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Hal featured in Los Angeles Times' Preview of Sundance '18

"Obsession. Unfetter. Unravel. Unleash. Fantasy. Nightmare." What does it all add up to? Would you believe Sundance 2018?

Though already first among leaders in the domestic film festival universe, Sundance has seen fit to rebrand itself with an enigmatic ad campaign featuring all those words and more.

But for those who regularly attend the festival, which starts Thursday night in wintry Park City, Utah, the most appropriate words might be "game of chance."

For more than at most festivals, Sundance's independently made, often out of nowhere movies are huge unknowns for audiences. Will the film you've signed up for turn out to be a monster hit like last year's "The Big Sick" or something so lamentable you can't remember its name a week later? You pay your money and you take your chance.

Lots of people, as it turns out, do exactly that. According to the Sundance Institute, last year's festival attracted visitors from 46 states and 18 foreign countries, generating an economic impact of $151.5 million.

Among the visitors this year will be a variety of celebrities of varying stripes, from RuPaul and Joan Jett to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Kronos Quartet, either as subjects of films or participants in the festival's wide variety of panels.

Sundance constantly tinkers with what it presents and how it presents it, and 2018 will see the inauguration of a new best-of-fest audience award to be called Festival Favorite.

Also, because so much episodic television is now screened, that kind of programming is getting its own official section, titled Indie Episodic and featuring, among many other shows, a glimpse of "America To Me," documentarian Steve James' ten-part look at a year in the life of a vibrant Chicago public high school.

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