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2022 Sundance Film Festival Goes Online-Only Due to Omicron Surge

“We do not believe it is safe nor feasible to gather thousands of artists, audiences, employees, volunteers, and partners from around the world, for an eleven-day festival,” organisers said

Sundance Film Festival

Mark Sagliocco

The Sundance Film Festival announced Wednesday that, due to the surge of the Omicron variant, the 2022 event will be online-only. 

The Park City, Utah festival was scheduled to kick off Jan. 20 with in-person screenings. However, “we do not believe it is safe nor feasible to gather thousands of artists, audiences, employees, volunteers, and partners from around the world, for an eleven-day festival while overwhelmed communities are already struggling to provide essential services,” organizers said in a statement Wednesday.

“We have been looking forward to our first fully hybrid Sundance Film Festival and our teams have spent a year planning a festival like no other. But despite the most ambitious protocols, the Omicron variant with its unexpectedly high transmissibility rates is pushing the limits of health safety, travel and other infrastructures across the country.”

The announcement came soon after Utah health officials announced that the state had a record-breaking 7,240 new Covid cases, including nearly 1,000 school-aged children, KUTV reported. “Unfortunately, we can expect numbers this high and possibly higher for the next few weeks as Omicron sweeps through our community,” Dr. Leisha Nolen, state epidemiologist at the Utah Department of Health, said in a statement.

Organizers continued, “While we’re disappointed to not provide the full hybrid experience and gather in-person as intended, audiences this year will still experience the magic and energy of our Festival with bold new films and XR work, the discovery of new storytellers, direct encounters with artists, and an innovative globally accessible social platform and gallery space. Our partner community will also be adding a vibrant dimension to the festival with a rich mix of conversation, talent talks and events.”

The 2022 Sundance Film Festival announced its 2022 slate in December. This year’s edition was poised to be a music lover’s dream with a robust lineup of films covering some of the industry’s biggest icons including jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy, a documentary that tracks the life and career of Kanye West, and Nothing Compares, which chronicles Sinéad O’Connor’s meteoric rise to worldwide fame and subsequent exile from the pop mainstream. Speculation had been mounting that West would make the trek to Park City for the premiere of the Netflix film directed by Clarence “Coodie” Simmons Chike Ozah. Although O’Connor wasn’t expected to attend, Nothing Compares had become one of the hottest titles up for grabs and certain to spark an on-the-ground bidding war.

“It goes without saying we’re disappointed not to have the opportunity to share our film in-person this month,” says Nothing Compares director Kathryn Ferguson. “However, we fully support and respect the decision by the team at Sundance. We know they will once again deliver a unique digital experience for all involved and cannot wait to be part of it.”

Adds sales agent and Sundance regular Josh Braun, who is selling Nothing Compares, “It’s sad and disappointing but it seems to be clearly the right thing to do.”

Additional reporting by Tatiana Siegel

From Rolling Stone US