So Here’s What’s Happening at Sundance 2020: Offscreen Events

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Sundance offscreen

Sundance Institute will curate dozens of offscreen events, including behind-the-scenes panels on the art of filmmaking, musical performances and – around the theme of Imagined Futures – a public Bonfire and several extended post-screening conversations (known as IF Screenings), at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival taking place in Park City, Salt Lake City, and Sundance, Utah, January 23 through February 2, 2020.

“Our offscreen programming provides a powerful cultural temperature check – it is an expression of what is preoccupying artists, bot  in terms of their own creativity, and also how that intersects with the issues of the day,” said John Nein, Sundance Film Festival Senior Programmer. “This year in addition to a slate of incredible performances, there is a real focus on civic engagement, data justice, disability as a creative force,  and the role of art as an indispensable tool in the fight for truth-telling and justice-making. All of which ties perfectly into our theme of Imagined Futures.”

To kick off the Festival, the Institute will evolve its <strong>Day One Press Conference</strong> into a content-rich digital Day One Press Kit, including video remarks from executive leadership as well as details about the Festival and the Institute’s global year round work; this package will be distributed via email on the morning of Day One (January 23, 2020). That evening, Sundance Institute’s annual fundraising event An Artist at the Table Presented by IMDb Pro begins with the premiere of Crip Camp, followed by a celebratory dinner during which the Institute will honor Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, with the Vanguard Award for Philanthropy. Proceeds from the evening will advance Sundance Institute’s mission and programs that discover, support and amplify risk-taking and exciting independent film, media and theatre artists.

The Talent Forum will convene for three days during the Festival bringing together a robust slate of artists with projects across all platforms and at varied and pivotal stages from development through completion. Now in its second year, the Forum embodies the year-round work of artist support programs across the Institute. Notes Anne Lai, the Institute’s Director of Creative Producing &amp; Artist Support: “We’re thrilled to welcome an extraordinary collection of artists from 22 countries who bring remarkable voices and work to connect with industry, advocates, and each other as they move their work and careers forward.” A full list of participating Talent Forum projects can be found here.

The Festival wraps up with the Awards Night Ceremony & Party on February 1, 2020, with previously announced jurors awarding prizes to films in the U.S. Dramatic, U.S. Documentary, World Cinema Dramatic, World Cinema Documentary, and NEXT categories.

Below are some of the Offscreen Events taking place during the festival weekend.


Sundance Offscreen

Friday, January 24, 2020
Crip Camp IF Screening
6:00 p.m.
Grand Theatre, Salt Lake City
With film team and special guest Shandra Benito, Executive Director, Art Access, Salt Lake City.

Sunday, January 26, 2020
The Assistant IF Screening
8:15 p.m.
The MARC Theatre, Park City
With film team and special guest Ai-jen Poo, co-founder and Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Moderated by Shirley Li, The Atlantic.


Sundance Offscreen

Power of Story: Just Art, Presented by Netflix
Saturday, January 25, 2:30 p.m.
Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St.
Ticket required

Art is uniquely capable of creating public “encounters” that are transformative and that activate our imagination and empathy in order to engage with issues of social justice. We explore the practice of artists who use art to push boundaries, provoke, inspire, disorient orthodoxy, and reshape culture. In asking what the artistic project of justice is, we have only to look at revolutionary narratives and radical forms of expression.
Artists Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ai Weiwei, Julie Taymor, Kerry Washington and Carrie Mae Weems will discuss the nature of artwork as a catalytic cultural and sociopolitical force.

Power of Story: The People Speak, Presented by Netflix
Thursday, January 30, 3:00 p.m.
Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St.
Ticket required

Inspired by the work of the late historian Howard Zinn (A People’s History of the United States), and on the tenth anniversary of his passing, this event brings to life, through readings and songs, the voices of rebels, dissenters, and visionaries from our past—and present.

The live performance features poet Staceyann Chin, Ethan Hawke (Tesla), singer-songwriter Celisse Henderson, Viggo Mortensen (Falling), Ntare Mbaho Guma Mwine (Farewell Amor), singer-songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello with guitarist Christopher Bruce, and Festival juror and actor Isabella Rossellini. Anthony Arnove (co-director of The People Speak with Howard Zinn) narrates.

Truth to Power
Saturday, January 25, 2:00 p.m.–3:30 p.m.
Filmmaker Lodge, 550 Main St. (2nd floor)
Open to Festival credential holders as space allows

Filipino journalist and protagonist of A Thousand Cuts Maria Ressa and Russian journalist and New Yorker columnist Masha Gessen (Welcome to Chechnya), in their role as truth tellers, have both taken on autocratic heads of state. In this conversation, Patrick Gaspard, president of Open Society Foundations, and journalist and author Farai Chideya explore what it takes for journalists to go up against powerful regimes—and what is at stake if they don’t.

Digital Aerosol and the Re-imaginarium: A Fireside Chat with Kahlil Joseph and Jesse Williams
Sunday, January 26, noon–1:30 p.m.
The Box at The Ray, 1768 Park Ave.
Open to the public

What does world-building look like in a society whose attention is trapped inside a matrix of digital platforms? Is there another way to engage the cloud of silicon, coltan, and liquid crystal displays? Join artist and filmmaker Kahlil Joseph (BLKNWS, The Underground Museum, collaborator with Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar) and actor and cultural critic Jesse Williams (Grey’s Anatomy, The Advancement Project, Ebroji) in an exploration of imagination, self-determination, and entrepreneurialism that creatively tethers earthly terrain with the digital aerosol. Moderated by Charles D. King (founder and CEO of MACRO).

Under Whose AI?
Sunday, January 26, 1:30 p.m.–3:00 p.m.
Filmmaker Lodge, 550 Main St. (2nd floor)
Open to Festival credential holders as space allows

Artificial intelligence “learns” from data humans generate—every click, photo, text, post, swipe, and like. Invisible data-selves shadow us, and the consequences are unknown. Pioneering media artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson (The Electronic Diaries of Lynn Hershman Leeson) is joined by MIT computer scientist Joy Buolamwini, featured in Coded Bias, to explore machine learning and the future it predicts, the possibility of algorithmic justice, and ways to subvert what Buolamwini calls the “coded gaze.” In conversation with The Atlantic’s executive editor Adrienne LaFrance.

Creators’ Union—A Workshop on Content Creators Participating in the Data Economy
Monday, January 27, noon–1:30 p.m.
The Box at The Ray, 1768 Park Ave.
Open to the public

Data is more valuable than oil. Digital platforms use storytelling content to engage audiences and then harvest their data. How can creators define terms to ensure their intentions and ethics power this growing data economy? Should their true value warrant financial participation? Join former director of monetization for Facebook Tim Kendall (The Social Dilemma), Karim Amer (Persuasion Machines, The Great Hack), producer Jess Engel, Bethany Haynes (Sloss Eckhouse LawCo), and Jesse Redniss (GM Innovation Lab, executive vice president of data strategy for WarnerMedia) as they illuminate the state of the current ecosystem and brainstorm how creators can get a seat at the table. Moderated by Roya Rastegar (PhD in history of consciousness).

Where the Truth Lies
Monday, January 27, 2:00 p.m.–3:30 p.m.
Filmmaker Lodge, 550 Main St. (2nd floor)
Open to Festival credential holders as space allows

According to Picasso, “Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.” Join Bill Ross and Turner Ross (Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets), Kirsten Johnson (Dick Johnson Is Dead), to explore the very different ways in which they have deployed cinematic artifice and formal experimentation to reveal deep human truths. They will be in conversation with Vox film critic Alissa Wilkinson.

AI, the Archive, and Creating Human Context on the New Frontier
Tuesday, January 28, noon–1:30 p.m.
The Box at The Ray, 1768 Park Ave.
Open to the public

The human archive represents an immortal reflection of who we are and what our species has accomplished. In today’s digital reality, our archives are tapped as bottomless pools of data—the DNA that powers AI technologies. In a world of deep fakes and virtual beings, how are digital artists embracing the human archive? Join Lynn Hershman Leeson (The Electronic Diaries of Lynn Hershman Leeson), Sandra Rodriguez (Chomsky vs. Chomsky: First Encounter), and Nancy McGovern (director of digital preservation at MIT) as they explore how to retain humanity in our digital communities. Moderated by Kamal Sinclair (Guild of Future Architects).

Discovering Tomorrow
Tuesday, January 28, 2:00 p.m.–3:30 p.m.
Filmmaker Lodge, 550 Main St. (2nd floor)
Open to Festival credential holders as space allows

Through films like Tesla, Radioactive, The Current War, The Aeronauts, Hidden Figures, and First Man, period science is having a heyday. Practicing the science of yesteryear, their pioneering protagonists imagine the possibilities of tomorrow. From Curie to Tesla, they wrestle with competition, derision, entrenched beliefs, and discrimination. An ensemble of both scientists and filmmakers, including Ethan Hawke (Tesla), Sarah Treem, P. James Schuck and Danijela Cabric looks at the role of visionary scientists, inventors, and outliers, past and present, in advancing real science, technology, and human knowledge. Supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The Movie That Blew My Mind
Tuesday, January 28, 6:30 p.m.–8:00 p.m.
The Ray Theatre, 1768 Park Ave.
Ticket required

Everybody has one—at least one. It’s that film that completely changed how you thought about movies, changed the course of your life, gave you a sense of the power of cinema, made you say, “I want to do that.” An Offscreen event and a kickoff for Sundance Institute Talent Forum, this panel features hosts John Cooper (Director, Sundance Film Festival), Tabitha Jackson (Director, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program), Tom McCarthy, Tessa Thompson, and other special guests, each of whom has selected a cinema moment that was inspiring or formative (in their life or in shaping their creative sensibility). Supported by Hulu

How Can Artists Reshape Politics?
Wednesday, January 29, 2:00 p.m.–3:30 p.m.
Filmmaker Lodge, 550 Main St. (2nd floor)
Open to Festival credential holders as space allows

What would it look like if artists were at the forefront of our political and civic lives? In this U.S. election year, For Freedoms—a nation-wide network of artists and institutions inspired by the history of creative people convening to shape society—is designing a set of guiding principles and a new “artists’ platform” for political engagement. To help design an artist-powered future, join Hank Willis Thomas, Eric Gottesman and Michelle Woo of For Freedoms, artists Kahlil Joseph (BLKNWS), Elissa Blount Moorhead, and Amelia Winger-Bearskin, and the Guild of Future Architects Writers Room.

Welcome to Biodigital Theatre
Thursday, January 30, noon–1:30 p.m.
The Box at The Ray, 1768 Park Ave.
Open to the public

Game engines and immersive technologies are converging with theatre and dance in captivating and powerful ways. This year’s New Frontier lineup showcases pioneering works manifesting this important confluence, which point to new user experiences and opportunities to scale up access. Join Toby Coffey (All Kinds of Limbo; Royal National Theatre in London), Gilles Jobin (Dance Trail, VR_I), Yetunde Dada (Atomu), Theo Triantafyllidis (Anti-Gone), and Noah Nelson (publisher of No Proscenium) as they discuss this emerging world of biodigital theatre. Moderated by Sarah Ellis (director of digital development at the Royal Shakespeare Company).

Inside the TV Writers’ Room: An Interactive Experience
Thursday, January 30, 2:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m.
Filmmaker Lodge, 550 Main St. (2nd floor)
Open to Festival credential holders as space allows

Writing a TV series is a uniquely collaborative process that starts in the writers’ room. A team of writers will often chart out the character and story arcs for the entire series before breaking them into outlines for each individual episode. Join showrunner Graham Yost (Justified) for an interactive experience inside the collaborative writing process. This workshop reboots a classic TV series to simulate what happens behind the scenes in a writers’ room.

The Imagined Futures Bonfire
Thursday, January 30, 4:30 p.m.–sunset
Flagpole Parking Lot, 557 Swede Alley
Open to the public as space allows

Come be a part of a ritual as old as storytelling itself as our Festival and Park City communities gather around a sunset bonfire to welcome the start of a new decade and dream of our imagined futures. With remarks by Festival director John Cooper.

The New Aesthetics of Disability
Friday, January 31, 2:00 p.m.–3:30 p.m.
Filmmaker Lodge, 550 Main St. (2nd floor)
Open to Festival credential holders as space allows

In The Reason I Jump, sound artist Nick Ryan explores neurodiverse experiences of sound to create a complex audio world. Director Rodney Evans’s Vision Portraits documents how he and other blind artists create in a visual medium. Filmmakers Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht (Crip Camp) and Michelle Miles (How Did We Get Here?), and choreographer Alice Sheppard, defy conventional representations of disabilities through their work. Discover how these artists and others are reaching for new audiences and re-imagining the possibilities of their forms through their own unique perspectives. Moderated by Eric Hynes (Curator of Film, Museum of the Moving Image).

From Sleep
Friday, January 31, 8:00 p.m.
The Shop, 1167 Woodside Ave.
Open to Festival credential holders as space allows

Lift yourself out of the Festival’s frenetic pace for a spellbinding evening as Max Richter performs a 90-minute concert version of his eight-hour opus, Sleep, with a string quintet from New York’s American Contemporary Music Ensemble and soprano Grace Davidson. The concert will be followed by a Q&A with Richter, his creative partner and producer of Sleep Yulia Mahr, and filmmaker Natalie Johns (Max Richter’s Sleep).

The Feeling of Exile
Saturday, February 1, 2:00 p.m.–3:30 p.m.
Filmmaker Lodge, 550 Main St. (2nd floor)
Open to Festival credential holders as space allows

With increasing threats to freedom of expression for artists, writers, and journalists around the world, filmmakers Nanfu Wang (One Child Nation), Oleg Sentsov (Gamer), and surgeon-turned-comedian Bassem Youssef have found themselves exiled from their home countries, censored, or imprisoned for their work. How have their experiences informed their art, and how has their art informed their experiences? Moderated by Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America.

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