What Happened During The First Weekend Of The Sundance Film Festival

Jan 27, 2020
Originally published on January 27, 2020 6:02 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And Sundance is underway right now in Park City, Utah. It is known as the largest independent film festival in the country. This year, 118 feature-length films from all over the world are premiering. My colleague, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED producer Mallory Yu, dropped by Sundance for the first weekend. And Mallory is here now. And I'm insanely jealous. I want to ask you all kinds of things, but start just with the - all the business that's transpiring - buying movies, selling movies. What's the marketplace like this year?

MALLORY YU, BYLINE: Yeah, it's pretty quiet so far. Searchlight Pictures just bought "The Night House" in the first major on-the-ground deal. It's a thriller - great scares. I spilled my cocoa during a bunch of the jump scares.

KELLY: OK, good recommendation.

YU: But, you know, it's pretty fun. The thing that's interesting about this year is that we haven't yet heard of any of the big bidding wars. And that's notable because you have Apple, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and all these other movie studios that are at this festival looking to buy movies. That can turn into huge sales, and we haven't really seen a lot of that. It seems like studios are being a little more cost-conscious, but I'm expecting that we'll see more news of more deals in the coming days.

KELLY: We have seen big-wattage stars showing up at Sundance. Who'd you run into? Who's there?

YU: Well, Taylor Swift showed up for the premiere of her new documentary "Miss Americana." Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem also showed up.

For me, the highlight was a Russian man named Maxim Lapunov. He's one of the subjects of filmmaker David France's documentary "Welcome To Chechnya," which highlights the persecution of gay men and women in Chechnya and the activists who are working to save them. Lapunov was arrested in 2017 in Chechnya. When he was released, he was so injured he says he could barely crawl. So seeing Lapunov stand up on that stage after the documentary screened was really special because, you know, he's smiling as the audience is giving him a standing ovation. And that was a great moment.

KELLY: It does sound like quite a moment. And that is part of what makes a Sundance Festival - any festival like this - work is it's what you're seeing on screen, but also the personal connections people are making.

YU: Exactly. So it's exciting to see spaces like the Latinx House popping up. The Latinx House is a space that can host panels and form a community that is specifically by and for Latinx filmmakers, who are grossly underrepresented in the industry. The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative studied films from 2007 to 2018 and found that only 4% of those films were directed by Latinx filmmakers. So it's very cool to see a space like the Latinx House. This year was its first, and judging by the line snaking out the door, there's a good chance it won't be the last.

KELLY: ALL THINGS CONSIDERED producer Mallory Yu, just back from Sundance. Welcome home, and thank you.

YU: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.