Every January, Park City, Utah, hosts the biggest event in independent film: the Sundance Film Festival, founded by Robert Redford in 1978. Two hundred films are selected from thousands of entries to play at the festival. On a typical day at Sundance, a critic can see four movies or more—one day I fit in the Irish musical Sing Street, the drama Christine, the history-making premiere of The Birth of a Nation, and Holy Hell, a documentary about a cult. I spend my spare time sitting cross-legged on the ground in heated tents, writing reviews, waiting for the next movie.
At Sundance, you can also find the Windrider Forum, an educational experience that’s taken place at the festival since 2005. This year, students from ten Christian institutions—universities like Taylor and George Fox, and graduate schools like longtime partner Fuller Seminary—are gathered in Park City. To open the program, Windrider hosts its own mini-festival, showcasing work by student filmmakers. Alumni of this Sundance-within-Sundance have gone on to receive six Oscar nominations in the past six years. Few of the films are self-consciously Christian, but they all fit into Windrider’s guiding belief: movies are important, and it’s crucial that we learn to talk well about the spiritual and religious questions they raise.
During the weeklong program, Windrider participants hear from directors with films playing at Sundance. This year, that includes Roger Ross Williams (Life, Animated), Kim Snyder (Newtown), Andrew Neel (Goat), Will Allen (Holy Hell), and Whit Stillman (Love & Friendship). Only one of these, the Jane Austen adaptation Love & Friendship, will likely be seen by your average American churchgoer. But Windrider ...1