Park City Pulse: Sundance, what a show! |

Park City Pulse: Sundance, what a show!

There are many ways to bask in Sundance’s light.

Jennifer Wesselhoff Park City Chamber/Bureau president and CEO
Jennifer Wesselhoff, president and CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau. | Courtesy photo

The metaphorical dust has settled but the heady buzz lingers as Parkites digest Sundance Film Festival 2023, the first in-person Sundance in three years. What a show! The Sundance Institute team and volunteers, city staff, and service staff at venues all over town worked themselves to exhaustion putting together an event for the ages. We salute them all.

It is hard to overstate the impact of the creative artists and the intensity of the media focus we just experienced. Ahead of last Friday’s award announcements, for example, NPR headlined, “Get These Sundance Movies on your Radar Now.” GQ featured “The Movies that have Everyone Talking at Sundance.” The NY Post went with “The 5 Best Movies at Sundance.” US featured “The Ten Buzziest Sundance Movies.” USA Today instructed its audience on “How to Watch Must-See Sundance Movies,” recommending “Infinity Pool” and the Steph Curry doc. There was much more among 10.5 million Google results for Sundance 2023.

All of this coverage is datelined Park City, Utah, of course, a burst of publicity from the newly-energized festival that may be unprecedented. 

However, what we are known for, rather than being known, is more important to our community, economy and sustainability. So what did Sundance add to our rep as Winter’s Favorite Town this year? How about artistry at the highest levels; a spotlight on pressing social concerns; and being a town that welcomes all sorts of people, cultures and ideas, and knows how to revel in the sheer joy of savoring great films on big screens?

The social awareness permeating the festival exemplifies this kind of enlightened activism. Among dozens of films were well-received productions on caring for our oceans, transgender life and family, the plight of murdered and missing Native women, the lingering effects of South African apartheid, fighting crime committed against wildlife, the danger of unresolved trauma, and the arc of Black womanhood in the American South.

Lively discussion groups focused on climate change, feeding the hungry, critiques of Jewish portrayal in cinema, and assuring LGBTQ+ stories are seen and heard. This range of topics guaranteed that in addition to mass media, specialized outlets covering climate change, wildlife, Spanish language cinema, or American history also found the festival relevant to their audiences.

There are many ways to bask in Sundance’s light. You can see it as a world of exciting artistry brought to your doorstep, or as a boon to hundreds of small businesses and thousands of workers who received a healthier paycheck. Maybe you appreciate the high-stakes deals that go down – such as “Fair Play” going to Netflix for around $20 million or Apple picking up “Flora and Son” for about the same. I enjoy the lovable surprises that emerge, this year including “Theater Camp” and “Going Varsity in Mariachi.”

Of course there were some hiccups, which were naturally expected since we were all a little out of practice and after pandemic work shifts, many people were new to the event and Park City. Traffic jams were part of everyone’s Sundance experience, of course, but a few days of inconvenience are, without doubt, a small price to pay.

Today, I want to offer a deeply felt thank-you to everyone involved, especially city staff, police, front-liners and volunteers, and to Betsy Wallace, the managing director and our past chairperson of the board of directors, and her team, who worked tirelessly to help make the event a success. Thank you for putting Park City on such a prominent stage and for your commitment to art, storytelling, filmmaking, and to our community. Long may you Sundance!


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