature film award winners in previous years include: Clemency, One Child Nation, Honeyland, The Souvenir, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, I don’t feel at home in this world anymore., Weiner, Whiplash, Fruitvale Station, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Twenty Feet from Stardom, Searching for Sugarman, The Square, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Cartel Land, The Wolf Pack, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Dope, Dear White People, The Cove and Man on Wire.

Of the 28 prizes awarded tonight to 25 films – comprising the work of 29 filmmakers – 12 (48%) were directed by one or more women; 10 (40%) were directed by one or more people of color; and 2 (8%) were directed by a person who identifies as LGBTQ+.

2020 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL FEATURE FILM AWARDS

The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to: Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine, for Boys State / U.S.A. (Directors: Jesse Moss, Amanda McBaine, Producers: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss) — In an unusual experiment, a thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up.

The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to: Lee Isaac Chung, for Minari / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lee Isaac Chung, Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christina Oh) — David, a 7-year-old Korean-American boy, gets his life turned upside down when his father decides to move their family to rural Arkansas and start a farm in the mid-1980s, in this charming and unexpected take on the American Dream. Cast: Steven Yeun, Han Yeri, Youn Yuh Jung, Will Patton, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho.

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to: Hubert Sauper, for Epicentro / Austria, France, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Hubert Sauper, Producers: Martin Marquet, Daniel Marquet, Gabriele Kranzelbinder, Paolo Calamita) — Cuba is well known as a so-called time capsule. The place where the New World was discovered has become both a romantic vision and a warning. With ongoing global cultural and financial upheavals, large parts of the world could face a similar kind of existence.

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to: Massoud Bakhshi, for Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness / Iran, France, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg (Director and screenwriter: Massoud Bakhshi, Producers: Jacques Bidou, Marianne Dumoulin) — Maryam accidentally killed her husband Nasser and is sentenced to death. The only person who can save her is Mona, Nasser’s daughter. All Mona has to do is appear on a TV show and forgive Maryam. But forgiveness proves difficult when they are forced to relive the past. Cast: Sadaf Asgari, Behnaz Jafari, Babak Karimi, Fereshteh Sadr Orafaee, Forough Ghajebeglou, Fereshteh Hosseini.

The Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, Presented by Acura was presented to: Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht, for Crip Camp / U.S.A. (Directors: Nicole Newnham, Jim LeBrecht, Producers: Sara Bolder, Jim LeBrecht, Nicole Newnham) — Down the road from Woodstock in the early 1970s, a revolution blossomed in a ramshackle summer camp for disabled teenagers, transforming their young lives and igniting a landmark movement.

The Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic, Presented by Acura was presented to: Lee Isaac Chung, for Minari / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lee Isaac Chung, Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christina Oh) — David, a 7-year-old Korean-American boy, gets his life turned upside down when his father decides to move their family to rural Arkansas and start a farm in the mid-1980s, in this charming and unexpected take on the American Dream. Cast: Steven Yeun, Han Yeri, Youn Yuh Jung, Will Patton, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho.

The Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented to: Jerry Rothwell, for The Reason I Jump / United Kingdom (Director: Jerry Rothwell, Producers: Jeremy Dear, Stevie Lee, Al Morrow) — Based on the book by Naoki Higashida this immersive film explores the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people around the world.

The Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented to: Fernanda Valadez, for Identifying Features (Sin Señas Particulares) / Mexico, Spain (Director: Fernanda Valadez, Screenwriters: Fernanda Valadez, Astrid Rondero, Producers: Astrid Rondero, Fernanda Valadez, Jack Zagha, Yossy Zagha) ― Magdalena makes a journey to find her son, gone missing on his way to the Mexican border with the US. Her odyssey takes her to meet Miguel, a man recently deported from the U.S. They travel together, Magdalena looking for her son, and Miguel hoping to see his mother again. Cast: Mercedes Hernández, David Illescas, Juan Jesús Varela, Ana Laura Rodríguez, Laura Elena Ibarra, Xicoténcatl Ulloa.

The Audience Award: NEXT, Presented by Adobe was presented to: Heidi Ewing, for I Carry You With Me / U.S.A., Mexico (Director: Heidi Ewing, Screenwriters: Heidi Ewing, Alan Page Arriaga, Producers: Mynette Louie, Heidi Ewing) — An epic love story spanning decades is sparked by a chance encounter between two men in provincial Mexico. Based on a true story, ambition and societal pressure propel an aspiring chef to leave his soulmate and make the treacherous journey to New York, where life will never be the same. Cast: Armando Espitia, Christian Vázquez, Michelle Rodríguez, Ángeles Cruz, Arcelia Ramírez, Michelle González.

The Directing Award: U.S. Documentary was presented to: Garrett Bradley, for Time / U.S.A. (Director: Garrett Bradley, Producers: Lauren Domino, Kellen Quinn, Garrett Bradley) Fox Rich, indomitable matriarch and modern-day abolitionist, strives to keep her family together while fighting for the release of her incarcerated husband. An intimate, epic, and unconventional love story, filmed over two decades.

The Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented to: Radha Blank, for The 40-Year-Old Version / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Radha Blank, Producers: Lena Waithe, Jordan Fudge, Radha Blank, Inuka Bacote-Capiga, Jennifer Semler, Rishi Rajani) — A down-on-her-luck New York playwright decides to reinvent herself and salvage her artistic voice the only way she knows how: by becoming a rapper at age 40. Cast: Radha Blank, Peter Y. Kim, Oswin Benjamin, Reed Birney, Imani Lewis, TJ Atoms.

The Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented to: Iryna Tsilyk, for The Earth Is Blue as an Orange / Ukraine, Lithuania (Director: Iryna Tsilyk, Producers: Anna Kapustina, Giedrė Žickytė) — To cope with the daily trauma of living in a war zone, Anna and her children make a film together about their life among surreal surroundings.

The Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented to: Maïmouna Doucouré, for Cuties / France (Director and screenwriter: Maïmouna Doucouré, Producer: Zangro) — Amy, 11 years old, meets a group of dancers called “Cuties.” Fascinated, she initiates herself to a sensual dance, hoping to join their band and escape family dysfunction…Cast: Fathia Youssouf, Médina El Aidi-Azouni, Esther Gohourou, Ilanah Cami-Goursolas, Myriam Hamma, Maïmouna Gueye.

The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented to: Edson Oda, for Nine Days / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Edson Oda, Producers: Jason Michael Berman, Mette Marie Kongsved, Matthew Lindner, Laura Tunstall, Datari Turner) — In a house distant from the reality we know, a reclusive man interviews prospective candidates—personifications of human souls—for the privilege that he once had: to be born. Cast: Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Bill Skarsgård, Tony Hale, David Rysdahl. Dolby Institute Fellowship

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast was presented to: the cast of Charm City Kings, for Charm City Kings / U.S.A. (Director: Angel Manuel Soto, Screenwriters: Sherman Payne, Chris Boyd & Kirk Sullivan, Barry Jenkins, Producers: Caleeb Pinkett, Clarence Hammond, Marc Bienstock) — Mouse desperately wants to join The Midnight Clique, the infamous Baltimore dirt bike riders who rule the summertime streets. When Midnight’s leader, Blax, takes 14-year-old Mouse under his wing, Mouse soon finds himself torn between the straight-and-narrow and a road filled with fast money and violence. Cast: Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Meek Mill, Will Catlett, Teyonah Parris, Donielle Tremaine Hansley, Kezii Curtis.

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Auteur Filmmaking was presented to: Josephine Decker, for Shirley / U.S.A. (Director: Josephine Decker, Screenwriter: Sarah Gubbins, Producers: Christine Vachon, David Hinojosa, Sue Naegle, Sarah Gubbins, Jeffrey Soros, Simon Horsman) — A young couple moves in with the famed author, Shirley Jackson, and her Bennington College professor husband, Stanley Hyman, in the hope of starting a new life but instead find themselves fodder for a psycho-drama that inspires Shirley’s next novel. Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Michael Stuhlbarg, Odessa Young, Logan Lerman.

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Neo-Realism was presented to: Eliza Hittman, for Never Rarely Sometimes Always / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Eliza Hittman, Producers: Adele Romanski, Sara Murphy) — An intimate portrayal of two teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania. Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn and her cousin Skylar embark on a brave, fraught journey across state lines to New York City. Cast: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Théodore Pellerin, Ryan Eggold, Sharon Van Etten.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing was presented to: Tyler H. Walk, for Welcome to Chechnya / U.S.A. (Director: David France, Producers: Alice Henty, David France, Askold Kurov, Joy A. Tomchin) — This searing investigative work shadows a group of activists risking unimaginable peril to confront the ongoing anti-LGBTQ pogrom raging in the repressive and closed Russian republic. Unfettered access and a remarkable approach to protecting anonymity exposes this under-reported atrocity–and an extraordinary group of people confronting evil

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Innovation in Non-fiction Storytelling was presented to: Kirsten Johnson, for Dick Johnson Is Dead / U.S.A. (Director: Kirsten Johnson, Screenwriters: Nels Bangerter, Kirsten Johnson, Producers: Katy Chevigny, Marilyn Ness) — With this inventive portrait, a cameraperson seeks a way to keep her 86-year-old father alive forever. Utilizing moviemaking magic and her family’s dark humor, she celebrates Dr. Dick Johnson’s last years by staging fantasies of death and beyond. Together, dad and daughter confront the great inevitability awaiting us all.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker was presented to: Arthur Jones, for Feels Good Man / U.S.A. (Director: Arthur Jones, Producers: Giorgio Angelini, Caryn Capotosto, Aaron Wickenden) — When indie comic character Pepe the Frog becomes an unwitting icon of hate, his creator, artist Matt Furie, fights to bring Pepe back from the darkness and navigate America’s cultural divide.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking was presented to: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, and Eli Despres, for The Fight / U.S.A. (Directors: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, Producers: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, Maya Seidler, Peggy Drexler, Kerry Washington) — Inside the ACLU, a team of scrappy lawyers battle Trump’s historic assault on civil liberties. As the president separates families, blocks abortion access, expels transgender soldiers, and rolls back voting rights, these gutsy attorneys struggle to stop an unpredictable adversary with unlimited resources.

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting was presented to: Ben Whishaw, for Surge / United Kingdom (Director: Aneil Karia, Screenwriters: Rupert Jones, Rita Kalnejais, Producers: Julia Godzinskaya, Sophie Vickers) ― A man goes on a bold and reckless journey of self-liberation through London. After he robs a bank he releases a wilder version of himself, ultimately experiencing what it feels like to be alive. Cast: Ben Whishaw, Ellie Haddington, Ian Gelder, Jasmine Jobson.

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Visionary Filmmaking was presented to: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, for This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection / Lesotho, South Africa, Italy (Director and screenwriter: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, Producers: Cait Pansegrouw, Elias Ribeiro) — When her village is threatened with forced resettlement due to reservoir construction, an 80-year-old widow finds a new will to live and ignites the spirit of resilience within her community. In the final dramatic moments of her life, Mantoa’s legend is forged and made eternal. Cast: Mary Twala Mhlongo, Jerry Mofokeng Wa Makheta, Makhoala Ndebele, Tseko Monaheng, Siphiwe Nzima.

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Screenplay was presented to: Fernanda Valadez amd Astrid Rondero, for Identifying Features (Sin Señas Particulares) / Mexico, Spain (Director: Fernanda Valadez, Screenwriters: Fernanda Valadez, Astrid Rondero, Producers: Astrid Rondero, Fernanda Valadez, Jack Zagha, Yossy Zagha) ― Magdalena makes a journey to find her son, gone missing on his way to the Mexican border with the US. Her odyssey takes her to meet Miguel, a man recently deported from the U.S. They travel together, Magdalena looking for her son, and Miguel hoping to see his mother again. Cast: Mercedes Hernández, David Illescas, Juan Jesús Varela, Ana Laura Rodríguez, Laura Elena Ibarra, Xicoténcatl Ulloa.

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling was presented to: Benjamin Ree, for The Painter and the Thief / Norway (Director: Benjamin Ree, Producer: Ingvil Giske) — An artist befriends the drug addict and thief who stole her paintings. She becomes his closest ally when he is severely hurt in a car crash and needs full time care, even if her paintings are not found. But then the tables turn.

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography was presented to: Mircea Topoleanu and Radu Ciorniciuc, for Acasa, My Home / Romania, Germany, Finland (Director: Radu Ciorniciuc, Screenwriters: Lina Vdovii, Radu Ciorniciuc, Producer: Monica Lazurean-Gorgan) — In the wilderness of the Bucharest Delta, nine children and their parents lived in perfect harmony with nature for 20 years–until they are chased out and forced to adapt to life in the big city.

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing was presented to: Mila Aung-Thwin, Sam Soko, and Ryan Mullins, for Softie / Kenya (Director and screenwriter: Sam Soko, Producers: Toni Kamau, Sam Soko) — Boniface Mwangi is daring and audacious, and recognized as Kenya’s most provocative photojournalist. But as a father of three young children, these qualities create tremendous turmoil between him and his wife Njeri. When he wants to run for political office, he is forced to choose: country or family?

The NEXT Innovator Prize was presented to: Heidi Ewing, for I Carry You With Me / U.S.A., Mexico (Director: Heidi Ewing, Screenwriters: Heidi Ewing, Alan Page Arriaga, Producers: Mynette Louie, Heidi Ewing) — An epic love story spanning decades is sparked by a chance encounter between two men in provincial Mexico. Based on a true story, ambition and societal pressure propel an aspiring chef to leave his soulmate and make the treacherous journey to New York, where life will never be the same. Cast: Armando Espitia, Christian Vázquez, Michelle Rodríguez, Ángeles Cruz, Arcelia Ramírez, Michelle González.

Sundance Panel explored how artists can reshape politics through role-playing, live music and discussion

Live music and role playing set “How Can Artists Reshape Politics?” panel apart from other discussions at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Amelia Winger-Bearskin opened the panel, presented by For Freedoms, a collective of artists who explore ways of how to drive art and artists to the center of public discourse, with a Haudenosaunee, or Iriquois, flute invocation.

She made her way through the audience to the stage, where she set the tone by referencing a Wampum, the Iroquois Confederacy’s system of decentralized contracts, which contained the Great Law of Peace.

The Constitution is based on the Wampum, which set up the total equality of the sexes in voting and representation and no concept of slavery.

“(Instead) We have an agricultural system that benefits all who participated, and adding that to our economy brings justice,” Winger-Bearskin said.

The third concept of peace is making sure technological advances are sustainable and in harmony with the land the Iroquois steward, she said.

“When you take away these dependencies, you take away the possibility of peace,” she said.

The panel, which was moderated by Kamal Sinclair, executive director of the Guild of Future Architects, a nonprofit that strives to provide platforms for “enlightened cultural, social, economic and political systems,” examined the possibilities of what it would look like if artists found themselves at the forefront of the population’s political and civil lives.

After the invocation, the panel continued with a step into a hypothetical interview that was set in the year 2045.

Sharon Chang and Robert Sinclair of the Futurists’ Writers Room, a branch of the Guild of Future Architects, acted out the roles of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Gretchen Kanashiro and artist, digital historian and ethic maker, Luis Riviera.

The interview expounded on immigration policies, but also addressed sustainability, climate change and over consumerism, and not taking care of the earth for the new generations.

When the scene ended, Sinclair turned the microphone over to Hank Willis Thomas, Eric Gottesman and Michelle Woo from For Freedoms who talked about the group’s 50 State Initiative, a 2018 project that ended up as a partnership with 300 institutions and artists in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

“The goal is to (create) decentralized art actions in conversation with the current political climate,” Woo explained.

For Freedoms is planning to host its first national convening at the end of February in Los Angeles, where it will collectively build the first artist-designed political platform, she said.

“We plan to do this through artist-designed facilitated workshops and activities across three days,” Woo said.

The platform ties into the concept that art is politics, said Gottesman, as he read excerpts from Frederick Douglass’ 1869 speech, “The Composite Nation,” which was published during the Reconstruction era.

The speech talks of a country comprised of people of different races and creeds, and encourages people to think about the benefits of a diverse nation, and said the speech affected him in ways he hopes today’s ideas may affect future populations.

“Any speech, work of art, or film could help somebody a century later imagine a place for themselves within a society,” he said.

Other panelists included Baltimore-based multimedia artist Elissa Blount Moorhead and Los Angeles-based filmmaker Kahlil Joseph, who expanded Gottesman’s idea of affecting the future.

“Knowing artists create the future is a huge responsibility, but it’s also amazing to know that things I might make could influence how society thinks of itself,” Joseph said.

Moorhead, as an artist, doesn’t think of herself as an activist, but does see overlap in the two worlds.

“I really just spend a lot of time in my head and with creative people trying to think about how we can find ways to express ourselves and how we can interrupt the patriarchy in our lives,” she said. “I don’t think anything I create is a sort of an activist document, but sometimes if it lands that way because of what’s in our bodies or in our history, that’s great.”

The panel was also highlighted by a dance number by filmmaker Naima Ramos-Chapman, who performed a modern dance piece, and a monologue by Narcissister, a performance artist, who expressed her frustration about not being able to fully express herself because she was asked to cover parts of her body.

Sundance panel discusses building movements through film but takes an unexpected turn

Sundance Film Festival’s “Impact Nuts (and Bolts): Marketing, Movement Building and Meaningful Representation” panel and workshop held Monday at the Kimball Art Center started out on topic but took an unexpected turn.

Audience member Hermon Farahi, who was a co-producer of the 2019 Sundance documentary “Knock Down the House,” stood up during the middle of the panel and gave an emotional speech spurred by a clip of Adam Zucker’s “American Muslim,” a documentary in this year’s festival that follows five American Muslims living in New York City in the wake of the Trump administration’s travel ban.

Coincidentally, Monday was the third anniversary of the executive order that restricts immigration to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Farahi, whose father was from Iran and mother from South Korea, talked about why he decided to run for Congress in 2018 and how he got involved with “Knock Down the House,” which followed the congressional campaigns of four female Democrats — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin.

“At a time when we lost my father, the travel ban gets instituted, and my family members from Iran can’t even come here to visit to give their respects,” he said.

Farahi said the grief he felt pushed him to run for the Democratic nomination in Nevada’s third congressional district.

“I organized in my community, getting people around films, to have discussions,” he said.

After realizing he wouldn’t go far with his campaign if he didn’t have money, political connections or the cultural and social capital, Farahi made his own change.

“I put down the campaign and picked up the camera, thanks to (“Knock Down the House” director)Rachel Lears and an amazing team,” he said. “They empowered me to help tell that story. That work translated on screen into an Oscar-contending film and changed the world in many ways.”

Farahi ended his speech by saying, “This is all connected, and these are all great discussions to have, maybe at another panel.”

After Farahi talked, the panel, which moderator Sonya Childress indicated was going to “pull back the veil on what it looks like to try to make change using art and, specifically film, as a tool,” began.

While there wasn’t enough time for the panelists — Sue Obeidi from the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC); Jamie Dobie from the nonprofit Peace is Loud; and Darcy Heusel, vice president of audience engagement and impact of NEON, a production and distribution company — to fully cover the panel’s main topics of cultural representation, movement building and targeted film marketing, they still managed to cover most of the issues.

The panelists used “American Muslim” as a way to show how each of their respective entities works to help films have cultural impact by inspiring filmgoers to take action regarding the issues raised in films.

The workshop also examined three distinct approaches of how film can be used to make cultural changes that Childress outlined at the beginning of the discussion.

The first was the traditional way of connecting a film with an organized movement or grassroots organizations. The second way is to galvanize the power of representation to change a narrative about a particular issue and community. And the third is to maximize the visibility of a film so it can deliver its message to a large audience.

Zucker, the director of “American Muslim,” also spoke during the discussion.

The filmmaker, who is Jewish, said he started working on the film Nov. 9, 2016, the day after Donald Trump was elected president.

“I was really horrified, and I knew I needed to do something,” he said. “I also knew I wasn’t on the frontline, but as a religious minority, I certainly related to and horrified by what was happening to another community in this country.”

Zucker wanted to make a film about what it is like being Muslim during the Trump administration.

When the travel ban was issued on Jan. 27, 2017, Zucker knew he had to make the film quickly, and he did it without any initial backers.

“The film became a story about five very diverse individuals,” Zucker said. “The people in my film are all U.S. citizens, who had once all been immigrants.”

The filmmaker said he is finally making “impact” partnerships and relationships that adhere to what the panel was about, and is now able to show the film to more people.

“When I show the film, whether it’s to Muslim audiences or non-Muslim audiences, what I get a lot of is they really feel like it opened the window to a world they knew nothing about,” he said. “That was actually what my goal is.”

Inaugural Imagined Futures Bonfire lights up Sundance Film Festival

Sundance Film Festival director John Cooper, who will step down from his post after 11 years at the end of this year’s festival, said a few sentimental words before he lit the inaugural Imagined Futures Bonfire at the Flag Pole Parking Lot on lower Swede Alley Thursday night.

“This is going to sound corny, but I would like to have a festival that’s even better without me,” Cooper said.

Tabitha Jackson, director of Sundance Institute’s documentary program, who led the bonfire program, asked if Cooper meant what he said.

“I do, because I want to come back next year and see all of these people here and see (it) even more and bigger and exciting than it is this year,” he said.

Jackson then asked Cooper to write those thoughts on a wooden pallet that would be burned in the fire.

She also asked Park City Mayor Andy Beerman, who along with other City Council members interrupted their meeting to attend the bonfire, what his imagined future would be like.

“On a global level, I imagine a future where we stop focusing on our differences and things that pushes us apart in a future where we focus on our shared challenges,” Beerman said. “We use things like the climate crisis and the great inequities we are facing, and disease and pandemics, things we see right now to bring us together.”

Beerman also conveyed another wish from a local standpoint.

“We have enjoyed almost 40 years with Sundance, and a lot of people look back at those periods and say, ‘The best days are behind us,’” he said. “But I hope through strong partnerships and bold decisions we can move forward and our best days are ahead.”

Jackson asked Beerman if Sundance has either “destroyed” or “enhanced” Park City.

“We always enjoy having the festival here,” he said. “I won’t lie, it pushes us hard, but it’s worth it. It’s a wonderful time.”

The bonfire, Jackson said, was an experiment.

“We feel deeply part of the community here — the Festival community, the Park City Community,” she said. “So we wanted to do what storytellers have done since time began, which is to gather around a fire and be together in community.”

Cooper lit the pyre, which consumed a stack of wooden pallets that people had written down the future they wished to imagine.

Prior to the lighting of the pyre, the crowd that attended the event were treated to a percussive, gravity-defying performance by the Jambo African Heartbeat Drummers, and a couple of songs performed by members of the Park City High School Choir.

In addition, Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine and Zainab Jah, who are featured in Ekwa Msangi’s “Farewell Amor,” one of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival’s U.S. Dramatic Competition entries, read a poem.

Right after the fire lit up the lot, Bart Powaukee, a Utah environmentalist and member of the Ute and Nez Perce tribes, led a drum circle that featured Randall Paskemin, a member of the multi Grammy-nominated Northern Cree drum group.

“We come here and we sing these songs for you guys,” Powaukee said as he addressed the crowd. “They’re traveling songs for your travel home, so safe travels for everybody.”

Sundance doc ‘Coded Bias’ exposes flaws in artificial intelligence

“The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.”

~ George Orwell

Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Shalini Kantayya has brought as timely a film as one could imagine to the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Screening in the U.S. Documentary Competition, “Coded Bias” welcomes viewers to the worlds of algorithms and facial recognition, two of the most malleable facets of artificial intelligence.

It’s fairly old news, of course, that AI and the manner in which it is fed data effectively controls our lifestyle choices in this digital age, but seeing the process laid out and insightfully deconstructed down to its molecular level is startling, to say the least.

As researcher Joy Buolamwini of the MIT Media Lab discovers while dabbling in facial recognition, much of the involved software misidentifies faces of both those with darker skin and women of all stripes.

During her subsequent investigations into the rampant bias inherent to the algorithms in question, it quickly becomes apparent that AI and the white males it rode in on at the genesis of the technology are not neutral. Not that any of this comes as a surprise to those in-house administrators packing a Y chromosome.

The film follows Buolamwini as she interacts with an assortment of other female scientists at the forefront of shifting the bias in this obvious civil rights paradigm to a more balanced part of the scale. To that end, their intent is to form a “Justice League.”

What they are after is legislative protection that would monitor widespread injustices in the usage of facial scanning from law enforcement and surveillance to automated hiring practices with its inbred workplace biases and credit decisions within the loan industry.

When a large part of the data-driven learning process of AI is by infusion of mega amounts of pre-biased information blocks that are part and parcel to the technology itself, there is little wonder as to the shape of the resultant output. Or, as they say, “horse-feathers in, horse-feathers out.”

The manner in which opinions are dissected is equally interesting. As in the industry-wide implementation of “popular” in place of “good” (see Facebook’s “Like” button).

The fact that these obviously flawed technological constructs are at the heart of shape-shifting our very lives while completely free from public and governmental scrutiny appears problematic to say the least. When you add that the hands on the wheel belong to non-altruistic and voracious appetites, the “big brother” issues increase exponentially.

Once a representative segment of a population becomes “hip” to the surveillance quandary, however, action of a preventive nature often follows suit. Last spring, for instance, San Francisco banned the use of facial recognition software by the police and other agencies.

There are those on both sides of the privacy equation who believe it’s psychologically unhealthy when people know they’re being watched in every aspect of their public and private lives. The fact that this opinion only resonates as a civil rights issue on one side is the issue. Go figure!

In China, it’s a given. Everyone is watched all the time. It’s just totally transparent. There is no choice but to “buy in.” The creepiness inherent to our system, both legislative and corporate, has long been “top-down.”

There is also room for an expanded infusion of the old privacy-versus-national security debate, although that isn’t actually the question being illuminated by Kantayya’s brilliant film. How about, as a good start, through legislative protections, make facial recognition neutral. Remove the biases. Do not miss this film. “Coded Bias” should be mandatory viewing.

‘Murmur’ wins top honors at Slamdance 2020

When filmmaker Heather Young heard she won the 2020 Slamdance Narrative Feature Grand Jury Prize Thursday night for her film “Murmur” she burst out with an “Oh, wow!”

Those words resonated with the audience that packed Treasure Mountain Inn’s Ballroom for the awards, known as the Sparkys, even through a mobile phone speaker.

Young had traveled back to her home in Halifax, Nova Scotia, before the ceremony and was notified of her win by Slamdance co-founder Paul Rachman.

Rachman asked Young if she prepared an acceptance speech.

“No, this is a surprise,” she said. “This is amazing, and I can’t wait for my Sparky Dog.”

The jury that selected “Murmur” as the winner, wrote in a statement that the film is a “devastating debut feature.”

“This richly detailed and deeply humane drama offers an insightful and sympathetic portrait of a lonely woman — affectingly portrayed by newcomer Shan McDonald — who goes to self-destructive extremes while attempting to fill the gaping void in her life,” the jury’s statement said.

The jury also awarded the Narrative Feature Honorable Mention to Merawi Gerima’s debut feature, “Residue.”

The jury said the film is “at once inventive, poetic and angry about issues of identity, gentrification and the difficulty of returning home.”

Obinna Nwachukwu, who plays Jay, the main character in “Residue,” was given the Outstanding Acting Award.

“Residue” also took home the Audience Award for Narrative Feature, while director Brian Morrison’s “Bastards’ Road” won the Audience Award for Documentary Feature.

“Bastards’ Road,” which chronicled Iraq War veteran and former Marine Jonathan Hancock’s 6,000 mile walk from Maryland to California, as a way to deal with is post-traumatic stress disorder, raise awareness about the plight of his brothers in arms and visit surviving members of his battalion.

The Documentary Feature Grand Jury Prize went to “Higher Love,” directed by Hasan Oswald. The film, set in the midst of New Jersey’s heroin crisis, follows a factory worker who is searching for his addicted pregnant girlfriend, in hopes to save her and their unborn child.

“Shoot to Marry,” directed by Steve Markle, was handed the Best of Breakouts Audience Award, which showcases returning Slamdance filmmakers.

The AGBO Fellowship, facilitated by Slamdance alumni Joe and Anthony Russo, along with their colleagues at their AGBO production company, was awarded to Carlota Pereda, director of the short film “Piggy,” a Spanish-language work about a teen who is ridiculed about her weight and has to walk home from public swimming pool in her swimsuit after her clothes were stolen.

In addition to $25,000 cash prize, the AGBO Fellowship will give Pereda the opportunity to be mentored by the Russo Brothers, and receive development support from their studio.

“Carlota Pereda’s ‘Piggy’ is a punch to the face,” the Russos said in a statement. “(It’s) an accomplished mix of biting social commentary and emotionally devastating filmmaking. We’re extremely proud to present her with this year’s AGBO Fellowship. And we look forward to supporting her work in the future.”

The 2020 CreativeFuture Innovation Award went to “The Little Soul,” directed by Barbara Rupik.

The CreativeFuture Innovation Award, which emerged from a partnership between Slamdance and CreativeFuture, is given to an emerging filmmaker who exhibits the innovative spirit of filmmaking.

“Congratulations to Barbara Rupik for winning Slamdance’s CreativeFuture Innovation Award this year,” said CreativeFuture CEO Ruth Vitale in a statement. “Her film, ‘The Little Soul,’ uses a surreal yet beautiful animation technique to tell a bold, imaginative story. Its combination of artistry and craft exemplifies the innovative spirit of filmmaking, and we look forward to seeing what Barbara does next.”

Thursday night’s awards ceremony started with a few words by Slamdance President and co-founder Peter Baxter.

“We’re about to congratulate the Slamdance 2020 winners, but crucially we are about to celebrate one of the filmmakers who have shown us the art of filmmaking is brilliantly alive,” Baxter said. “You, the next generation collective, have formed art which is risk-taking, brave and really creates the unexpected for the next cultural generations.”

Baxter told this year’s filmmakers that their characters in their films weren’t the only ones on an adventure.

“It’s you who are on an adventure, and Slamdance is your companion and will remain your companion through your journey,” he said.

Sundance announces 2020 short film winners

Winners of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival jury prizes in short filmmaking were announced Tuesday by Sundance Institute at a ceremony in Park City.

This year’s short film jurors are Sian Clifford, Marcus Hu and Cindy Sherman, and the Short Film program is presented by Southwest Airlines.

The Short Film Grand Jury Prize was awarded to: Sofia Alaoui, for “So What If The Goats Die” / France, Morocco (Director and screenwriter: Sofia Alaoui) — Abdellah, a young shepherd living in the mountains, is forced to brave the snow blocking him in order to get food and save this cattle. Once he gets to the village, he faces a supernatural phenomenon.

The Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction was presented to: Terrance Daye, for “Ship: A Visual Poem” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Terrance Daye) — A black boy learns contradicting lessons of manhood and masculinity on the day of his cousin’s funeral.

The Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction was presented to: Dylan Holmes Williams, for “The Devil’s Harmony” / United Kingdom (Director: Dylan Holmes Williams, Screenwriters: Dylan Holmes Williams, Jess O’Kane) — A bullied teenage girl leads an a cappella club on a trail of destruction against her high school enemies.

The Short Film Jury Award: Non-fiction was presented to: Matthew Killip, for “John Was Trying to Contact Aliens” / U.S.A. (Director: Matthew Killip) — John Shepherd spent 30 years trying to contact extraterrestrials by broadcasting music millions of miles into space. After giving up the search he makes a different connection here on earth.

The Short Film Jury Award: Animation was presented to: Daria Kashcheeva, for “Daughter” / Czech Republic (Director and screenwriter: Daria Kashcheeva) — Should you hide your pain, close yourself inside your inner world, and long for your father’s love? Or should you understand and forgive before it’s too late?

A Short Film Special Jury Award for Acting was presented to: Sadaf Asgari, for “Exam” / Iran (Director: Sonia K. Hadad, Screenwriters: Sonia K. Hadad, Farnoosh Samadi) — A teenage girl gets involved in the process of delivering a pack of cocaine to its client, and gets stuck in a weird cycle of occurrences.

A Short Film Special Jury Award for Directing was presented to: Michael Arcos, for “Valerio’s Day Out” / Colombia, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michael Arcos) — A young jaguar goes on a killing spree when he escapes from his enclosure at a zoo. After he’s captured, sedated and relocated, he makes a video diary for his significant other, Lula.

The short film program is the centerpiece of Sundance Institute’s year-round efforts to support short filmmaking.

This year’s short film program featured 74 shorts selected from a record-high 10,397 submissions.

Of the seven short films selected for awards this year, three projects (43 percent) were directed by women, two (29 percent) were directed by people who identify as LGBTQ, and three (43 percent) were directed by people of color.

Select short films are presented as a traveling program in over 75 cities in the U.S., Canada and Europe each year, and short films and filmmakers taking part in regional master classes geared towards supporting emerging shorts-makers in several cities.

Short Film award winners in previous years include “Aziza” by Soudade Kaadan, “Matria” by Álvaro Gago, “And so we put goldfish in the pool.,” by Makato Nagahisa, “Thunder Road” by Jim Cummings, “World of Tomorrow” by Don Hertzfeldt, “SMILF” by Frankie Shaw, “Of God and Dogs” by Abounaddara Collective, “Gregory Go Boom” by Janicza Bravo, “The Whistle” by Grzegorz Zariczny, “Whiplash” by Damien Chazelle, “FISHING WITHOUT NETS” by Cutter Hodierne, “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom” by Lucy Walker and “The Arm” by Brie Larson, Sarah Ramos and Jessie Ennis.

For information, visit sundance.org.

Michael Almereyda’s Sundance Film “Tesla” electrifies Alfred P. Sloan Foundation jury to garner the 2020 top grant

At a reception at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival Tuesday, the beneficiaries of $70,000 in grants from Sundance Institute and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation were revealed. Doron Weber, vice president and program director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, presented the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize of $20,000 to Michael Almereyda’s “Tesla” and announced the new winners: Tim Delaney for “The Plutonians” (Sundance Institute | Sloan Commissioning Grant); Kiran Deol for “Tidal Disruption” (Sundance Institute | Sloan Development Fellowship); and Courtney Smith for “Higher” (Sundance Institute | Sloan Episodic Fellowship).

The awards were presented at an afternoon cocktail reception at High West Distillery. These activities are part of the Sundance Institute Science-In-Film Initiative, which is made possible by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize is selected by a jury of film and science professionals, and presented to an outstanding feature film focusing on science or technology as a theme, or depicting a scientist, engineer or mathematician as a major character, and will be included in the 2020 Sundance Film Festival closing Awards Night.

The New York-based Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, founded in 1934, is a non-profit philanthropy that makes grants for original research and education in science, technology and economic performance. Sloan’s program in public understanding of science and yechnology, directed by Doron Weber, supports books, radio, film, television, theater and new media to reach a wide, non-specialized audience and to bridge the two cultures of science and the humanities.

The 2020 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize Jury was named on Jan. 14, and includes Dr. Ruth Angus, associate professor in astrophysics at Columbia University; actress Emily Mortimer; multimedia artist Jessica Oreck; materials scientist and science communicator Ainissa Ramirez; and director and screenwriter Michael Tyburski.

“Tesla” actor Jim Gaffigan.

The jury stated, “For its bold and original approach to cinematic storytelling, and for its beautifully shot portrayal of a technological pioneer and visionary futurist who foresaw our age 100 years ago, the 2020 Alfred. P. Sloan Feature Film Prize goes to Michael Almereyda’s ‘Tesla.’”

“Science is key in bridging the gap between the real and the potential, and seeing stories of science told boldly, independently, and with creative vision can spark our own imaginations.” said Keri Putnam, executive director of Sundance Institute. “With the aid of the Sloan Foundation, works that tell these stories can enlighten us on the progress we’ve made and help to inspire us to take on the challenges of the future.”

“We are thrilled to partner with Sundance Institute for our 18th year in a row and to honor Michael Almereyda’s ‘Tesla’ with Ethan Hawke in the title role as our juried feature film prize winner,” said Weber. “Nicola Tesla was a technological pioneer far ahead of his time and this highly original film for the first time in movie history does both technological and poetic justice to this enduringly fascinating and enigmatic figure.

“We are equally thrilled to develop with Sundance an exciting pipeline of new screenplays and teleplays including “The Plutonians,” “Tidal Disruption” and “Higher,” encompassing a brilliant satire about astronomy and truth, a psychological drama about sexual harassment in science and a social and historical epic about the construction of the Empire State Building,” he said. “These three new winning scripts along with many previous Sundance winners still in development—and dozens more projects with our five other film partners across the country—comprise one of the best lists in the film industry and show yet again the science makes for great storytelling and great characters.”

Almereyda’s films include features, documentaries and shorts. “Marjorie Prime” premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, where it was awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize. “Experimenter” premiered at the 2015 Festival. Almereyda’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline” premiered at the 2014 Venice International Film Festival.

The 18-year partnership between the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Sundance Institute forms part of the Sloan Foundation’s nationwide Film Program, which includes support for six of the nation’s leading film schools and seven screenwriting development partners and has resulted in over 25 completed feature films.

In addition to “Hidden Figures,” originally supported by a Sloan book grant, the film program has long championed stories about women in science from “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” to stories about Louise Pearce, Rosalind Franklin, Marie Curie, Lise Meitner and Jane Goodall.

The program has also supported many works about the role of technology in daily life, including the impact of machine learning, robotics and artificial intelligence. Sloan has supported feature narrative films such as “Adventures of a Mathematician,” “One Man Dies a Million Times,” “The Sound of Silence,” “To Dust,” “The Catcher Was a Spy,” “The Man Who Knew Infinity,” “The Imitation Game,” “Experimenter and Operator,” along with documentaries, such as the 2020 Sundance Film Festival selection “Coded Bias” and several new projects, including episodic television, in development.

The program has also given early recognition to stand-out films such as “The Aeronauts,” “First Man,” “Searching,” “The Martian” and “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” last year’s recipient of the Feature Film Prize.

The Sundance Institute also awarded Tim Delaney the Sloan Commissioning Grant.

Delaney will receive a $25,000 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival for “The Plutonians.” Previous winners include Alex Rivera’s “La Vida Robot” and Robert Edwards’ “American Prometheus.”

“The Plutonians” is about a motley coalition of astronomers and outsiders conspires to defend Pluto when the definition of planethood threatens to exclude the planet.

Delaney is a writer and director from Bronxville, New York. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was awarded Best Undergraduate Screenplay, and currently resides in New York where he attends New York University’s Graduate Filmmaking Program as both a thesis student and an adjunct professor.

The Sloan Development Fellowship was awarded to Kiran Deol, who will receive a $15,000 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival for “Tidal Disruption.” Previous winners include Logan Kibens’s “Operator,” Darcy Brislin and Dyana Winkler’s “Bell” and Rob Meyer’s “A Birder’s Guide to Everything.”

“Tidal Disruption” is about a starry eyed graduate student who desperately struggles to maneuver between her passion for astronomy and her charismatic mentor’s advances in this claustrophobic psychological thriller.

Deol is a filmmaker, comedian, and actor based in Los Angeles. Her first film, “Woman Rebel,” a documentary about women rebel soldiers, was nominated for an Emmy, shortlisted for an Oscar and distributed by HBO. She currently stars in as Mallory in the new NBC/Hulu series “Sunnyside” from Mike Schur and Kal Penn. She tours nationally as a standup comedian and can be heard on the Crooked Media’s “Hysteria” podcast. “Tidal Disruption” is her first feature film.

The Sloan Episodic Fellowship was awarded to Courtney Smith, who will receive an $10,000 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for “Higher.”

“Higher” is a drama about the brave men and women — immigrants, investors and industrialists — who risked it all to raise the rafters on the The Empire State Building, while the world around them fell apart.

Smith, an NYU/Tisch graduate, is a screenwriter living in Los Angeles. She was a second round finalist at the Austin Film Festival (2015) and her feature film, “Archangel,” co-written by Patrick Massett, received offers from Blumhouse, Sony International and IM Global. She is currently working on “Swagger” for Apple TV+ and has worked in writer’s departments on shows including “Friday Night Lights,” “The Get Down” and “The Blacklist.”

Sundance-goers imagine ‘No more billionaires,’ ‘Trump’s impeachment,’ ‘Love conquers all!’

The Sundance Film Festival on Thursday wants to fire up the crowd as the closing weekend approaches.

Organizers are scheduled to hold a celebration known as the Imagined Futures Bonfire. It will be held in Old Town and will be the first of its kind during Sundance.

The bonfire, approved through City Hall’s overall permitting of Sundance, is designed to celebrate the future as Sundance enters a new decade. Organizers have said the event will connect Parkites, people who are visiting Park City and artists who are involved with Sundance.

The bonfire and celebration are scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. in the flagpole parking lot toward the northern end of Swede Alley. It will run until sunset. John Cooper, the director of the festival, is slated to deliver remarks. The 2020 festival will be the last for Cooper as the director.

“Come be a part of a ritual as old as storytelling itself as our festival and Park City communities gather around a sunset bonfire to welcome the start of a new decade and dream of our imagined futures,” Sundance said in an online posting publicizing the event.

The gathering is scheduled to last 60 minutes.

Sundance will use a series of wooden pallets that have been on display during the festival for the bonfire. Festival-goers have been writing short messages about the future on the pallets that will be burned in the bonfire.

Some of the messages on one of the pallets on display at festival headquarters included:

• “Love conquers all!”

• “A future with equality for all”

• “Constitutional gender equality”

• “A future where we all work to be aware of and overcome our personal biases”

• “be first women president”

• “No more billionaires”

• “Trump’s impeachment”

• “be first women president”

• “World peace”

• “Care about the planet!”

Other messages touched on topics like supporting families regardless of their makeup, accepting those who are different and hiring women.

The bonfire and celebration requires the temporary removal of parking in the flagpole lot. The removal is scheduled to last from 2 a.m. on Thursday until 7 a.m. on Friday. City Hall arranged for people holding Blue permits or Carpool permits to park in the nearby Gateway lot or the China Bridge garage, depending on available space.

The event is open to the public. It is scheduled on a day when the festival crowds normally have thinned significantly from the jammed opening weekend. The bonfire, though, could serve as a way for the organizers to inspire the remaining attendees as the final three days of Sundance start.

Park City officials approved the bonfire in late 2019 as part of an overall package of operational changes for the 2020 edition of Sundance. The bonfire was not heavily discussed during the talks in late 2019.

Organizers at the time of the approval indicated in a prepared statement the bonfire will be an opportunity for the Park City community to join Sundance in celebration as the festival reaches the final weekend. Sundance closes on Sunday.