Every January, I join tens of thousands of fellow film lovers, investors, storytellers, and activists in Park City, Utah for the Sundance Film Festival. It’s the premiere showcase for independent films and the people who make them.
It’s always gratifying when a film we support is chosen to make its debut at Sundance. In 2015, The Hunting Ground brought campus sexual assault out of the shadows and changed the way we think about survivors. In 2016, it was TRAPPED, graphically spelling out the real-life fight for reproductive justice. This year, we are proud to be among the first to champion Unrest, a powerful documentary by a first-time (female) director, Jen Brea. This unsparing, intimate look at the upended life of a brilliant young woman stricken by a mysterious ailment, shows how she’s connecting and mobilizing a worldwide movement of people experiencing similar suffering.
We’re excited that other projects supported by theHF were selected for Sundance 2017, including Whose Streets? We believe this is an especially important story at this time in our nation’s history. Sparked by the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, it chronicles the civil unrest and national conversation about race and police relations. We love Step, a chronicling a Baltimore high school girls step team prep for competition while fighting for their futures. The Netflix series Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On is also premiering at Sundance, exploring issues raised by a previous documentary we helped fund — Hot Girls Wanted. The series is filled with shocking truths about the porn industry and the people involved in it.
For us, investing in films is not just about the stories – although it is most definitely about the stories! It’s also about who gets to tell the stories, which is why theHF invests in the professional and leadership development of people who’ve been systematically excluded from the white-male-dominated industry. TheHF supports the Women at Sundance Fellows initiative, working to help more women succeed in careers as directors, producers, writers, editors, directors of photography, and industry leaders. The initiative’s coaching program provides each Fellow with high quality, pro bono professional coaching services during their Fellowship year. It’s also why we’ve supported Sundance Catalyst Women – a new program offering investors the opportunity to propel exciting women-led projects forward.
PS – You’re invited to the livestream of the Festival Awards Show on Saturday, January 28. BYO popcorn and/or champagne.