Sundance Film Festival is underway in some Godforsaken corner of some place like Utah and there has been drama already, just not the onscreen kind. The Jonathan Majors-led bodybuilder movie Magazine Dreams has been hit by a protest walk out.
According to Variety there was a competition screening on Friday night and due to a technical equipment fault the festival failed to provide captioning for deaf and hearing-impaired audience members. The technical fault was repaired shortly afterwards, but it was too late.
Hearing impaired juror Marlee Matlin staged a walkout and was joined by other jury members, including Jeremy O. Harris and Eliza Hittman, to make it collective.
This is the latest round in an ongoing battle over captioning. Cannes and Venice provide captions as a matter of course, but Sundance does not specify they are required. A letter was sent to festival participants on behalf of the hearing impaired asking for “open caption DCP” prints to be sent to the festival for independent filmmakers.
Several filmmakers declined the request, citing costs and timescales. Buyers took the side of the filmmakers, saying that including captions could impact pricing around distribution deals.
The atmosphere among the hearing impaired, as well as being eerily quiet, was febrile already as a result of this disagreement and when the device supplied to Matlin as an alternative malfunctioned, it was the final straw.
Sundance has waved the inclusivity and equity card hard, pointing to it’s inclusivity policies, and provision of sign language interpreters.
An attempt will be made to re-screen Magazine Dreams to jurors, this time with captioning, before the end of the festival.