January 30, 2023

Raven Tribune

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Sundance Film Festival jury exits after film fails to provide subtitles

This was not the standing ovation the filmmakers wanted.

Jury members in the Sundance Film Festival’s American Drama Competition pulled out of the Friday premiere of Magazine Dreams after the festival failed to provide subtitles for deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences — including Judge Marlee Matlin, Miscellaneous reports.

Several judges—including Jeremy Harris, Eliza Hitman, and Matlin—left the show after Matlin’s commentary device did not work properly. The device was later fixed, but it revealed the festival’s inability to provide wider access to films.

“We have all traveled to Utah to celebrate the independent film and those who have dedicated their lives to making it,” read a letter sent by the judges. “There is an excitement to sitting in a room with others who love movies and cheering them on together, and Sundance has been an important place for each of us to do that throughout our varied careers. The independent cinema movement began in the US as a way to make film accessible to everyone, not just those who enjoy it the most.” privileges between us.”

The letter continued, “As a jury, our ability to celebrate the work you all have done in making these films has been hampered by the fact that we are not all accessible.”

Director Elijah Bynum and stars Taylor Page, Jonathan Majors and Haley Bennett attend the premiere of “Dreams Magazine” at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival on January 20.
Arturo Holmes / 2023 Getty Images

According to several sources, several members of the jury have expressed concerns to both Sundance and the filmmakers that films shown should have open captions.

Many filmmakers have refused to use comments, saying it costs too much time and money. Other sources say that film buyers argued against annotations that they said would limit the asking price of the film.

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“Our goal is to make all experiences (in person and online) as accessible as possible for all involved. It is recognized that our accessibility efforts are always evolving and feedback helps drive them forward for the community at large,” Joanna Vicente, CEO of Sundance, said in a statement.

Jury members in the American Film Festival Dramatic Competition withdrew from the series premiere
Many filmmakers have refused to use comments, saying it costs too much time and money.
David Baker/Getty Image

Starting this year, Sundance has attempted to become more inclusive by assigning American Arabic interpreters during opening remarks and Q&A sessions.

The festival’s sources said that they tried to circumvent the magazine’s “Dreams of the Magazine” rejection with broken technology. Officials also said that the screen was delayed by 45 minutes due to “technical issues”.

Sundance said the judges will see the film before the festival ends.