Sundance Film Festival judges walked out of a screening of a US Dramatic Competition title on Friday before seeing the film because of a failure in the theater’s closed captioning equipment, sources familiar with the situation told .
During the screening of Magazine Dreams, the Elijah Bynum-directed film starring Jonathan Majors, the equipment normally provided to all deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers, including judge Marlee Matlin, did not work. Matlin and fellow judges Jeremy O. Harris and Eliza Hittman all left the screening.
Later that evening, the judges attended another screening where the closed captioning devices worked properly. They plan to see Magazine Dreams at a later date, according to the festival.
The judges sent a letter received by THR to festival filmmakers criticizing the lack of open subtitles for competition titles.
“We all traveled to Utah to celebrate independent film and those who devote their lives to making it,” the message said. “It’s exciting to be able to sit in a room with other film lovers and cheer for them together, and Sundance has been an important place for each of us to do that throughout our diverse careers. The American independent cinema movement began to make films accessible to everyone, not just the most privileged among us. Our ability as a jury to celebrate the work you all put into making these films has been hampered by the fact that they are not accessible to all three of us.”
Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente said in a statement on the situation that the festival’s accessibility efforts are “always evolving” and that feedback is appreciated. “Our team has worked hard in this area, but there’s still more work to be done,” she said in part. “We all have more to do as we learn and consider the community as a whole.”