tabitha jackson sundance film festival

Tabitha Jackson’s second year as director of the Sundance Film Festival is looking a lot like her first: fully online.

But don’t call it virtual.

“I don’t like saying ‘virtual’ because there’s nothing unreal about it,” Jackson said during the press conference this morning which opens every Sundance. “This is a gathering around work. We’re responding emotionally.”

Jackson says the decision to pivot Sundance from hybrid to fully online just weeks before the opening was both “very easy” and “very hard.”

The transition was “very easy because we designed the festival to be hybrid. So the online component already existed,” she said.

The most difficult thing about canceling the in-person events came from “our disappointment at not being able to be back in Park City, expressing the festival fully and being together in person with our community,” Jackson added.

“But we are here now on day one of our festival with all the work in front of us and with the community around us,” she said. “And you know what? It feels good.”

For Jackson, the essence of the festival can be summed up with one word: “convergence.”

“I think what the essence of a festival is, is this gathering, this convergence, of the work — the makers and the receivers, the audience,” she said.

“It’s not how we are together, whether we’re in person or online — it’s that we are together in a moment. And this is the moment. This is the moment when the work is revealed. This is the moment where we can discuss the work in dialogue with each other and the other works in the festival. This is the moment when we converge to make meaning. So for me, it’s all about convergence — being together. Being with you, here, us, now, together. That’s the magic of the festival.”

Also read: Sundance Survey 2022: 17 Moviemakers Take Us Inside Their Projects

The Program

A staple of the annual press conference is the opportunity to solicit hidden gem recommendations directly from the programming team – which included Jackson, director of programming Kim Yutani, New Frontiers chief curator Shari Frilot and senior programmer John Nein.

“Being subtle and quiet myself, I know I often get overlooked,” Yutani said before highlighting a few “subtle and quiet” films from the program.

blood by Bradley Rust Gray is a very introspective, beautiful film about loss and regaining the ability to love,” she said. Also in the U.S. Dramatic Competition category, Yutani added that Palm Trees and Power Lines is helmed by “very talented first feature filmmaker” Jamie Dack.


The magical part of any festival selection process is that unique and unexpected themes naturally emerge year to year — themes a programming team couldn’t possibly anticipate when putting together the program, but that act as a reflection of the times we’re leaving in.

“I think genre has such a fascinating presence in the entire program. Certainly the American competition where you look at these really sophisticated approaches to genre and this idea of reappropriating genre, confronting conventions and reframing them in order to dissect really complicated issues like race and power dynamics. I’m thinking of films like Alice, Nanny, Master, Emergency, Watcher,” said Nein.

“You also see it in the international films — films like You Won’t Be Alone, almost every international film in the Midnight section, Speak No Evil, Piggy, Hatching. These are films that ask questions about the darker side of human nature, about socialized violence. And I think it really speaks to this idea of a broader notion of genre and the idea that artists are using genre for a purpose.”

The 2022 Sundance Film Festival runs from Jan. 20- 30.

Main image: Sundance festival director Tabitha Jackson. Courtesy of Sundance Institute