UTAH [US] : Sundance’s US Dramatic Competition jurors walked out of the premiere of ‘Magazine Dreams’ on Friday night after the festival failed to provide adequate captioning for hearing-impaired audience members, including juror Marlee Matlin.
According to Variety, members of the dramatic jury, including Jeremy O. Harris, Eliza Hittman, and Matlin, decided to leave the film as it began because a caption device provided to Matlin did not work. While the device was repaired several hours later, it highlighted a larger issue that has been playing out behind the scenes regarding the festival’s ability to make films accessible to all viewers. The festival said the jurors intend to screen the film as a group before Sundance ends.
Variety further reported that the jury had repeatedly expressed concerns to Sundance and filmmakers that films screening at this year’s festival should include open captions. Films are captioned in multiple languages on the screen at other international festivals, such as Cannes and Venice. This year’s Sundance application asked attendees if they needed access to captioning, as per Variety.
Multiple sources told Variety that several filmmakers have declined the request to provide open captions onscreen, citing the costs and time involved in making a new print.
According to the sources, some buyers even suggested that including captions onscreen could harm the film’s asking price on the market as it seeks distribution.
During the ‘Magazine Dreams’ controversy, the jury sent a signed letter to festival filmmakers asking them to screen “open caption DCP” prints.
Responding to the incident, Sundance CEO Joana Vicente said in a statement, “Our goal is to make all experiences (in person and online) as accessible as possible for all participants. Our accessibility efforts are, admittedly, always evolving and feedback helps drive it forward for the community as a whole.” The Sundance Film Festival began on January 19 in Utah.
According to Variety, the Sundance that has returned is not the same as the one that took place in 2020, just months before much of the world went into lockdown and the film industry came to a halt.
Some studio executives have decided against making the trip up the mountain, preferring to screen things from the comfort of their own homes. That has irritated sales agents, who believe that without the excitement of a packed premiere, their chances of sparking bidding wars are diminished.
A few celebrities have opted not to attend, fearful of contracting Covid and disrupting their filming schedules. (ANI)