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Sundance Comes to Gateway Film Center

Hope Madden Hope Madden Sundance Comes to Gateway Film CenterPhoto provided by Gateway Film Center
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For the first time, you can attend the Sundance Film Festival without leaving Columbus.

In fact, there are two ways. You can buy tickets to screen films on their custom-designed online platform via festival.sundance.org or you can visit the Gateway Film Center.

For its 2021 program, the Sundance Film Festival will take a digital approach. But that’s not all it’ll do. In an attempt to “meet audiences where they are,” the festival will offer its program virtually as well as in certain drive-ins and independent arthouses across the country.

“I think it’s a huge deal for Columbus,” says Chris Hamel, GFC president and programmer. “The pandemic has been so devastating for our community as a whole. The fact that we were chosen and that the film center gets to host in-person screenings for the 2021 edition of Sundance Film Festival is a real moment for us all to feel good and feel some optimism.”

“Even under these impossible circumstances, artists are still finding paths to make bold and vital work in whatever ways they can,” says Tabitha Jackson, in her first year as festival director, via press release. “So Sundance, as a festival of discovery, will bring that work to its first audiences in whatever ways we can. The core of our Festival in the form of an online platform and socially-distanced cinematic experiences is responsive to the pandemic and gives us the opportunity to reach new audiences, safely, where they are. And thanks to a constellation of independent cinema communities across the U.S., we are not putting on our Festival alone. At the heart of all this is a belief in the power of coming together, and the desire to preserve what makes a festival unique — a collaborative spirit, a collective energy, and a celebration of the art, artists, and ideas that leave us changed.”  

Why Gateway?

“I think Columbus deserves a lot of the credit,” Hamel says. “There have been a lot of leaders in our community working behind the scenes to make this happen.”

The Sundance Institute also selected Gateway Film Center as one of the 20 best cinemas in the country just five years ago.

“I think our programming has really put us on the map in a national and international way, so when they decided to use Columbus, we were lucky enough to be the venue that they chose to exhibit these new films,” Hamel says. “The Sundance folks have been just absolutely amazing to work with.”

“These partners are the backbone of independent artistic communities across the country, where filmmakers are born and cinephiles are developed,” says Jackson. “We’re entering these partnerships because a healthy ecosystem for artists and audiences requires that independent cinemas across the country survive and thrive.”

Even with these events, Hamel says the film center will not waver in its commitment to safety.

“We’re really focused on the health and safety part of this,” he says. “The film center will remain at 30% occupancy as a maximum number.”

He’s excited for the film center and for Columbus.

“People in this city have worked really hard for a long time because we love film and we want people who live here to discover more than they might otherwise,” Hamel says. “We want Columbus to be on a national and international map when it comes to film. This could be a huge moment for us to hopefully accomplish both of those.”

Sundance Film Festival runs Thursday, January 28 through Wednesday, February 3, 2021.

Gateway Film Center will announce the final lineup later in December. There are sponsorship opportunities available, and tickets and festival passes will be available on the film center’s website at gatewayfilmcenter.org.

If you’re jonesing for film festival content, check out GFC’s virtual screening room for Sundance inspired films, including three premieres this Friday.

Follow Hope on Twitter @maddwolf and listen to her weekly movie review podcast, THE SCREENING ROOM.

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