On Jan. 27, actress Ashley Jackson felt the first symptoms of a nasty bug — fever, clammy skin, fatigue and shortness of breath. Given her current locale — Park City — she chalked it up to altitude sickness and toughed out her final day at the Sundance Film Festival, where she had attended the world premiere of Blast Beat, a family drama in which she co-stars, as well as a dizzying array of parties and lounges. The next day, the 20-year-old college student flew home to Atlanta, just as more intense symptoms began to emerge, including sore throat, aches and pains and a cough so violent, her neck swelled. Within 24 hours, she made her first of multiple visits to an urgent care facility or emergency room and was diagnosed with the flu based on her condition (though no flu test was given at the time).
Like many who make the annual trek to the indie film mecca, Jackson left Sundance far worse off than when she entered. After all, the quaint mountain oasis transforms into a petri dish as some 120,000 festivalgoers from around the world huddle in crowded movie theaters during cold and flu season. In recent years, the festival’s organizers have placed an emphasis on attracting international filmmakers, and this year was no exception, with a lineup of 118 feature-length films representing 27 countries.