Fingers crossed, the Slamdance Film Festival plans to return to in-person screenings in Utah on January 29, 2020, but its organizers haven’t forgotten the lessons learned during the two-year pandemic pivot.
“It’s something that’s become abundantly clear to us that independent film is critical to survival,” said festival producer Michael Morin. diversity. “We have been able to have a successful online version of our festival for the past two years. It’s really made us rethink what kind of program we want to have when we come back in person.”
“For me, the key word here would be diversification,” says festival manager Lily Yasuda. While a hybrid of in-person and online programming was a logical necessity during Covid, its success in facilitating attendance underscored the need for the festival to expand its access to individuals, some without resources and others able to participate in the experience. .
“Our role as an organization is helping to provide a platform for these really DIY filmmakers, but it’s increasingly difficult for filmmakers to get real vision of the things they’re making,” Yasuda said. “What we do is help create a platform for filmmakers to meet each other, connect with the press and give them another stage to showcase these projects and showcase the amazing things they’re doing.”
The foundation of this approach is SlamDance’s Unstoppable program, entering its third year. Focusing on stories from and about people with disabilities, the program will enjoy the first brick-and-mortar location offered by the University of Utah, in addition to a full slate offered on the festival’s online portal.
“With everything going virtual,  This has been a historic year in terms of the number of filmmakers and people registered at the festival,” said Juliet Romeo, Founder, Co-Director and Programmer of Unstoppable. “But if the rest of the world wants to be like, well, now that the pandemic is over, where does that leave all those people, including me, where things are not accessible to us now?”
“So whether it’s financially, whether it’s because of their disability or access, now they can be present and be included with the virtual aspect of them,” Romeo said.
Coupled with this unprecedented access for attendees is a slate of programming that not only transcends traditional categories, but subverts them. “What excites me about this year’s lineup is the increased crossgenre pollination,” says Yasuda. “We have this kind of pre-laid out box of is it a narrative, or is it a doc, and seeing films that really push those boundaries.”
This cornucopia of options includes Moby’s “Punk Rock Vegan Movie” and writer-director Dimitri Coates’ “Free LSD,” an opening and closing night pairing that particularly thrilled Morin, who calls himself “a punk at heart.” Directors Mark Shapiro and Douglas Brian Miller will premiere “Downwind,” about the real-life Nevada test site for 928 nuclear weapons, while Elisabeth Franz’s “Sexual Healing” offers a candid and poignant look at intimacy from the perspective of a 53-year-old. -year-old woman who has been spastic since birth.
As their spotlight widens to include more stories from more people than ever before — from 7,600 submissions to a slate curated by 200 programmers, including more than 1,500 feature films — the Slamdance team remains cautiously optimistic that it’s a May be a big year. festival.
“Fingers are crossed, we’ll be in person in January, but we’re also going to have a strong virtual presence,” Yasuda said. “Now that we have a few years of channel experience under our belts, I think everyone is feeling a little more confident about it.”
“We want audiences everywhere to feel that it’s accessible, affordable and still exciting,” she says. “We just want everyone to feel like they’re included.”