Dec 8, 2022 - News

Sundance Film Festival's 2023 lineup brings growing diversity

Data: Sundance, USC Annenberg; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

More women and people of color are directing Sundance's feature-length films than in years past.

Driving the news: For the first time since the festival began releasing demographic data in 2019, a majority of the U.S. films in both the dramatic and documentary competitions are directed by women and by people of color.

  • Of the directors behind the U.S. Dramatic film category — arguably the festival's main event — 61% are women and 61% are directors of color.

Why it matters: Sundance has been dogged by criticism that the festival had "helped cement the stereotype of an indie film director as a white boy genius with a baseball cap," as WBUR critic Sean Burns put it in 2020.

  • Before 2019, women consistently made up less than a third of the directors behind U.S. dramatic features, and fewer than half were directors of color, according to research by Sundance and USC's Annenberg school.
  • Organizers have fielded complaints of racism at Sundance events — and even as the festival tried to elevate more diverse directors, Hollywood studios kept favoring white men.

By the numbers: Of all 101 feature-length films in this year's festival, 53% have a female director and 45% have a director of color — the highest numbers on record.

  • Directors of color also now make up a bigger share of accepted films than submitted films.
  • Women still submitted less than 30% of the feature-length films reviewed for the festival — but the share of women-led films in the final lineup has long exceeded the share of submissions.

Yes, but: The festival's international films are less diverse, particularly documentaries.

  • Only 38% of international documentaries are directed by people of color, while 46% are directed by women.

Meanwhile: Sundance in recent years has looked beyond the films themselves to encourage more diversity.

  • Lodges and lounges have sprung up as safe spaces for visitors of color who come to 94%-white Summit County.
  • The festival began providing stipends and press passes to more journalists from underrepresented groups after research showed the vast majority of film criticism was written by white men.
  • The festival also selected its first Latino director in September.
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