Sundance Blog: 2017 is the Snowiest Year at Sundance in a Long Time
by Alex Billington
January 27, 2017
The snow first started falling in Park City on Thursday, and it didn't stop until Tuesday. I was hoping for a snowy Sundance this year, but not this much snow. The 2017 Sundance Film Festival has been one of the snowiest Sundances in a long time. I've been attending for 11 years, and I can't remember it being as snowy and wet and cold as this year. Everyone is talking about it, even Sundance Director John Cooper, and pretty much every last attendee who has to trudge through the piles of snow and slippery sidewalks to get to screenings around Park City, Utah. But, of course, it's the snow that makes this a magical festival unlike any other and no matter what, the show must go on. So we bundle up, throw on some boots, and head back out.
Everyone here braving the snow and cold is doing so in the name of cinema. The snow is just a part of the Sundance 2017 experience, and it's not going to stop us from seeing films from around the world, made by talented filmmakers of all kinds. We're all here because we love movies, because we want to be inspired and enlightened and educated. We want to make new friends, and catch up with old friends, we want to get a glimpse at the future of filmmaking. Thankfully the tents where ticket-holders queue are heated, and there's buses to shuttle us around from theater to theater. Once you get inside each venue, and the lights go down, it's easy to forget about the snow outside. But as soon as it's over and we reemerge, it's back into the cold.
We trudge through the slush, with wet feet and soaked socks, determined to make it to the next screening on time. I wouldn't want to miss a film just because of the snow, nothing will stop me from seeing more films. This year has been particularly brutal, with over 3 feet of snow falling over the weekend. There are huge piles of it left all over parking lots and sidewalks, and it's a pain to walk around anywhere. The snow plow trucks could barely keep up, because as soon as they would finish plowing more snow would come and cover up the roads again. But the festival still went on, without any delays or any big issues. They're prepared for this, they've done it before, they know how to manage, and the city can handle snow. It's a ski town, after all.
One of my favorite posters from a previous Sundance is from 1988 (when it was still known as the "United States Film Festival"), showing a film canister rolling down hills covered with snow. Sundance takes place in the mountains at an elevation of 7,000 ft and is surrounded by ski resorts. Many attendees have been loving calling it "Snowdance" this year because of how snowy it has been. It has definitely earned that nickname, and I'm fine with it because no other film festival I'll attend this year will involve me hiking through massive piles of snow just to watch films. No other festival (except perhaps the Tromsø Film Festival in Norway) brushes off blizzards like they're nothing and continues to run like normal. I don't want to be anywhere else.
I actually do love snow, it's beautiful when the big fluffy snowflakes are drifting all around you in the air. Despite the cold and despite the wet, I've enjoyed the snow this year. I remember walking out of a screening and suddenly getting a huge smile because it was snowing so perfectly. It doesn't matter if I didn't even like the film, the snow always puts me in a good mood again. I know this isn't the case for everyone. Half of the people at Sundance are from Los Angeles, where it's always sunny all year, and are upset the whole time. It's not easy to walk in, and if you're not prepared with winter clothes, it can be miserable to get around. The buses don't run as fast when it's snowing, and it sucks to have to stand outside in the cold waiting for them.
At least two of the films I saw at Sundance took place in cold, snowy environments. Walking Out, directed by Alex Smith & Andrew J. Smith, is about a father and son who go on a hunting trip in rural Montana. Wind River, written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, takes place in the winter in Wyoming, with a story about a FBI investigation into the murder of a local Native American woman. Both of them have major plot points related to the snowy, cold environments they take place in. I doubt that Sundance chose these films with the expectation that it might snow this year, but they do now stand out even more considering the conditions at this festival. On the flipside, watching Call Me By Your Name set in the summer in Italy made me completely forget I was in Park City, until I left the theater and instantly froze again walking out.
Sundance is a magical place for cinephiles and movie lovers, but it's not just because of the snow, it's not just because of the venues scattered around Park City, it's not just because of all the people and volunteers here. It's all of the above. It's the snow, and the venues, and the people, and the films, and the love for cinema. Every year I meet wonderful people attending Sundance for their very first time, and I always hope that despite the snow and cold, they're enjoying themselves and seeing films that make the trip worthwhile. So far, that has always been the case. They've left satisfied and invigorated and excited to return. That's the most I can hope for, because it's exactly how I feel. Even if it snows 5 feet next year, I will still be back here.