The Sundance Film Festival, a program of the Sundance Institute, is an American film festival that takes place annually in Utah. With 46,731 attendees in 2012, it is the largest independent film festival in the United States. Held in January in Park City, Salt Lake City, and Ogden, as well as at the Sundance Resort, the festival is a showcase for new work from American and international independent filmmakers. The festival comprises competitive sections for American and international dramatic and documentary films, both feature-length films and short films, and a group of out-of-competition sections, including NEXT, New Frontier, Spotlight, and Park City At Midnight.
Sundance began in Salt Lake City in August 1978, as the Utah/US Film Festival in an effort to attract more filmmakers to Utah. It was founded by Sterling Van Wagenen (then head of Wildwood, Robert Redford’s company), John Earle, and Cirina Hampton Catania (both serving on the Utah Film Commission at the time). The 1978 festival featured films such as Deliverance, A Streetcar Named Desire, Midnight Cowboy, Mean Streets, and The Sweet Smell of Success. With chairman Robert Redford, and the help of Utah Governor Scott M. Matheson, the goal of the festival was to showcase strictly American-made films, highlight the potential of independent film, and to increase visibility for filmmaking in Utah. At the time, the main focus of the event was to conduct a competition for independent American films, present a series of retrospective films and filmmaker panel discussions, and to celebrate the Frank Capra Award. The festival also highlighted the work of regional filmmakers who worked outside the Hollywood system.