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Sundance free summer film series sticks it to COVID-19 with drive-in and online screenings

Sundance Institute partners with Park City Film and Utah Olympic Park to bring back Matt Yoka’s 2020 Sundance Film Festival documentary “Whirlybird” to the Twilight Community Drive-In screening on Sunday.
Photo by Los Angeles News Service/courtesy of Sundance Institute

What: Sundance Institute’s Community Twilight Drive-In at the Utah Olympic Park: “Whirlybird”

When: 7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 30

Cost: Free, but registration is required

Web: parkcityfilm.org

What: Sundance Institute’s Community Twilight Drive-In at the Utah Olympic Park: “Wet Hot American Summer”

When: 9 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 30

Cost: Free, but registration is required

Web: parkcityfilm.org

What: Sundance Institute’s Utah Residents Screening “Dinner in America”

When: 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 31

Where: Online

Cost: Free, but registration is required

Web: utah.sundance.org and register with code SUNDANCELOCALS

Sundance Institute’s outdoor summer film series will take on a new form this year due to COVID-19.

Instead of hosting free screenings in City Park and select indoor venues in Summit County, Sundance will partner with Park City Film and Utah Olympic Park for a Community Twilight Drive-In experience on Sunday, Aug. 30, and a locals-only online screening on Aug. 31.

The first drive-in film is Matt Yoka’s documentary “Whirlybird,” not rated, which will start at 7 p.m. on Sunday at Utah Olympic Park. The second will be David Wain’s 2001 Sundance Film Festival comedy, “Wet Hot American Summer” that will start showing at 9 p.m.

The locals only online screening is Adam Rehmeier’s feature comedy drama “Dinner In America,” scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Monday. The “Dinner in America” screening will be followed by a Q and A with the director and cast, moderated by Sundance programmer Harry Vaughn.

Even though the riots happened 20 years ago, they are still relevant today…” Betsy Wallace, managing director and chief financial officer.

All three films are free, but registration is required for each film. To register for “Whirlybird” and “Wet Hot American Summer,” visit parkcityfim.org. For “Dinner in America,” visit utah.sundance.org and register with code SUNDANCELOCALS. Although the film isn’t rated, “Dinner in America” is intended for mature audiences.

“We’re excited to do this, and for us (these screenings) are a neat way to expand a footprint with a community that we adore,” said Betsy Wallace, Sundance Institute managing director and chief financial officer.

“Whirlybird,” which premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, spotlights Zoey Tur and his then-wife Marika Gerrard as they revolutionized helicopter reporting in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s.

The couple honed their craft through their coverage of the Los Angeles riots in 1992, and following the Los Angeles Police Department’s slow-speed pursuit of O.J. Simpson, she said.

“Helicopters and the way that they can capture (incidents) makes you feel like you’re in the middle of something,” Wallace said. “You’re seeing it from the air and it’s like you’re running around with the newscasters.”

The decision to bring “Whirlybird” back to the screen in Park City was inspired by the news coverage of Black Lives Matter protests happening today, according to Wallace.

“I think (this film) is a great way for us to go back in time to see what happened with the Los Angeles riots, which are sort of happening again around the United States,” she said. “Even though the riots happened 20 years ago, they are still relevant today. And right now we’re living it minute by minute.”

The Community Twilight Drive-In not only allows this film to stay prevalent in the culture, but also gives film lovers a sense of community, Wallace said.

“With theaters closed because of COVID, there is nowhere to see films except for online, and you miss the community aspect that the cinema or drive-in provides,” she said. “And how can you not love watching a film in a beautiful setting?”

“Dinner in America,” which also premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, was selected for different reasons, Wallace said.

“We just wanted to bring it back for a fun movie in the middle of chaos and life that can maybe help us take our minds off of things,” she said.

The film is about a fugitive punk rocker named Simon, played by Kyle Gallner, who meets an eccentric fan named Patty, portrayed by Emily Skeggs.

“What I love about the premise of this movie is that it encapsulates a misfit, unconventional loving couple who get together,” Wallace said. “This is a fun off-the-wall comedy of them finding each other and experiencing life in general with music and chaos, and it’s one of those delightful films that reminds us that we all have a geeky side in us.”


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