"I had always known that it was going to be a great learning experience but the magnitude of that experience was ultimately incomprehensible. The drive, the relationships, the fellowship, the films, the critiques, and the incredible creativity of everyone involved at Sundance Film Festival out proportioned everything I could have imagined and I will forever remember this week as my favorite time at Biola."
— Biola Sundance Student Alumni
The Sundance Film Festival is arguably the most important film festival in the world for independent filmmakers. Boasting the release of indy faves that went on to mainstream success such as PULP FICTION, NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and JUNO, hopeful filmmakers cross their fingers as their films screen before an audience of potential distributors, jaded critics, film enthusiasts, and curious students.
As part of the Biola Sundance course during the January interterm, 20 Biolan’s join the Windrider Forum, sponsored by Priddy Brothers Productions, for a dialogue on film and faith in Park City, Utah during the Sundance Film Fesitval. The Biola Sundance program gives CMA students the ability to experience an immersive plunge into the art and commerce of the Entertainment Industry. This is an education unparalleled to what any single classroom can offer.
Participants screen a minimum of 12 films during their time at Sundance in fulfillment of a three-unit course. Each morning, students meet for breakfast and a class session at the Mountain Vineyard Christian Fellowship Center from 9 a.m.–11:30 a.m. Sessions also include Q&A’s with the producers, directors and actors of the films appearing at Sundance.
By noon students catch shuttles to the various venues. Throughout the day, they view two to four films, share lunch and dinner on Main Street, drop in on numerous filmmakers’ lounges and return to Mount Vineyard to blog about their encounters and viewing experiences. Each film at Sundance provides a crucible for reflection. After most screenings, a Q&A session offers an opportunity to ask the filmmakers about anything from their choice of film stock to their major influences. Film topics range from themes of teen pregnancy to social justice to immigration to racial prejudice. The films are a visually potent picture of the hurt, despair and anger in the world, and the filmmakers heartfelt search for answers.
The first evening of Windrider features the best of the Angelus Awards, one of the world’s largest student film festivals. In a private screening arranged for the Windrider Forum, these award-winning students share some of the most shining examples of transformative and artistically powerful films.
The weekend that marks the end of both Sundance and the Windrider Forum is chockfull of a series of special events open to the public as well as students. Saturday night is the presentation of the “Spirit of Windrider” award given to an individual noted for their redemptive impact on culture through the arts. Click to view past winners. The night concludes with a packed-house screening of a Priddy Brother’s Productions release with the filmmakers in attendance. Past screenings include Academy Award-nominated 39 POUNDS OF LOVE and HBO’s TO DIE IN JERUSALEM.
Sunday follows with a worship service to celebrate a week of unprecedented learning both about our faith and the world in which we live. There is a serious God-conversation going on in our culture, but often the church is unaware of it. The Sundance Film Festival provides a dynamic learning laboratory for students to engage in this cultural dialogue as it takes shape.
Overall, the success of the Biola Sundance course remains it’s ability to deeply challenge aspiring filmmakers and shape them as redemptive storytellers.
CMA Student, Peter Borrud won an online film contest and screened his short film, A Shopping Cart Named Desire, at Sundance in 2007.