Film Festivals celebrate artistic freedom |

Film Festivals celebrate artistic freedom

Nan Chalat Noaker, Park Record

It is hard to imagine January in Park City without its annual infusion of independent film. The Sundance Film Festival, its younger sibling Slamdance, and the city have grown up together, so much so that their DNA strands have become intertwined. Today, the festivals and the town may be bigger and glitzier, but the commitment to celebrating and nurturing independent filmmaking has not wavered.

This year, as audiences lean forward to take in new ideas and sensations, there is an even greater sense of urgency to further that goal. The risks that many of the films’ directors, producers and cinematographers have taken to bring their stories to the screen are more clear when viewed against the recent backdrop of violent attempts to curtail their freedom of expression.

For more than two decades, both Sundance and Slamdance have offered groundbreaking films that challenge our political and social morays. They have selected documentaries that tackle racism, gender discrimination and political corruption while also offering dramatic films that have confounded our senses and wrung out our emotions.

This year is no different. Sundance and Slamdance are presenting films that explore conflicts around the world — and in our backyards. They cover a variety of contemporary issues including the monumental challenges of protecting the environment, improving our schools, leveling the playing field in sports and government and the overstepping of power by religious figures.

Festival programmers have also reached out to artists who are experimenting with news formats for unspooling their stories.

In Park City, those filmmakers will find open-minded and supportive audiences. Censorship doesn’t sit well in these parts, as evidenced by the recent, well attended screenings of "The Interview" presented by the Park City Film Series.

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This week, as we indulge in some of the finest films being made today, it is more important than ever to remember how lucky we are. It is equally critical to help ensure the filmmakers’ voices are not stifled.

We salute the Sundance Institute for its role in supporting independent filmmaking through its mentoring programs, its commitment to an evermore diverse slate of artists and ensuring their work is distributed. And we commend Slamdance’s organizers for broadening the base of accessibility for first-time filmmakers.

Now its time for Park City to do its part: to welcome filmmakers, film industry professionals and audiences from around the world and indulge with them in this extraordinary celebration of freedom of expression.