By Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press on January 18, 2024.
PARK CITY, Utah (AP) – Thousands of cinema lovers, Hollywood celebrities, industry executives and filmmakers from around the world have arrived in a very snowy Park City, Utah, for 10 days of movie watching.
The 40th edition of the Sundance Film Festival, the world’s premier showcase for independent film, kicks off Thursday with a starry gala honoring festival veterans like Kristen Stewart and Christopher Nolan and numerous world premieres.
Over 17 films are playing on day one, including documentaries about Brian Eno, Lollapalooza and Frida Kahlo, Yance Ford’s inquiry into policing in America, “Power,” as well as the mock government experiment “Girls State.” In fiction premieres, some lucky ticketholders will be among the first to see Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s 80s-set “Freaky Tales” or “Thelma,” featuring June Squibb as a Los Angeles grandmother who gets scammed and goes on a mission to get her money back with the late Richard Roundtree.
The main hub of activity remains in Park City, where many of the shops and restaurants on Main Street have been transformed into a hub of branded lounges from various sponsors and media partners. In addition to the venues playing movies around the clock, there are various talks and panels on everything from the legacy of Sundance to making your first feature. There will also be screenings in Salt Lake City, and, beginning on Jan. 25, online showings of select films for virtual festival passholders.
Slightly outside of town Thursday, some of the festival’s most well-heeled attendees will gather at the DeJoria Center in Kamas, Utah, for an opening night gala in which Nolan, Stewart, “Past Lives” director Celine Song and “The Eternal Memory” director Maite Alberdi will receive tribute awards.
“Presenting “˜Memento’ at the Sundance Film Festival marked a pivotal moment in my career,” Nolan said in an earlier statement. “This award is a full circle moment and testament to the extraordinary influence of independent filmmaking.”
Presenters expected at the gala include Robert Downey Jr., toasting his “Oppenheimer” director, and Jesse Eisenberg giving the award to Stewart, his friend and “Adventureland” co-star.
Stewart has two films debuting at Sundance this year: Rose Glass’s crime thriller “Love Lives Bleeding,” which is heading to theaters in March, and “Love Me,” with Steven Yeun, in which a buoy and a satellite fall in love.
The Sundance Film Festival runs through Jan. 28.