On Thursday evening, the Sundance Film Festival in Park Metropolis, Utah, which is celebrating its fortieth version this yr, was bustling. Banners held on snowy Essential Avenue, Leon Bridges was acting at a brand new music venue and the Eccles Theatre was packed for one of many opening movies: “Freaky Tales.”

And round 7 p.m., some 500 friends shuttled to a conference heart about 20 minutes away in Kamas, Utah, for the competition’s Opening Evening Gala, hosted by the Sundance Institute. The group, which places on the competition and has the mission of supporting unbiased filmmakers, held any such fund-raising occasion for the primary time final yr.

The Sundance Institute introduced collectively a crowd of individuals, which included movie trade gamers like Christopher Nolan, who discovered early success by means of the competition. They filed right into a cocktail reception, unfold throughout two flooring.

The costume code, listed as “upscale mountain stylish,” led to ensembles starting from boxy sweaters to velvet fits. Friends mentioned the movie lineups, ate dates wrapped with bacon and drank espresso martinis. Close by, actors and actresses posed for photographers and dredged up previous competition reminiscences.

Sundance has change into recognized for propelling little-known movies and filmmakers into the highlight. “The Blair Witch Venture” (1999), “American Psycho” (2000), “Napoleon Dynamite” (2004) and “CODA” (2021) all emerged from Park Metropolis.

Jodie Foster remembered the competition within the Nineteen Eighties. “I used to be on the jury for the yr of ‘Intercourse, Lies, and Videotape,’ which was a giant yr,” she stated, referring to Steven Soderbergh’s 1989 movie.

“One yr, I produced a film, and everybody was youthful than me, they usually all went out all evening, after which at 5:30 a.m. I awoke and had breakfast with them,” Ms. Foster stated, including, “We had pancakes and that was essentially the most enjoyable factor.”

(Ms. Foster’s companion, Alexandra Hedison, who was standing beside her, was at Sundance for the primary time this yr exhibiting her movie “Alok.”)

Jennifer Gray, who performs a personality named Marcia within the movie “A Actual Ache,” stated the actor John Slattery related the actress to her ex-husband on the competition within the Nineties.

“We went to this restaurant for breakfast, a spot all people used to go to,” Ms. Gray stated, “and I stated, ‘Who’s that?’ John then launched us.” (Ms. Gray and her companion introduced their cut up in 2020.)

Kristen Stewart, who was honored on the gala and sporting a black-and-white look by Chanel, began attending Sundance within the 2000s.

“Again then I used to be, like, sporting no-show socks and my Hollister denims,” Ms. Stewart stated, “and I used to be like, ‘I simply wish to hang around with all the perfect actors.’”

She felt at house. “If you happen to make an unbiased movie in America it’s since you’re loopy,” she stated. “You’re making an attempt to do one thing unimaginable and silly, however you do it since you may really contact somebody. Coming right here makes you are feeling much less ridiculous as a result of we’re all doing this. It’s essentially the most affirming factor.”

Jesse Eisenberg, who directed Ms. Gray in “A Actual Ache,” famous that he was about the identical age as Sundance. “I’m wondering if the competition additionally has again issues?” he joked.

He added that for him, these weeks are work, and he’s usually distracted. “The reality is once I’m at Sundance I’m at all times nervous as a result of I’m right here for one thing that has some type of stakes,” he stated.

After cocktails, friends sat for a three-course meal, which included trout, roast beef and polenta. The night raised $1.6 million.

In a speech on stage, Christopher Nolan, who was honored on the gala, credited the competition with serving to to begin his profession after “Memento” premiered in 2001. “It enabled a lot extra that got here after it,” Mr. Nolan advised the viewers.

However Robert Downey Jr., who launched the filmmaker, joked that he wasn’t positive the “Oppenheimer” director, who’s camera-weary, was really pleased to be found.

Mr. Nolan, he stated, “wants his spirits lifted.”

“He’s a bit blue as a result of a horrible tragedy has befallen him,” Mr. Downey continued. “He has change into recognizable on the road.”

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