Tabitha Jackson on Sundance Film Festival, going virtual and more

Jackson appeared on theGrio's Acting Up Podcast, where she opened up about "892", a film featuring one of the late Michael K. Williams' final performances.

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On the latest episode of Acting Up, theGrio’s Cortney Wills sits down with Tabitha Jackson, Director of the Sundance Film Festival, to talk about this year’s virtual event, her journey as a Black woman at the top of the industry and more.

The 38th annual Sundance Film Festival will take place virtually January 20–30, 2022, theGrio previously reported. Amid the rise in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant, they made the safe choice last week to shift everything from a hybrid model to completely online. This decision, Jackson admitted, was a bit of a bummer, but luckily a reality they were prepared for.

Tabitha Jackson
Director of Documentary Film Program Tabitha Jackson speaks onstage during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival – The Movie That Blew My Mind Panel at The Ray on January 28, 2020 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)

“We were lead by the data and the data last Tuesday told us something so worrying that we pivoted away from in-person on Wednesday,” she explained. “It’s pandemic life, it’s Omicron and thank goodness we designed this festival as a hybrid festival. We already had the online festival up and running and staffed, which was a relief.”

She also revealed that the projected peak day of COVID transmission in Park City falls right in the middle of the festival. “We couldn’t responsibly put our community into these conditions,” she added. “It was only when we learned the latest data…it was the absolute epicenter of this thing on our opening weekend, it was like, no.”

Jackson also opened up about 892, a film in this year’s slate, which stands as one of the late Michael K. Williams‘ final performances. “This loss that we’re all experiencing is there onscreen, as well as the capacity of cinema to bring people back to us for a moment or two,” she shared.

2020 Sundance Film Festival - Power Of Story: Just Art Panel
Sundance Programmer Tabitha Jackson speaks during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival – Power Of Story: Just Art Panel at Egyptian Theatre on January 25, 2020 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Jeremy Chan/Getty Images)

Later in the episode, Jackson opened up about being a Black woman and being the first woman to ever helm Sundance.

“As a woman of color, as a queer woman of color, as a British queer woman of color, there are all of these things that I bring with me, as we all do into our work,” she explained. “There is a responsibility to those parts of ourselves and how they are represented for others as well. It is important that I don’t mess it up, because this privilege and this responsibility has been given to me.”

The full episode of Acting Up is available to stream now.

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