First launched as a way to lure tourists to Salt Lake City, the Utah Film Festival was put firmly on the world stage by Robert Redford who, in 1991, had the event renamed after his character from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Today, its 40,000 visitors make it the largest independent film festival in the US.
Much of the action takes place around Main Street in Park City. Discover multimedia art installations at New Frontier or try blagging a spot at the Grey Goose Blue Door bar to enjoy a drink with the stars.
A festival pass, which can be bought online in advance, guarantees entry to film screenings. The most expensive option gives you access to all 15 cinemas, while a cheaper ticket is valid only for late or early screenings. Passes also provide access to party venues such as the Sundance ASCAP Music Cafe and Filmmaker Lodge. A limited number of tickets are released each morning for screenings taking place during the day ahead.
Indie films have traditionally found large audiences thanks to Sundance, but the festival’s success means it now attracts big-budget movies and more bankable stars. Fringe festivals such as Slamdance have sprung up as grassroots alternatives, and Sundance’s new NEXT initiative — dedicated to up-and-coming directors — aims to redress the balance.
If flying to Utah is out of the question, head to London on 10-12 June, when a scaled-down version of the festival comes to the capital’s Picturehouse Central. Alternatively, watch from home via the festival’s subscription service at sundancenow.com. For the 2016 programme of events, held 21-31 January, visit sundance.org
Published in the Jan/Feb 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)