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Sundance Film Festival: A Love Letter

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

By Erin Burbridge

If you leave Los Angeles at 6:45 AM on a Monday, you’ll reach Park City, UT at 4:45 PM. Don’t forget: There is a time difference. You won’t remember, and it won’t matter, because you’ll be thrown into a temporary oasis—it’s presence so fleeting, the 2019 Superbowl felt longer. By the 9th day—and by my 12th movie—my eyes were like two fried eggs. My new friends and I echoed this sentiment throughout: Sundance Film Festival is summer camp for the movie freaks.

Other than my Spotify Premium subscription, Sundance was the best financial decision I’ve made. I’ll be honest, it’s expensive to attend. Most volunteers don’t get housing and transportation can be tricky. Although these are setbacks, the fest is doable on a tight budget. Trust me, I made it work! I’m glad I did, because I needed to attend this festival. It reminded me that change is happening, people are waking up.

It’s no secret that America is experiencing an identity crisis. I’d compare this collective meltdown to menopause, but that seems like an insult to the female reproductive system. Everyone is pushed to extremes and any capability of civilized discourse has vanished from public vernacular. Not only this, but the news is always bad. I thought we had all purchased some mass, front-row ticket to the apocalypse, but I was wrong. Each film I saw at Sundance represented a version of the world that I can get behind—a version I can envision and aspire to create.

I was thrown into outlandish, brilliant comedies. I witnessed the strangest 95-minute meditation on grief, courtesy of some Danish director. I learned about Satanism, and its surprisingly peaceful agenda. I saw disabilities on screen, I saw color. I saw tough women and sensitive men, both strong in their own right. I heard languages and foreign music. 46% of the movies at Sundance were directed by women, and as a budding writer/filmmaker, I couldn’t help but feel there is more space for all of us—of course, I’ve got to make the space for myself, but the world is significantly more malleable.

At 2001’s Sundance Film Fest, Donnie Darko said, “Destruction is a form of creation.” That’s us! The world’s identity is a Mid-30s Deadbeat who is rebuilding themselves because they just met her: Potential. Oh, the Potential we all have. When we share parts of ourselves, it makes us more relatable. Every movie at Sundance was a mirror. “Hello! Here you are! Remember you? This is you! Oh, it’s not you? Well—that guy behind you…yeah, yeah, him! This is him! But, doesn’t that remind you of you?” 2019’s Sundance Film Festival was the intersection of humanity and optimism. Keep expressing yourself, because it’s working.

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