Sundance filmmakers stress activism |

Sundance filmmakers stress activism

There is a palpable buzz of excitement around town as businesses and citizens prepare for the opening of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. The banners are up on Main Street and the public transit shuttles are shined up and ready to make endless rounds of the screening locations, restaurants and after-parties. But, this year, Sundance is being welcomed on a more serious note as well.

Against the backdrop of continuing military and civilian fatalities in Iraq, alarming new evidence of the deteriorating global climate, ongoing genocide in Africa and the continued spread of famine and disease in Third World countries, audiences this year are looking to independent filmmakers to help raise awareness of and to encourage involvement in a myriad of important issues.

They will not be disappointed.

A majority of this year’s festival entries, both dramatic and documentary, are deeply connected with human rights issues, environmentalism and politics. Filmmakers, it seems, are setting aside glamour, romance and fantasy in favor of activism.

Thanks, in part to new more portable digital equipment and in part to the growing involvement of the filmmaking community in social issues, Sundance audiences will be exposed to stories with an intensity they may never have experienced at the movies before.

For example, one of the films selected by Sundance jurors this year is about several American towns that exiled all of their African American residents rather than face desegregation. Another examines the especially relevant boundary between political protests and conspiracy plots by revisiting the Chicago trial of a group of 1960’s radicals including Abby Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Bobby Seale and Tom Hayden.

Other films chronicle the atrocities committed by American military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the resurgence of Palestinian radicalism in Israeli prisons, the spread of the HIV epidemic among African American communities, the failure of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to handle the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the efforts of a U.S. Marine to make the world aware of the crisis taking place in Darfur.

Heavy fare, yes. But much of it is presented with artful images and with hope for the future.

Park City, too, has been going through a re-evaluation of its responsibility to respond to wider issues and this year’s offerings at Sundance are tantamount to a crash course in global citizenship.

We congratulate the filmmakers who are here this week for having the courage to make their films and thank the Sundance Institute for supporting them. We also encourage residents and visitors alike to watch and listen to as much as they can during the next 10 days in the hopes that we will all be inspired to become more aware and involved in the immense challenges facing us.

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