HRAFF Programming Manager Attends Sundance 2016

Sundance, the largest independent film festival in the United States, is a renowned platform for original, authentic storytelling and a highly esteemed showcase for some of the most pressing and relevant issues of our time – so of course we sent our Programming Manager, Lauren Valmadre along to represent HRAFF.

HRAFF at Sundance Film Festival

“The festival is known for its politically charged programme and this year was no exception.”

– Lauren Valmadre, HRAFF Programming Manager


With her viewing attuned to human rights stories, Lauren noted some key issues that trended at Sundance this year.

A predominant issue explored in 2016 was gun control and gun violence, which was represented in three films (Newtown, Under the Gun and Dark Night) as well as a major panel discussion ‘Gun Violence in America.’ The focus on this issue was a bold move for the festival.

Issues of racism and diversity were also a major trend and topic of conversation at this year’s festival, timed fittingly with the #oscarssowhite campaign that has been sweeping Hollywood and the film industry in the lead up to this year’s Academy Awards. This was most noticeably represented in Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation, which chronicles the deadly 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner. The film sold for a record breaking $17.5 million from Fox Searchlight, the biggest deal ever in Sundance History.

Terrorist organisations, in particular ISIS, are understandably growing in attention and film lenses are following suit to reflect the impact of these groups. Brian Oakes’ portrait piece, Jim about celebrated conflict journalist James Foley and Bahman Ghobadi’s A Flag Without Country, demonstrate the life-altering affects the organisation is having the world over.

Once again, Sundance displayed an excellent array of portrait documentaries, many of which connect audiences with human rights struggles through emotive personal stories. Some of the protagonist-driven narratives were Sonita, Jim, Maya Angelou and Still I Rise, Hooligan Sparrow, Weiner and Norman Lear: Just another Version of You.


Many of the award winners from this year’s festival have social justice and human rights themes, including:


Lauren at Sundance

“Audiences are more engaged with social issues than ever before and have more opportunities to have their thoughts and feelings voiced and heard by millions of people around the world. This is an exciting time to be a film festival focussed on such content and if this year’s [Sundance] programme and award winners are anything to go by, these kind of films will continue to develop and receive the attention that they deserve.”

– Lauren Valmadre, HRAFF Programming Manager



To see filmmaking that brings the issues of our time to the forefront receive significant recognition and acclaim at Sundance, reminds us that HRAFF is well positioned to continue to program such stories of humanity to inspire Australian audiences.

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