Jurors for Sundance’s U.S. Dramatic Competition walked out of the premiere of “Magazine Dreams” on Friday night over an incident in which the festival failed to provide adequate captioning for deaf and hearing impaired audience members — including juror Marlee Matlin.
Members of the dramatic jury — consisting of Jeremy O. Harris, Eliza Hittman and Matlin — decided to collectively walk out of the film as it began after a caption device provided to Matlin didn’t work. While the device was repaired hours later, it underscored a larger issue that has played out behind the scenes regarding the festival’s ability to make movies accessible to all viewers. The festival said the jurors intend to screen the film as a group before Sundance ends.
According to multiple sources, the jury has repeatedly expressed concerns to both Sundance and filmmakers that movies playing at this year’s festival should come with open captions. At other international festivals, including Cannes and Venice, movies are captioned in multiple languages on the screen. This year’s application for credentials to Sundance asked attendees if they needed access to captioning.
However, multiple sources state that several filmmakers have declined the request to provide open captions onscreen, citing the costs and time associated with making another print. Sources say that some buyers even suggested that including captions onscreen could somehow hurt the film’s asking prices on the market as they try to land distribution.