Diversity was also demonstrated by the festival's opening-day film, "May in the Summer," which had its world premiere Thursday night at the Eccles Theater. The movie was filmed in Jordan and features a mostly Arab-American cast.
"We just finished the film so it is truly the first audience," said Cherien Dabis, writer, director and star of the film. "I feel like I just stepped off the set, and I can't believe I am here."
Dabis said the movie is based on her own life, particularly the summers she spent in Jordan with her mother and sisters when she was young. The film, which she described as a journey of self-discovery, follows a woman named May who travels to Jordan to plan her wedding, only to find herself surrounded in familial drama.
Dabis said she was completely shocked at the honor of being chosen as the festival's first-day film.
"(John) Cooper told me first that we were in the U.S. dramatic competition and then said, 'And you're day one,'" she said. "I just had to have him explain to me what that meant because I couldn't believe it."
Actor Bill Pullman, who co-stars in "May in the Summer," said he has been to Sundance five or six times but never as part of a first-day film.
"This was really an exotic adventure making this movie in Jordan," he said. "I'm really glad to be a part of this group."
Attending the films at Sundance can, at times, be a daunting task for members of the general public, but one feature of the festival open to any and all guests is the multimedia art installations at New Frontier, which this year is being hosted at The Yard.
Shari Frilot, a senior programmer for the festival and curator of the New Frontier, said this year's exhibit features seven artists whose work is designed to wrap around, relax and involve the viewer.
The entrance to the venue has been turned into an art installation, Frilot said, with a lounge and heat lamps set up outside for guests to watch a 16-minute film every night beginning at dusk.
"You get that immersive feeling as soon as you walk up to the venue," she said. "Once you walk into the venue, you'll encounter environment after environment with immersive media that will surround you."
New Frontier will be hosting several free panel discussions during the festival, including one Saturday with Ed Ulbrich, the CEO of Digitial Domain, the company behind the hologram of late rapper Tupac Shakur that performed at last year's Coachella music festival. The artists behind this year's exhibits will also be participating in a gallery opening from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday.
New Frontier runs every day of the festival between noon and 8 p.m.
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