Jurors Exit ‘Sundance’ Screening of Magazine Dreams Over Caption Device Technical Failure

There's an interesting debate going on in the film industry.

One you'd think would have an obvious answer, especially in today's technologically advanced society.

Here's The Story

Even though it just kicked off on January 19, the Sundance Film Festival has already been experiencing technical glitches and bad press.

The festival, which is set to run through January 29, ran into an issue at a screening for the movie Magazine Dreams, a movie the body-building aspirations of Killian Maddox, a black amateur body-builder who struggles to find human connection.

Academy Award Winning Actress Marlee Matlin, a juror at this year's festival, was sitting for a screening of Magazine Dreams. At the premiere, Matlin appeared to be given a malfunctioning caption device.

With no other option to help Matlin screen the movie, the jury decided collectively to walk out of the premiere. According to Variety, the three-part jury will sit for another screening of the movie before the festival ends.

The damage, however, is already done.

Already, a dialogue has opened about reasonable concessions and providing adequate viewing avenues for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Open Dialogue

After the caption device debacle, the three-person jury sent a signed letter to festival filmmakers, “imploring them to allow Open Captions DCP” prints to screen.

Parts of the letter, of which Variety obtained a copy, extol the enjoyment of screening a movie that has yet to go to the theater.

“There’s a thrill to sit in a room with others who love films and cheer for them together and Sundance has been an important place for each of us to do that over our varied careers. The U.S. independent cinema movement began as a way to make film accessible to everyone, not just those with the most privileges among us. As a jury, our ability to celebrate the work that all of you have put into making these films has been disrupted by the fact that they are not accessible to all three of us.”

Unfortunately, many filmmakers are more interested in their bottom line than in making their films viewable by a diverse audience.

It seems that several filmmakers are concerned with the cost associated with making another print to accommodate captioning on screen.

It's also been said that some fear the impact it could have on their particular film's ability to gain a good asking price on the market as each tries to land distribution.

Too Little Too Late

As other popular film festivals like Cannes move forward in providing appropriate screening venues for all audience members, Sundance will likely take heat for asking those who applied for credentials to attend this year's festival if they needed captions.

By singling out those who are hard of hearing or may need caption accommodations, the festival may be closing itself off and backing itself into a nasty corner. Instead of garnering great film options in the future, Sundance may very well find itself at the “bottom of the barrel” when it comes to finding new films to screen.

There's still hope, however.

Sundance CEO Joanna Vicente has said, “Our goal is to make all experiences (in person and online) as accessible as possible for all participants. Our accessibility efforts are, admittedly, always evolving and feedback helps drive it forward for the community as a whole.”

Can Sundance redeem itself by ensuring proper captioning and caption devices are available for those attendees who need them, or have they offered too little help for those who need assistance?

This article is produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.