Sundance 2020 (1.23 thru 2.2) will begin announcing this week. World of Reel‘s Jordan Ruimy is hearing that Netflix may want to premiere Spike Lee‘s Da 5 Bloods there. There’s also the possibility of seeing Josh Trank‘s Fonzo, Barry Levinson’s Harry Haft, Julie Taymor’s The Glorias: A Life On The Road, Dee Rees’ The Last Thing He Wanted, Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks, and Benh Zeitlin‘s allegedly problematic Wendy.
So eight keepers plus the usual five or six docs (possibly including Todd Haynes‘ Velvet Underground portrait) — enough to make the trip worthwhile — fine. I’m naturally interested, but then again Sundance isn’t really classic Sundance any more, As I lamented last week, it’s become Camp Woke.
For a ten-day period in January, Sundance used to be the hippest and most vital winter wonderland and spiritual getaway in the world. It was like this annually-renewed, extra-cool reality TV series that took the temperature of the culture — you had to be close so you could breathe in the vapors and receive that special ahead-of-the-curve information. It was essential, necessary — a great way to begin the new year.
I know that Sundance ‘20 will probably deliver the usual five to eight…okay, ten noteworthy films that will be part of the early conversation, but the odds of another Manchester By The Sea playing there (or even another flash in the pan controversy like The Birth of a Nation) are slim to none. Or so it seems right now.
For Sundance has basically woked itself into a corner — it used to be one of the big three powerhouse festivals (along with Cannes and Telluride/Toronto) but now I’m not so sure.
Right now it’s flirting with being a larger, snowier but more politically secular version of SXSW.
Sundance is where films go to get their official badge and stamp of approval from the indie-woke-feminist-MeToo-identity politics-POC-LGBTQ, anti-white-patriarchy SJW comintern crowd. But then what?
The question is, what kind of serious cultural or commercial value does that badge deliver these days? The 2020 version of a Sundance breakout hit almost certainly means it’ll be received with muted enthusiasm (if that) when it opens, but of course most indie-level films don’t “open” any more — they go straight to streaming.
Sundance was a serious lightning-bolt event for nearly 30 years — in ‘89, ‘95, around the turn of the century and all through the aughts and early teens and up until ‘16, which is when Manchester opened there. But the business has changed, the culture has shifted and it simply doesn’t matter as much as it used to.
Sundance has become a thing unto itself, or more precisely an end in itself — it’s no longer a cultural catapult. It’s the woke hipster enclave where films of a certain stripe and attitude will experience their greatest glory. Because after Sundance It’s pretty much all downhill. For Sundance is now A World Apart, Secularized, Non-Vital,
But of course, I still want to go. Kind of. Probably. I need to think it over.