With just over two weeks before the 2022 Sundance Film Festival was scheduled to begin, the decision has been made to cancel all in-person activities in Utah. A press release put out by Sundance Institute and the Sundance Film Festival stressed the level of work put in by staff to try to create a safe environment for the festival but the ultimate call that it simply can’t be done at the moment. The festival had previously announced in August that all attendees would need to be fully vaccinated and just two weeks ago that they would be requiring boosters for those eligible.
Today’s announcement explains that “We have been looking forward to our first fully hybrid Sundance Film Festival and our teams have spent a year planning a festival like no other. But despite the most ambitious protocols, the Omicron variant with its unexpectedly high transmissibility rates is pushing the limits of health safety, travel and other infrastructures across the country. And so, today we’re announcing: the Festival’s in-person Utah elements will be moving online this year.”
The update continues, noting the disappointment of not being able to put on a hybrid experience with an in-person component but returning to the dangerous nature of amassing crowds at this time. “While it is a deep loss to not have the in-person experience in Utah, we do not believe it is safe nor feasible to gather thousands of artists, audiences, employees, volunteers, and partners from around the world, for an eleven-day festival while overwhelmed communities are already struggling to provide essential services.” The announcement also notes how “undue stress to Summit County’s health services and our more than 1,500 staff and volunteers would be irresponsible in this climate.”
Fortunately, there were already plans in place for an online edition, something that Sundance executed well last year. While SXSW was one of the first festivals to get cancelled at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, there was considerable time to be able to envision what Sundance 2021 would look like, with an online platform already set months ahead of time. Now, a hybrid model is being retooled with “eleven days of online programming…with screening schedule adjustments to account for an online only schedule.” Additionally, “seven satellite partners will host screenings for their local communities from January 28-30.”
Check back in two weeks for coverage of the now-virtual Sundance Film Festival from our writers.