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Sundance 2016: Sending more diversity to Hollywood, gun violence and films to watch

Signage is seen on Main Street before the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 20, 2016 in Park City, Utah.
Signage is seen on Main Street before the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 20, 2016 in Park City, Utah.
Dave Mangels/Getty Images

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Half of The Frame's staff is away at the indie film world's biggest event, the Sundance Film Festival. So far this year there's been discussion of the Oscars' diversity problem, as well as new security measures at screenings and lots of television.  

The Frame's Oscar Garza called up host John Horn to get a Sundance update. 

Interview Highlights 

Sundance is the epicenter of the indie film world, but the talk of the town here in L.A. is the biggest award show in the mainstream film industry and how much diversity seems to be a challenge for the Motion Picture Academy. How much of Hollywood's diversity problem is in the air at Sundance? 

I think it's very much in the air. A lot of people are talking about it. At the opening news conference for the Sundance Festival a lot of questions were asked about it and I think there are two things that are worth noting.

One is that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is generally representing movies that are made either by big studios or by the art-house subsidiaries of big studios. Sundance skews very differently. It's focusing on films that are made outside the studio system. So you're going to get generally a more diverse array of films — in terms of budget and in terms of storytellers. That's one main difference.

And the other thing... is that a lot of filmmakers who do good work at Sundance — and they might be women, they might be people of color — go on to work in Hollywood. So in some ways, the Sundance Festival can be kind of a feeder for Hollywood studios. 

In the state of Utah, where the Sundance Festival occurs, it's an open-carry state. And it looks like you're noticing some additional security at the festival? 

Now you're seeing no firearm signs on the front doors of these venues. There are enhanced securities that involve bag searches. You have to open your jacket — and it's 20 degrees, so a lot of people are wearing parkas. And it's not just that people are looking for guns going into theaters, people are looking at guns in terms of documentary filmmaking. 

There are a couple of major gun-violence documentaries at Sundance this year, "Under the Gun" and "Newtown."

Yeah, these are both movies that essentially say, even after all of these tragedies, the gun laws not only are not getting stricter, in some ways they're getting looser. 

What are you looking forward to seeing? 

I'll just give you today, because generally you can see four or five movies a day. 

"Swiss Army Man" is a narrative feature with Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. 

There's a movie from New Zealand called "Hunt for the Wilderpeople." [It's] an adventure comedy set in the bush — could be interesting. 

And then there's "Morris from America," a dramatic film about a 14-year-old African American boy who moves to Germany. So who knows — everything looks interesting on paper. My rule is to get an aisle seat, because if the movie isn't that good, you might want to get over to another film. 

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