Sundance's Dramatic Competition jurors walked out of the premiere for Magazine Dreams on Friday night after the closed captioning device used for the film malfunctioned.
Among those jurors were Oscar-winning actor Marlee Matlin, who is deaf, Jeremy O. Harris and Eliza Hittman.
Though the device was repaired a few hours later, the incident reprised discussions of accessibility at film festivals. While having the closed captioning device was a move toward a more equitable viewing experience for all, there remains a great deal of progress to be made.
In response to the incident, the jury distributed letters to filmmakers urging them to allow "open caption DCP" prints to screen.
The letter obtained by Varietyreads:
"We have all travelled to Utah to celebrate independent film and those who devote their lives to making them."
"There's a thrill to sit in a room with others who love films and cheer for them together and Sundance has been an important place for each of us to do that over our varied careers."
"The U.S. independent cinema movement began as a way to make film accessible to everyone, not just those with the most privileges among us."
"As a jury our ability to celebrate the work that all of you have put into making these films has been disrupted by the fact that they are not accessible to all three of us."
Many on social media applauded the jurors for collectively exiting the premiere due to its failure to provide adequate access for all viewers.
Several also pointed out Matlin has been fighting this very issue for years.
Sundance CEO Joana Vincente issued the following statement:
"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."
Vincent also shared the jurors will be viewing Magazine Dreams in the near future.