Amid film festival, Sundance aims to educate
Screening programs hope to broaden horizons for students
Each winter, Park City is transformed into Hollywood for 10 days when the Sundance Film Festival rolls into town. But away from Main Street, where the masses gather to get a glimpse of a celebrity or snatch a last-minute ticket to a film screening, the Sundance Institute aims to make students the stars.
During Sundance, the organization puts on two education initiatives that Kara Cody, assistant director of Utah community and government regulations for the institute, said are among the most important aspects of the festival.
The first, the student screenings program, invites students from all over Utah to visit Park City and Salt Lake City for screenings of full-length films featured in the festival, followed by question-and-answer sessions with a representative from the film. The other, Filmmakers in the Classroom, is just for students at Park City High School and Treasure Mountain Junior High School: They get to watch screenings of short films at the high school during the day, then participate in discussions with the filmmakers.
Cody said that interacting with filmmakers talented enough to get their work into a festival like Sundance is an opportunity not many students around the country are fortunate enough to have.
“There are a lot of kids, especially in Park City, whose parents take them to the festival,” she said. “But there are also a lot of kids who don’t necessarily have those means. It’s a great way to have them experience the festival, and have them do it with their peers and with their school. And a lot of time, teachers are able to connect (the films) to something they’re studying. It’s so cool when you hear of that happening.”
Additionally, the programs accomplish one of the festival’s primary missions, which is to connect independent filmmakers with new audiences. Each year, the institute selects films that will inspire students, enlighten them and push them to see the world around them in a new light.
This year, for instance, students from around the state will get to watch films such as “The Mars Generation,” a documentary that explores how the power of youth will get humans to Mars, and “Walking Out,” a film about a father and son connecting while facing the dangers of the wilderness. Park City students will screen short films like the animated “Summer Camp Island” and “Dear Mr. Shakespeare.”
“We look for films that have particular artistic excellence and also tell a powerful story that have universal themes and engage audiences from around the globe,” she said. “We want to engage a student audience through the power of film and start conversations. It starts with the filmmaker, but can then extend to the classroom.”
For more information about the programs, visit sundance.org.
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The Park City Board of Education is on track to place a bond on the ballot this fall to improve district facilities. The top priorities would be to put ninth grade in the high school, eighth grade in the middle school and to augment preschool offerings by expanding elementary schools.