SALT LAKE CITY — The 2018 Sundance Film Festival was marked by a women's rally in support of the #MeToo Movement, a visit from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and plenty of festival-wide conversations about sexual harassment in a post-Weinstein era, in all drawing some 124,900 people to the festival.
It's a lot for 2019 to live up to, but with a new director of programming, Kim Yutani, and submissions up 6 percent from last year, this year's festival lineup is already a standout.
Running this year from Jan. 24-Feb. 3, the 2019 Sundance Film will feature documentaries about Toni Morrison, Michael Jackson, David Crosby, Stieg Larsson, Mike Wallace and many others, plus feature films starring Emma Thompson, Jim Gaffigan, Mindy Kaling and plenty of others.
Whether you're a Sundance novice or veteran, we've compiled an overview for this year's festival, sharing how to get tickets and navigate the festival's three locations and highlighting some of the films that we're most excited about.
So, pull out your fur-lined puffy coat and world-weary expression and get ready to dive into the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
Sundance Film Festival app
If you're interested in attending this year's festival, make the experience a little easier for yourself and download the Sundance Film Festival app. There you can find festival films, check out and build your own schedule, buy tickets, get in digital lines for screenings and plenty of other useful things. As far as event apps go, this one is actually helpful and something of a must-have for festivalgoers.
Tickets for Utah's locals go on sale Thursday, Jan. 17, noon–8 p.m. MST on the Sundance website, while general ticket sales start on Jan. 22 at 10 a.m. MST.
Prices run from $25 for individual tickets up to $4,000 for full festival access, but Sundance does try to encourage Utah residents to attend by offering lower prices for locals who can present either a Utah driver’s license or a Utah state ID when picking up tickets. For a list of packages available, click here.
Held in Park City, Salt Lake and the Sundance Mountain Resort, getting around the festival (especially in Park City) can be a pain. Here are some tips to make it less of a hassle — and avoid parking tickets.
Unfortunately, there is very little parking by the festival theaters in Park City. The easiest option is the free shuttles running between theaters and venues. And, thankfully, there are a few parking locations nearby, since you'll need somewhere to leave your car.
Ecker Hill Park and Ride (2500 Kilby Road off of the Jeremy Ranch exit from I-80): Here, you can park for free and catch the free shuttles going to Kimball Junction, Main Street and the Canyons Transit Hub.
Richardson Flat Park and Ride (off of the Kearns Boulevard exit from U.S. Route 189): Another option for free parking is available off Kearns Blvd. A free shuttle runs directly to Eccles Theatre.
China Bridge parking structure (420 Swede Alley, Park City): This paid parking lot is within walking distance of Main Street, the Egyptian Theatre and Filmmakers Lodge. It costs $40 a day with no re-entry.
Salt Lake City
Broadway Centre Cinemas (111 E. Broadway): Festival parking is available on levels four through eight of the Broadway Centre Garage. Payment required at the exit gate, although the theater does validate.
Grand Theatre (1575 S. State): There is limited free parking available in the student lot off 1700 South.
Salt Lake City Library (210 E. 400 South): Parking is available in the underground garage. The first half hour is free with a charge of $1.50 for each half hour following.
Sundance Mountain Resort
The Sundance Mountain Resort makes things simple by offering free parking to festival attendees. Early arrival is recommended to guarantee a spot.
Festival opening night
Why offer one when you can give people seven? The Sundance Film Festival officially opens in Park City with four documentaries, two features and a shorts program on Thursday, Jan. 24. The docs — "Apollo 11," "The Edge of Democracy," "The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley" and "Memory — The Origins of 'Alien'" — and the features — "The Last Tree," "Give Me Liberty" — all look interesting, but we're keeping a special eye on "Apollo 11" and "The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley." (Detailed below.)
Salt Lake opening night
Kicking off the festival's Salt Lake opening night on Friday, Jan. 25, is "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind," winner of the 2019 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize. Based on the 2009 memoir of the same name by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, this feature film directed by actor Chiwetel Ejiofor ("12-Years a Slave") tells the true story of Kamkwamba's extraordinary tenacity in building a windmill on his family's small farm in Malawi. Battling intense poverty, famine, violence and ignorance, the 14-year-old Kamkwamba uses bits and junk he collects to build a windmill to harvest wind energy and help pull his family out of poverty.
The festival closes with "Troop Zero," a comedy starring Jim Gaffigan (in one of the three films he appears in this year's festival), Viola Davis, Allison Janney and young McKenna Grace, who plays Christmas Flint, a space- and alien-obsessed 9-year-old. Christmas forms her own Birdie (think Brownies) troop to capture the grand prize at the 1977 Birdie Jamboree: Her voice on NASA's "Golden Record."
Everything in between
Over the course of Sundance's 10-day festival, movie lovers will have well over 100 films to explore — not an easy amount to navigate. We've narrowed them down, identifying 18 films that we're most excited to see. But keep in mind that Sundance is a wild card — films that look great don't always end up delivering and sometimes, it's the entirely unexpected ones that steal our hearts, so check out the full list here, and try your luck.
"Abe": One of the three official festival Kids program selections, "Abe" stars "Stranger Things'" Noah Schnapp as the title character, a 12-year-old living in Brooklyn with his first-generation parents: his Israeli mother and his Palestinian father. This coming-of-age story follows Abe as he uses his passion for food — and a new friendship with a Brazilian chef — to try to bring together his unwieldy family.
"Blinded by the Light": A movie about a British teen in the 1980s inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen? Yes, please. Based on the memoir "Greetings From Bury Park" by journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, this tale of growing up as a British Muslim is directed by Gurinder Chadha ("Bend It Like Beckham") and stars Viveik Kalra, Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon and others.
“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”: Deseret News assistant editor Court Mann wrote in a previous article: "This profile of killer Ted Bundy, who killed multiple women in Utah, has been receiving buzz for a while. Former 'High School Musical' star Zac Efron plays Bundy, and the film takes the perspective of Bundy’s longtime girlfriend Liz, who didn’t accept the truth about him for years. (And for Metallica fans, frontman James Hetfield plays Robert Hayward, the Utah trooper who arrested Bundy.)"
"I Am Mother": This one's got a setting that we all fear: Humanity has been replaced by robots, with the exception of a teenage girl who is being raised by a robot mother. But in this sci-fi directed by Grant Sputore and starring Rose Byrne, Hilary Swank and Clara Rugaard, the robot mother and human child actually seem to get along. That's better than most mothers and their teenage daughters.
"Late Night": Hello, buzz film! With a screenplay by Mindy Kaling, "Late Night" stars the always luminous Emma Thompson as a beloved late-night talk show host who hires Kaling as her only female staff writer. They had us at Kaling and Thompson.
"The Mustang": This film, starring Matthias Schoenaerts, Connie Britton and Bruce Dern, has already found a distributer and is set for a national run in March. It tells the story of a troubled convict at a Nevada prison who learns about himself through working with a difficult horse.
“The Report”: Adam Driver stars as a real-life former member of the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence who became the lead investigator into the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program. Written and directed by Scott Z. Burns (“The Bourne Ultimatum"), "The Report" also features Annette Bening and Jon Hamm.
"Sonja — The White Swan": While the name Sonja Henie isn't familiar today, in 1936, this three-time Olympic gold medalist and 10-time world champion toured the U.S. as a Norwegian figure skating star. This feature film chronicles her ups and downs as her tour takes her to LA, where she becomes one of Hollywood's highest paid actresses.
"Apollo 11": This year marks the 50-year anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, which ignited the dreams of the nation — and beyond! — on July 16, 1969, when commander Neil Armstrong, lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin and command module pilot Michael Collins shot into space. This new documentary, directed by Todd Douglas Miller, mines NASA's never-before-released footage and audio of the mission and "is so clean and vibrant, it is as if you are standing at the base of the rocket," according to the press material.
"David Crosby: Remember My Name": This documentary about the life (and what a life) of legendary musician David Crosby can't be anything but fascinating. As a member of The Byrds, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Jefferson Airplane, CPR, Buffalo Springfield and others, Crosby left his mark on an entire generation of music. Crosby battled drug addiction, depression and himself over the years, but the documentary aims to show how he has come out of his problems with a deep belief in the love of family and the power of music.
"The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley": If you haven't read John Carreyrou's "Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup," you can watch it play out on the big screen in Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney's new documentary "The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley." The documentary follows the true-but-unbelievable rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes and her blood testing company Theranos, which quickly went from a $10-billion-dollar company to nothing.
"Leaving Neverland": This late addition to the festival's documentary lineup has already seen its share of controversy. The Sundance Film Festival recently issued a statement to its corporate partners indicating that they would not be pulling the documentary from its official 2019 lineup after some Michael Jackson fans called for its removal. Featuring interviews with two of the boys — now men in their 30s — who had close relationships with Jackson while they were young, director Dan Reed tells their stories and investigates the sexual abuse and child molestation allegations against Jackson.
"Love, Antosha": Perhaps best-known for playing Chekov in "Star Trek: Beyond," actor Anton Yelchin's life was tragically cut short in a freak accident in 2016. This documentary about his remarkable life gives viewers the opportunity to know the real Yelchin, from his loving upbringing in Russia to his work in Hollywood. Yelchin was also no stranger to Sundance, having appeared in three festival films: "Alpha Dogs" (2006), "Like Crazy" (2011) and "Thoroughbred" (2017).
"Mike Wallace Is Here": Mike Wallace spent over 50 years as one of the most trusted newsman in the country. This new documentary uses archival footage to unveil the life of the man who challenged the world's leaders on camera.
"Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements": Weaving together three stories — a deaf boy, his deaf grandfather and legendary classical composer Beethoven — this documentary is directed by Sundance favorite Irene Taylor Brodsky, an award-winning filmmaker whose first doc, "Hear and Now," won the Audience Award at Sundance back in 2007.
"One Child Nation": Chinese filmmaker Nanfu Wang investigates China's longtime one-child policy, looking into stories of child abandonment, state-sponsored kidnappings and even government-enforced sterilization. As a new mother herself, Wang's documentary is as personal as it is a deep investigation into this longtime state practice.
“Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins”: A 6-foot-tall redhead, Texas journalist Molly Ivins was bound to stand out anyway, but her take-no-prisoners approach to the old boys political world of the Lone Star State made her especially notorious. This documentary tells of her experiences and sharp-witted writing before her untimely death from cancer in 2007.
"Stieg Larsson — The Man Who Played With Fire": Thanks to the overwhelming popularity of his Millennium trilogy, Stieg Larsson's name is known the world over. But the Swedish writer didn't live long enough to experience his own fame, as he died from a heart attack at age 50 before his novels were published. Larsson was also an activist and investigative journalist who incurred the wrath of right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis in Sweden.
While the movies are, of course, the big draw, the Sundance Film Festival offers plenty for festivalgoers in addition to films — at a price. The festival hosts exhibitions, panel discussions and lectures with filmmakers and industry insiders and puts on concerts through the Sundance ASCAP Music Café, all of which is available for pass holders. If your pocketbook doesn't allow for the extra fees, we suggest our favorite free Sundance activity: people-watching. Get a cup of something warm, settle into a good window seat and watch thousands of people — most of whom aren't used to cold and snow — navigate tiny Park City.
Speaking of people-watching …Comment on this story
Let's face it: Part of the fun of Sundance is seeing famous people out and about. Here's an incomplete list of actresses and actors who have films screening at the festival this year and just might drop in:
- Emma Thompson
- Jake Gyllenhaal
- Daveed Diggs
- Mindy Kaling
- Olivia Colman
- Keira Knightley
- Rashida Jones
- Julianne Moore
- Michelle Williams
- Zac Efron
- Lily Collins
- Adam Driver
- Viola Davis
- Jim Gaffigan
- Pete Davidson
- Shia LaBeouf
- Octavia Spencer
- Naomi Watts
- Jenny Slate
- Storm Reid
- David Oyelowo
- Allison Janney
- Natalia Dyer