Jurors leave Sundance premiere over closed captioning glitch

The device, which relies on Wi-Fi, had been checked before the screening and was working, but malfunctioned nonetheless

Pedestrians take photos of the marquee of the Egyptian Theatre before the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, in Park City, Utah. The annual independent film festival runs from Jan. 19-29.
Pedestrians take photos of the marquee of the Egyptian Theatre before the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, in Park City, Utah. The annual independent film festival runs from Jan. 19-29.Chris Pizzello (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Marlee Matlin, Jeremy O. Harris and Eliza Hittman exited the premiere of a film playing in competition at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday night after the closed captioning device failed to work.

Matlin, who is deaf, is serving on the jury alongside Harris and Hittman for films debuting in the US Dramatic Competition at the festival in Park City, Utah, this week. The jurors walked out collectively when they realized the situation, which happened during the premiere of Magazine Dreams. Variety first reported the news.

Joana Vicente, the CEO of the Sundance Institute, said in a statement to The Associated Press on Saturday that the closed captioning device, which relies on Wi-Fi, had been checked before the screening and was working, but malfunctioned nonetheless.

“Our team immediately worked with the devices in that venue to test them again for the next screening and the device worked without any malfunction,” Vicente 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.”

Accessibility at film festivals has been a major topic for years, and the incident once again spotlighted how organizers are trying to make changes to accommodate all fans. Vicente said her team has been working hard in that area, but acknowledged there is more to be learned.

“We are committed to improving experiences & belonging for all festival attendees,” the statement read. “We consider accessibility as one of the primary drivers of institutional excellence and this work is done in partnership with film teams.”

Matlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Vicente said she and her fellow jurors would see Magazine Dreams in the coming days.

The Sundance Film Festival runs through Jan. 29.

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