History of the Sundance Film Festival

In 1978, a group of young film enthusiasts gathered their friends together to organized the Utah/U.S. Film Festival. The festival was held in Salt Lake City during September spanning over 7 days and occupying three theaters. The Festival presented retrospective programs and panel discussions, but also introduced a national competition for American Independent films.

The next year's festival was again held in Salt Lake City, but held in October. Again, it featured retrospective screenings and the Independent Film Competition.

After a one-year hiatus to re-organize, the Festival returned in 1981 even bigger and better. At the suggestion of Advisory Board member Sydney Pollack, the Festival was moved to Park City, UT and took place in January. Retrospectives were scaled back to make room for the American Independents, documentaries, and premieres as well as video projects and filmmaker seminars.

In 1982, the Festival added a competition for documentaries as well as one for short films. The 1983 festival ushered in the "New Wave" retrospective of innovative American independent films from 1958-1967 while 1984 ushered out the video program.

1985 marked the most significant change in the Festival's organization. Able to provide the festival with financial support, year-round staff, and a network of contacts, Robert Redford's Sundance Institute assumed artistic management of the Festival. The Festival was then expanded to ten days and included a sidebar of international cinema.

Since 1985, the Sundance Film Festival (formal title since 1991) has become the preeminent showcase for American Independent films in the world. And with the inclusion of American Spectrum, spotlighting 20 first time or initial works by American directors, and Frontiers, featuring cutting-edge filmmakers, the Festival has expanded their dedication to the independent filmmaking community. Notable films discovered at the Sundance Festival include sex, lies, and videotape, Blood Simple, American Dream, El Mariachi, Silverlake Life: The View from Here, The Waterdance, Ruby in Paradise, Spanking the Monkey, Hoop Dreams, Crumb, The Brothers McMullen, Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern, Welcome to the Dollhouse, and I Shot Andy Warhol.

Back to Sundance 1997 Room

Look for Search Tips

Copyright 1994-2008 Film Scouts LLC
Created, produced, and published by Film Scouts LLC
Film Scouts® is a registered trademark of Film Scouts LLC
All rights reserved.

Suggestions? Comments? Fill out our Feedback Form.