As snow fell upon Main Street in Park City, Utah, mega-watt Hollywood talent—along with musicians, politicians, and activists—walked among the ticket-holding attendees of weekend one at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Each venue, from the iconic Egyptian Theatre to private screening rooms, speakeasies, and subterranean clubs, offered a portal into this year’s cinematic itinerary. And once again, Sundance wasn’t just about independent film: Streaming services and TV networks took part, as did brands and non-profits.
The festival opened with appearances by Taylor Swift and Mark Ronson; the former was on- hand for the premiere of her Netflix documentary Miss Americana, the latter to welcome guests (including Post Malone) to the kick-off of Tao’s Park City pop-up, an annual nightly extravaganza that runs well into the morning. On Friday, however, an influx of talent brought Jaden Smith, Olivia Munn, Camila Mendes, Joe Keery, and more to the streets. HBO, TNT, and TBS commenced with its “Our Stories to Tell” series, which would later feature Issa Rae. Joseph Gordon-Levitt would lead the 10th-anniversary party of his collaborative media platform, HitRecord. And actors—including Jay Ellis and Lena Hall—would hit up WarnerMedia’s industrial-chic Lateral lounge to catch performances.
Saturday, there were cast parties aplenty, including Four Good Days at the Acura Festival Village, with Alec Baldwin, Glenn Close, Mila Kunis, Christopher Abbott, Carey Mulligan, Toni Collette, and Rachel Brosnahan in attendance. Ashton Kutcher would drop by Park City to spend time with his wife as well. For Shirley, Wander Darkly, and the Los Angeles Times Studio party, Elisabeth Moss, Evan Rachel Wood, Logan Lerman, Sienna Miller, and Diego Luna gathered at the Chase Sapphire on Main lounge as well as its underground venue, the Basement. Real-life friends Carrie Brownstein and Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) made the rounds to promote their film, The Nowhere Inn. There was also the debut of Hulu’s four-part documentary Hillary, for which the former Secretary of State was in attendance.
On Sunday, the Audible Speakeasy took the lead, welcoming Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, and more for the Palm Springs premiere party. Tessa Thompson, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Dev Hynes would make their way to the Acura Festival Village to toast Sylvie’s Love.
Scattered throughout, meaningful talks and activities lent their weight to the weekend. Gucci returned to Sundance for its Chimes for Change initiative, surrounding a campaign entitled #LetGirlsDream. The brand screened Sitara: Let Girls Dream, an animated short by Academy Award–winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. Planned Parenthood hosted its annual brunch, while GLAAD prepped for its Queer, Black, and Unapologetic panel. The Latinx House brought together Lin-Manuel Miranda, America Ferrera, Eva Longoria, and Daveed Diggs. Kerry Washington and Julie Taymor participated in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Women Breaking Barriers: How Far Have We Come? panel. The president of programming for the Geena Davis–founded Bentonville Film Festival, Wendy Guerrero, co-hosted an all-women talk on the female gaze in filmmaking with Film Fatales at the Canada Goose Basecamp. Martha Stewart sat for dinner at ChefDance, as Michelin-starred chef Melissa Perello plated divine dishes for hundreds at a benefit for Future Generations Now.
Away from Main Street, art and the talent mingled in various venues. In Sundance’s VR and IA- oriented storytelling segment, New Frontier, film works like SPACED OUT (an underwater VR experience in a pool at the Sundance Festival Headquarters) and Breathe (Diego Galafassi’s mixed-reality exploration of our breath) drew lines of visitors. An excursion to one of the mountaintop-perched luxury hotels, like the Montage, offered low-key live music and celebrity spottings.
As in past years, the real celebratory gems of Sundance take place in private homes atop Deer Valley. In one such secret destination, United Talent Agency hosted everything from raucous late-night parties to an art exhibition and talk featuring Kwame S. Brathwaite and Antwaun Sargent.
Forever on the quest for the next groundbreaking work, viewers found that no two films showcased the future of the medium quite like Janicza Bravo’s Zola and Miami-based Borscht Corp’s Omniboat. Bravo’s feature, co-written with Broadway darling Jeremy O. Harris, is based on A’Ziah “Zola” King’s 144-tweet thread from 2015. Within, Taylour Paige, Riley Keough, and Nicholas “Cousin Greg” Braun deliver a captivating, comedic tour-de-force—all three were in attendance at the premiere. Omniboat, a fantastical anthology-style film, has a guest turn from Stranger Things’s Finn Wolfhard and surprise voice-over work from Sundance founder Robert Redford, who sat for its debut screening.
IMDb would close out the weekend with its 30th-anniversary dinner. There, the number-one film search website presented Oscar-nominated actor Amy Ryan with its STARmeter award. Over five days of celebrations and screenings—with Ethan Hawke, Kyle MacLachlan, Winston Duke, Jim Gaffigan, Bill Skarsgard, Will Ferrell, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Willem Dafoe, Ed O'Neill, and so many more passing through—Park City felt like a movie database itself, though dressed for après-ski.