Sonscreen Team Meets with Award-Winning Filmmakers at 20th Annual Windrider Summit and Sundance Film Festival Experience

North American Division

Sonscreen Team Meets with Award-Winning Filmmakers at 20th Annual Windrider Summit and Sundance Film Festival Experience

Professionals and students gather to celebrate the impact of creative outlets and storytelling on faith and spirituality

Media | United States | Rachel Scribner

The Sonscreen Film Festival team met with award-winning filmmakers and engaged in deep discussions on storytelling and spirituality at the 20th annual Windrider Summit and Sundance Film Festival Experience on January 21–26, 2024.

Students and professors from La Sierra University, Oakwood University, Southern Adventist University, and Walla Walla University attended the educational event. The Loma Linda University Church media team, which hosts the Sonscreen Film Festival, also traveled to Park City, Utah, for the gathering, where filmmakers at the top of their fields gave presentations and answered questions.

“For the Sonscreen community, this summit isn't just another event; it's a source of inspiration,” said Julio C. Muñoz, festival executive director and associate director of Communications for the North American Division (NAD). He stated that Windrider is “a place where we can combine our faith with our love of cinema, a gathering where we learn from storytellers from various backgrounds and perspectives.”

The Windrider team invited Muñoz to host a Q&A session with Oscar-nominated filmmaker Sean Wang. Wang’s feature film, Dìdi (弟弟), won both the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award and the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Ensemble Cast at Sundance, and his short film Nǎi Nai and Wài Pó was nominated for the Best Documentary Short Oscar this year. Both of Wang’s films draw on themes of family, human connection, and his own experience growing up as a first-generation Taiwanese American boy.

“I was deeply honored,” Muñoz said of the invitation. “[Sean Wang] is an exceptionally talented young filmmaker, and delving into his distinctive storytelling voice was truly enlightening.” For Muñoz, “Windrider holds a unique place in fostering encounters with award-winning filmmakers like Sean.” He lauded the fresh perspectives and creative inspiration the summit provides.

The Windrider Summit was first conceived more than 20 years ago. “It actually started out with … Fuller [Theological] Seminary students going to the [Sundance] Film Festival and realizing that the films were a reflection of the deepest longings of society,” said Sonscreen Festival producer Tanya Musgrave, who also worked as a producer for the 2024 Windrider Summit.

On its website, the summit’s parent organization, Windrider Institute, states that the founders gathered in 2005 “to explore the possibilities of an immersive educational experience at the Sundance Film Festival — with the idea that the Sundance Film Festival could provide a dynamic learning laboratory for students to engage in a cultural dialogue as it takes shape.”

Their dream became a blessing to many filmmakers, film students, and people of faith, and for the past 20 years, Windrider has held a summit in conjunction with the Sundance Film Festival.

“Windrider convenes an ecumenical group of thoughtful undergrad students, professors, seminarians, ministry leaders, and industry professionals,” said Ryann Heim, director of programming at Windrider Institute. “At the Sundance Film Festival, we have an opportunity to witness independent storytelling by young filmmakers who are grappling with big questions.”

Establishing a Partnership

When the Sonscreen team attended its first Windrider Summit in 2020, Muñoz saw tremendous value in the event. “I was struck by the profound sense of community and the genuine passion for storytelling that permeated the event,” he recalled. “It was more than just a gathering of film enthusiasts; it was a transformative experience where faith, art, and culture intersected in powerful ways.”

A partnership was soon established. Each winter, Sonscreen team members would attend the Windrider Summit, meet filmmakers, and connect with the network of schools and filmmakers. Then in the spring, representatives from Windrider often attended the Sonscreen Film Festival to showcase some films and lead out in the thoughtful discussions for which the summit is known.

Now, four years after Sonscreen’s first encounter with Windrider, Muñoz, Musgrave, and Tristen Campbell, an Oakwood University student who landed an internship at the summit, all found themselves on stage or behind the curtains, helping to create that same transformative experience for a new group of students.

And their reward? The chatter and energy rising from the tables during discussion time as students chewed over the films and their themes with new friends.

Graduating senior Nicole Sabot appreciated the diverse stories and filmmakers at the summit and enjoyed finding common ground through stories. “It gave me hope,” she said after the event.

Muñoz, too, expressed positive feelings about the future of Sonscreen’s partnership with Windrider Institute: “It's a special experience where fresh perspectives are uncovered, and inspiration ignites our creative spirits."

The original version of this story was posted on the North American Division website.