Written by Kiki Moore
Dr. Bill Blizek, professor of philosophy and religion at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and founder of the Journal of Religion and Film, traveled to the Sundance Film Festival to review movies related to religion.
The festival is held in Park City, Utah at the Holiday Cinema. According to Blizek, individuals apply for credentials in October to be prepared for the festival. A picture is prepared to be scanned for the press to have access to the event. The condos where the reviewers stay are booked seven months in advance to guarantee a spot. Blizek said editors save money by eating in the condos. They are conveniently located three blocks from the screening, so a shuttle is available; Blizek chose to walk and enjoy the scenery.
About 45,000 people come to the festival to the town of 10,000. Of this, there are 2,000 press representatives with credentials.
Volunteers come from all around the world, and they are offered a place to stay and the opportunity to watch the films when not working. Typically film students, the volunteers are pleased to get the chance to experience their passion.
Although the reviewers would like the time to go out and explore, their days are busy and scheduled. There are “a lot of parties and a lot of venues,” but Blizek stays focused on the task at hand: film review.
“Our day starts at eleven and I am in bed at eight,” Blizek said.
Blizek has attended the event for “roughly 13 years”. This year, he favored “Ada”, an independent film in Polish with English subtitles. Blizek states that it was a positive film about faith and commitment. The festival showcases a variety of independent films, but Blizek targets films he can share with his students. The readers of the reviews are religious studies students, and they find out about the film through the editors taking the trip.
Not only is the festival a way to discover new film makers, but it is a networking experience for individuals with the same curiosities and interests.
“For us, the nicest thing is we talk with other religious studies scholars,” Blizek said.
With the press pass, Blizek has the ability to view other films not related to the Journal, but this year he was preoccupied with the scheduled showings.
The festival offers a variety of independent films, and there is a diverse audience from Entertainment Tonight to the Associated Press. There are competitions from best documentary to best short. Blizek’s purpose is to “find movies related to religion”.
“We don’t criticize the movies,” Blizek said. “We’re not interested in the actors or the music. We’re interested in religion.”