Sundance Institute To Launch Film Festival in Asia

Rebecca Davis
·3 min read

The Sundance Institute will establish an Asia outpost of the Sundance Film Festival whose first iteration is set to take place in-person in Jakarta, Indonesia this summer, it announced Thursday.

Sundance Film Festival: Asia will seek to “support, connect, promote and celebrate” Asia’s independent film community, as well as showcase a number of 2021 Sundance festival films in the Indonesian capital. It will be set up by the Institute in collaboration with Burbank-headquartered American media technology firm XRM Media, and with support from IDN Media, an Indonesian media platform with more than 60 million monthly active users.

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“We have long wanted to deepen our connection to the bold and vibrant energy of Asian independent filmmaking,” said Sundance Film Festival director Tabitha Jackson.

The institute has been operating a spin off Sundance Hong Kong festival since 2013. It has also run multiple editions of its Screenwriters Lab in Mumbai, India. But the new festival has a broader Asian remit, making it notable that it is not being held in mainland China, which last year became the world’s largest film market and is one of the first territories to bounce back from the pandemic.

China’s stance towards both foreign non-profit organizations and independent filmmaking has grown increasingly hostile, and authorities there require any content going out on its highly censored internet to be pre-vetted and approved, making it a very difficult place to execute such an event. The Institute did, however, state that “other Asian cities will be explored for future editions” of the festival.

A delegation of filmmakers will attend this year’s Jakarta festival “travel and public health permitting,” the Institute said. Programming will consist of independent films curated by Sundance from its 2021 festival, new Sundance Lab initiatives for Asian talent in collaboration with XRM Media, and Sundance Co//ab experiences designed specifically for the territory.

Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous nation and has the largest economy in Southeast Asia.

“Indonesia is an emerging film market, and we are committed to bringing the strength of the Institute to help develop and showcase Asian talent to the indie community,” said XRM Media co-founder Michael Y. Chow.

CEO and co-founder of IDN Media Winston Utomo expressed his excitement to bring the Sundance event to Indonesia for the first time. The storied U.S. festival’s presence will bring “important momentum” to Asia’s film industry and Indonesian filmmakers and cinephiles in particular, he said, stating his hope for the event to help Asian players “connect and collaborate with filmmakers around the world.”

The Sundance Film Festival took place online and in-person in 20 cities across the country this year from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3. Sian Heder’s “CODA” swept the top awards to win the Grand Jury Prize, the Audience Award, and the Directing Award in the U.S. Dramatic category.

The nonprofit Sundance Institute runs its Labs, grant and mentorship programs to foster new independent stories for stage and screen. Its Co//ab digital community platform brings artists together to learn, get feedback and share works in progress.

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