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This year's Sundance Film Festival is under way but it's online only

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

This year's Sundance Film Festival kicked off last night. Because of the omicron surge, organizers canceled in-person events in Park City, Utah.

So as NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports, it's now an all-virtual event.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Festival-goers were invited to board Sundance's Spaceship, an online site to watch films, attend panels and Q&As with filmmakers, to experience virtual-reality performances and to go to parties.

Festival director Tabitha Jackson says this year there are a record number of films made by women, specifically women of color.

TABITHA JACKSON: These films are dealing with the most timely, urgent social issues in a way that is so cinematic. And some of them are comedies. Some of them are horror films. Some of them are psychological thrillers.

DEL BARCO: There are several feature films and documentaries about women's reproductive rights and abortion. One of the films, "The Janes," is about a clandestine network for women seeking abortions in the 1960s, before they were legal in most of the country.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE JANES")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: I had no other options. I wanted it over with. And I didn't care how it was done. I was that desperate.

DEL BARCO: There's one documentary about hip-hop superstar Kanye West and another about comedian Bill Cosby, now released from prison after his sexual assault conviction was overturned.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT COSBY")

W KAMAU BELL: How do we talk about Bill Cosby?

DEL BARCO: Actress Eva Longoria Baston presents her documentary about the rivalry between boxers Julio Cesar Chavez and Oscar De La Hoya. Comedian Amy Poehler directs her documentary about TV's Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LUCY AND DESI")

LUCILLE BALL: (Yelling) Ahh.

DESI ARNAZ: (Yelling indistinctly).

BALL: (Yelling) Ahh.

ARNAZ: (Yelling) Lucy.

DEL BARCO: On the slate is a feature by Lena Dunham called "Sharp Stick" and one from Isabel Castro called "Mija" about a music manager who discovers a new talent in another daughter of Mexican immigrants.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MIJA")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Welcome to LA, baby.

DEL BARCO: This year's all-virtual Sundance Film Festival runs for two weeks.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.
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