For those hoping the film industry had weathered the worst of the Covid pandemic, after festivals have been cancelled, awards ceremonies have been changed beyond recognition while major releases have been delayed, the virus has struck another blow; the Sundance Film Festival, due to be held in Park City, Utah, later this month, has been moved online.
The Sundance Institute says “the Omicron variant with its unexpectedly high transmissibility rates is pushing the limits of health and safety, travel and other infrastructures.”
The organisers said they were disappointed not to be able to provide what they called “the full hybrid experience,” audiences would still be able to experience “the magic and energy” of the festival.
In a statement, they said, “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 festival took place online last year, because of the pandemic, and organisers say this enabled them to reach global audiences, but they stress that their “belief in the unique power of gathering in person as an independent storytelling community remains.”
As the first major film festival of the year, Sundance has been used as a launchpad, over the years, for a number of high profile independent features, including last year’s CODA and Passing, the Oscar-winning Whiplash, Precious, Call Me By Your Name and Little Miss Sunshine, Academy Award nominees Brooklyn and The Big Sick and older hits, including Reservoir Dogs and sex, lies, and videotape.
This year’s highlights are set to include The Artist director’s Michel Hazanavicius’ Final Cut, about a film crew making a low-budget zombie movie, who are attacked by real zombies, the latest from from Lena Dunham, Sharp Stick, in which a naive young woman begins an affair with an older man in order to lose her virginity and Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, in which Emma Thompson’s retired school teacher embarks on a search for sexual pleasure.
The decision by Sundance comes just days after Sony Pictures announced that the imminent theatrical release of its comic-book film Morbius was being postponed until April.