Jonathan Majors’s new bodybuilder drama sparks walkouts at Sundance Film Festival

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Jonathan Majors’s new film Magazine Dreams has sparked a walkout from jurors at the Sundance Film Festival after proper captioning was not provided.

The anticipated new film, which stars Majors as an amateur bodybuilder called Killian Maddox, has already been gaining critical buzz.

However, during the premiere on Friday (January 20), jurors Jeremy O. Harris, Eliza Hittman and Marlee Matlin made the collective decision after a failure to provide adequate captioning for deaf and hearing impaired audience members, according to Variety.

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The screening provided a captioning device for Matlin, who is deaf, though it reportedly didn’t work, leading to the walkout, while the jury has repeatedly expressed concerns during the festival over the use of open captioning.

Marlee Matlin at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. CREDIT: Getty / Unique Nicole

The festival does have an application for credentials which asks attendees if they needed access to captioning, and has provided ASL interpreters for on-stage opening remarks and Q&A sessions.

However, Variety reports that a number of filmmakers have refused requests over captions on screen, claiming costs and the time needed to make another print, while it is being reported that some buyers have suggested that captions on screen could hurt a film’s asking prices for distribution.

It is being reported that for the Magazine Dreams screening, filmmakers refused to provide captions and instead gave Matlin alternative technology, which didn’t work. The premiere was delayed by 45 minutes, though while sources suggested it was due to a technical issue, it is unclear whether it was specifically related to captioning. The device is reported to have been repaired hours later.

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The Egyptian Theater at Sundance Film Festival. CREDIT: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
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In a letter to filmmakers, jurors pushed for the use of open caption DCP prints on screen, writing: “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.”

Jonathan Majors
Jonathan Majors (Picture: Press)

Sundance CEO Joana Vicente said in a statement in response: “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.

“The screening device used to provide closed captions did not work at one of our Friday evening premieres. The jury left so that they could see it together at another time during the Festival. Our team immediately worked with the devices in that venue to test them again for the next screening and the device worked without any malfunction.

“Our team has done extraordinary work in this area but there is always more work to do. We all still need to do more as we learn and consider the community at large.”

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