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Sundance 2017: The festival is decidedly political this year

(L-R) Co-director and cinematographer Jon Shenk and co-director Bonni Cohen speak at the premiere of
(L-R) Co-director and cinematographer Jon Shenk and co-director Bonni Cohen speak at the premiere of "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power" at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.
Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for Participant Media and Paramount Pictures

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Every year, the Sundance Film Festival turns the small Utah town of Park City into a teeming village of filmmakers, film executives, actors and journalists — like The Frame's host, John Horn. 

Horn and a team of Frame producers will be covering Sundance for several days. KPCC arts education reporter and guest host Priska Neely connected with Horn on Friday morning to hear updates from the opening night of the festival, which is shaping up to be even more political than usual.

Conversation Highlights

On politics and activism at the festival:

There's a big [anti-inauguration] march that's planned [for Saturday] down Main St., which is kind of the main thoroughfare in Park City. But yesterday there was a lot of conversation about reports of proposed cuts to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities under President Trump. Robert Redford, who founded the Sundance Film Festival, first started the Sundance Labs and he started it with a $25,000 grant from the NEA. He was saying yesterday that without that NEA grant, Sundance — as an Institute, as a Lab and as a Festival — probably doesn't exist. So there's a lot of talk about what government funding means to the arts and what it would mean if all of that government funding went away.

On the opening night screening of Al Gore's "Inconvenient Sequel":

Al Gore is not only in the film, but he also appeared at the opening night screening of "An Inconvenient Sequel." He took the stage after the film played and he got a standing ovation. It was the kind of ovation that you typically get in Sundance for a big star or a distinguished filmmaker. He got a huge ovation. And Gore said to the audience of about a thousand people, Listen, you might be despairing, but to submit to despair is to submit to defeat. And he said, The election of Donald Trump is a setback, but we need to continue fighting. So I think he really sent people out into the snow feeling a little bit better about the prospects.

On Sundance documentary trends this year:

You'll see activism playing a central role. There's a movie called "Dolores" — it's about Dolores Huerta, who was [co-founder of] the United Farm Workers — and it talks about her civil rights movement and a march that she lead to Sacramento. There's a documentary called "Whose Streets?," and it really profiles how people living in Ferguson, Missouri — after Michael Brown was killed by the police — are refusing to let his death go unanswered. But I think if you start to look for trends, [it's] the environment. There's the new initiative called "The New Climate." Activism documentaries are front and center.

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