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Sundance: Evolution of a Festival

Posted January 27, 2010 to photo album "Sundance: Evolution of a Festival"

As park of Movie City: Park City, FilmInFocus’ Nick Dawson looks at ten years that have shaped the Sundance Film Festival.

1978: The First Year
1981: A Move to Park City
1985: A New Partnership Fosters Fresh Talent
1989: Soderbergh's Sex Spells Success
1991: Emergence of the Sundance Generation
1994: Low Budget, High Demand
1996: A Record-Breaking Year
1999: The Year of the Witch
2004: A Classic Sundance Year
2010: New Beginnings, New Directions
1985: A New Partnership Fosters Fresh Talent

1985: A New Partnership Fosters Fresh Talent

In 1985, the festival we now know as Sundance was still operating under the title of the US Film Festival, however this was the year in which it was taken over by Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute. The Institute, which was founded in 1980 and began running its Sundance Institute Filmmakers/Directors Lab in 1981, had Sterling Van Wagenen as its Executive Director, so its fusion with the US Film Festival was an extremely intuitive decision. The partnership was mutually beneficial: Sundance gained greater prominence from the festival, while the fest now had the financial support to fulfill its burgeoning potential. And the 80 films on show in 1985 ably demonstrated the festival’s new direction. Joel and Ethan Coen’s neo-noir debut Blood Simple was the winner of the Grand Jury Prize. Jim Jarmusch’s breakthrough feature Stranger Than Paradise took a Special Jury Prize in the dramatic section. And Rob Epstein’s classic documentary The Times of Harvey Milk won a Special Jury Prize in the non-fiction section.