The Benevolent Guide to the Sundance Film Festival

sundance Ah, Sundance. The premiere indie film fest, where people all over the world descend on Park City, Utah to partake in the parties, the talks, the free swag, the networking, the snow bunnies, oh yes, and the movies.

This year, we are keeping our eyes peeled for films and panels that explore ways to drive positive social change through innovative storytelling, multimedia interactive campaigns and new technology. Below is our quick compilation to help you navigate the program. (More updates and additions to come.)

"The Square (Al Midan)." English and Arabic with English subtitles, 2012, 90 minutes, color, Egypt/U.S.A., World Documentary.


Fire in the Blood "Dylan Mohan Gray uses the response to the AIDS crisis in Africa to reveal the power of the drug companies and the impact of their lobby on the federal government." Multiple screenings beginning January 18. View schedule here.

The Square (Al Midan) "The Square, a new film by Jehane Noujaim (Control Room; Rafea: Solar Mama), looks at the hard realities faced day-to-day by people working to build Egypt’s new democracy." Multiple screenings beginning January 18. View schedule here.

Inequality for All "Former labor secretary and current UC Berkeley Professor Robert Reich has argued passionately that widening income inequality poses one of the most severe threats to our economy and democracy." Multiple screenings beginning January 19. View schedule here.

99%—The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film "In 2011, seemingly overnight, Occupy captured the imagination of our nation—and the world. Designed in part as an experiment modeled on Occupy’s process, the film employs multiple cameras around the country to capture the kinetic, immediate experience on the ground, peppered with a comprehensive range of viewpoints from activists, experts, and detractors." Multiple screenings beginning January 20. View schedule here.

Which Way Is The Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington "Hetherington’s footage of time he spent with the rebel army during Liberia’s civil war and in Libya prior to his untimely death from a mortar blast in 2011 conveys a rare sense of intimacy in sharp contrast to the violence surrounding him." Multiple screenings beginning January 20. View schedule here.

American Promise "American Promise is an epic and groundbreaking documentary charged with the hope that every child can reach his or her full potential and contribute to a better future for our country. It calls into question commonly held assumptions about educational access and what factors really influence academic performance." Multiple screenings beginning January 21. View schedule here.

A River Changes Course "In her feature directorial debut, Kalyanee Mam, the cinematographer for the Academy Award–winning documentary Inside Job, explores the damage rapid development has wrought in her native Cambodia on both a human and environmental level." Multiple screenings beginning January 21. View schedule here.

Gideon's Army "Every year millions of Americans facing trial rely on fewer than 15,000 public defenders, and the country’s justice system hangs in the balance. Gideon’s Army confronts this crisis head-on, tracking a group of young southern public defenders hell-bent on protecting the sanctity of human liberty." Multiple screenings beginning January 21. View schedule here.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks "WikiLeaks. These people and terms have exploded into public consciousness by fundamentally changing the way democratic societies deal with privacy, secrecy, and the right to information, perhaps for generations to come. [This film]  is an extensive examination of all things related to WikiLeaks and the larger global debate over access to information." Multiple screenings beginning January 21. View schedule here.

"Turning the Tide." 90 minutes, At the Lodge. #TideTurning, 550 Main St. - 2nd Floor .


Turning the Tide "Changing the direction of a national discourse can seem like an impossible task, but sometimes new narratives inspire a surprising sea change. From immigration to the economy to democratic values, this year’s films suggest how storytelling can reset the discourse around hot-button issues." January 18, 1:00 p.m., Filmmaker Lodge, Park City.

Adobe Presents: From Script to Screen, the Fusion of Technology and Storytelling in Film "From storyboard to distribution, the proliferation of digital technology is changing the way filmmakers create high-quality productions, redefining how movies are made. Join Adobe and a panel of prestigious filmmakers and artists to discuss how the latest trends in technology are helping them produce exceptional content." January 18, 3:00 p.m., New Frontier, Park City.

The Magic of MIT "When you think about the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, filmmaking, civic activism, and cultural criticism are probably not what come to mind. A visiting crew of MIT professors and students present some of their story-oriented and story-enabling work." January 20, Noon, New Frontier, Park City.

Taking a Stand "Behavioral research tells us that people who are called upon to act are less inclined to do so if they are part of a large group. But some individuals choose to act on principle, no matter what the cost. Join lawyer Brandy Alexander (Gideon’s Army),Rev. Kapya Kaoma (God Loves Uganda), and moderator Jennifer Robinson (Bertha Foundation) to explore what happens when your sense of justice changes your life." January 20, 1:00 pm, Filmmaker Lodge, Park City.

Intel Corporation Presents: Creating Social Change with Film at the Center "Come hear how the producers of the upcoming film Girl Rising and their corporate partners Intel and Vulcan Productions have joined together to great a social movement with film, digital and new film distribution models that can be a model of social change." January 21, 11:30 a.m., The Shop.

Operation Free Lunch | Lixin Fan from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

Other Stuff

In addition to its annual film festival, the Sundance Institute, the global nonprofit founded by Robert Redford in 1981, offers programs throughout the year that use the power of film for social and environmental good. Here are a couple highlights:

>> Focus Forward: Short Films, Big Ideas  is "an unprecedented new series of 30 three-minute stories about innovative people who are reshaping the world through act or invention, directed by the world's most celebrated documentary filmmakers." Click here to see the 10 Audience Favorites. Five winners,  including the $100,000 Grand Jury Prize, will be announced on January 22 at the Sundance Film Festival.

>> FILM FORWARD is an "international touring program designed to enhance greater cultural understanding, collaboration and dialogue around the globe by engaging audiences through the exhibition of films, workshops and conversations with filmmakers."

>> Stories of Change: Social Entrepreneurship in Focus Through Documentary is a "five-year initiative of the Sundance Documentary Film Program in partnership with the Skoll Foundation that explores the potential of combining the art of nonfiction storytelling with the impact of social entrepreneurship."