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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.

Introduction
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
1996: A Record-Breaking Year

1996: A Record-Breaking Year

The 1996 edition of the Sundance Film Festival was all about extremes: big crowds, deep snow, and lots of deals being done. The 10,000 people who flocked there that year was a record, as was the snowfall – a (literally) staggering 10 feet fell over the course of the festival’s 10 days. An increasingly large number of those attendees were looking for the next sensation of the festival, a film that could be picked up relatively cheap and then break out in the way that movies like Clerks had in 1994. Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein, the most passionate pursuer of potential acquisitions, famously got into a fistfight with producer Jon Taplin over the feelgood biopic of Australian pianist David Helfgott, Shine, one of the buzz titles of 1996, after another distributor got the rights to the movie ahead of Miramax. (You can read more about that incident here.) The big winner in ’96 was Welcome to the Dollhouse, Todd Solondz’s caustically comic portrayal of the perils of adolescence which took home the Grand Jury Prize, while Leon Gast’s Ali/Foreman documentary When We Were Kings (Special Jury Prize) and Big Night, the culinary drama co-directed by actors Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci (Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award), also stood out among the films on show that year.