Photo from Little Birds

This year’s Sundance Film Festival was filled with as much excitement as ever with films from around the world making their big debuts in small Park City theaters. With genres like documentary, short film and feature film, there is something viewable for anyone.

!WAR (Women Art Revolution) follows over 40 years of the development of women’s art during the feminist movement in America. Directed by Lynn Hershman Leeson, the film is a powerful compilation of unseen artist interviews, reactions from the public and, primarily, works of art that have only come into the public eye recently (due to the efforts of Leeson and her contemporaries).

On Sunday afternoon, Director Sam Levinson and his all-star cast, including Ellen Barkin, Demi Moore and Kate Bosworth, attended Another Happy Day’s world premiere. While indeed a dramatic film and a top-contender in the competition series this year, Another Happy Day has moments of pure comedic genius within the dramatically rising tension of a broken family forced together for a wedding. Levinson’s first film is incredibly powerful and raw with emotion, but the real shock of this film is unveiled by the age of the director; at just 25 years old, Levinson provides an insight and understanding beyond his years and far beyond any expectation. There’s no doubt Another Happy Day will continue on to greater success.

Hours later in a theater across town, Elgin James’ Little Birds premiered. Following two girls, played by Kay Panabaker and Juno Temple, to L.A. after they run away from home. The film examines the strengths of young friendship against a backdrop of harsh reality. Again portraying a young filmmaker in his first debut at Sundance, this film will not be James’ last to make an impact on audiences.

While each film was breathtaking on its own, the reason Sundance continues to grow every year is the ability of audiences to interact with the creators of the films and experience film and art in new, collaborative ways. In Q-and-A sessions after each film, audience members were invited and encouraged to ask questions, provide comments and visit with directors and actors before leaving the theater. This kind of environment provides a new experience for many movie-goers – one where their initial reactions or questions from a film are respected and answered by the very people so often held behind the screen.

Sundance isn’t just about films, though. Art exhibits and displays, as well as panel discussions and small music concerts, are held almost every single day of the festival. With an exciting and elaborate schedule each day, efficient shuttles all around town can get you just about anywhere you’d like to go within twenty minutes. While lines are long and you should definitely have your tickets beforehand, this experience is one you don’t want to miss. One rarely finds this kind of excitement and enthusiasm for the arts on our campus, and the wide range and open-minded nature of Sundance and its affiliates are a breath of fresh air.

Whether you’re a film aficionado, an artist looking for inspiration or simply a celebrity-stalker seeking a good Facebook profile picture, a trip up to Park City for the Sundance Film Festival is well worth your time.