January 30, 2023

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Jurys leave the Sundance premiere due to a closed captioning glitch

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — Marlee Matlin, Jeremy O. Harris and Eliza Hitman walked out of the premiere of a movie in competition at the Sundance Film Festival Friday night after a caption machine failed.

Matlin, who is deaf, serves on the judging panel alongside Harris and Whitman for films that debuted in American Drama Competition at the festival in Park City, Utah, this week. The jurors walked out en masse when they realized the situation during the premiere of Dream Magazine. Variety first reported the news.

The closed captioning device, which relies on Wi-Fi, was checked prior to inspection and was working, but is nonetheless malfunctioning, Sundance Institute CEO Joanna Vicente said in a statement to the Associated Press on Saturday.

“Our team immediately worked with the devices at that location to test them again for the next check and the device worked without a hitch,” Vicente said. “Our goal is to make all experiences (in person and online) as accessible as possible for all involved. It is recognized that our accessibility efforts are always evolving and feedback helps drive them forward for the community at large.”

Accessibility at film festivals has been a major topic for years, and the incident has once again highlighted how organizers are trying to make changes to accommodate all fans. Vicente said her team is working hard on the field, but she acknowledged there was more to learn.

“We are committed to improving the experiences and belongingness of all festival attendees,” the statement read. “We view accessibility as one of the key drivers of organizational excellence and this work is being done in partnership with film teams.”

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Matlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Vicente said she and her fellow jurors will be watching “Magazine Dreams” in the coming days.

The Sundance Film Festival runs through January 29.

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The “Hittman” spelling has been corrected in this release.