The Sundance Film Festival offers so many movie premieres and panel discussions that you wonder how organizers of the Park City, Utah, event are able to fit everything onto one schedule every winter. While only in its second year, London’s version of the cinematic celebration continues to grow itself. With independent features, short films, concerts and artists’ talks filling the capital’s O2 Arena from April 25 through 28, this event is jam-packed with diversions. It’s a good thing, then, that our team of movie-loving editors has scripted the perfect itinerary for enjoying the festival.
What to See
As part of the Sundance Institute, founded by Hollywood luminary Robert Redford in 1981, the Sundance London Film and Music Festival continues the mission of supporting independent filmmakers and connecting audiences to their work.
The biggest stars of the four-day event are, of course, the 30 films. Festivalgoers will have the chance to preview 21 feature-length films and nine shorts, including 26 from Park City’s 2013 Sundance Festival in January. Several of the must-see films won awards in Utah, including In a World…, a comedy about an underachieving vocal coach pursuing her dreams of becoming a voiceover star, which won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, and Grand Jury Prize winner for the documentary category, Blood Brother, about a young man who left his job to work at an AIDS orphanage in India.
There’s a strong U.K. presence, as well, thanks to the U.K. Spotlight program focusing on U.K. films, including The Moo Man, a documentary about a year in the lives of farmer Steve, and the queen of his herd of cows, Ida. Also in the pack is The Look of Love, the true story of British adult magazine publisher Paul Raymond.
Music is weaved into many films here, and some even have accompanying performances after the showings. One of the highlights is the April 25, 26 and 27 screenings of the documentary Muscle Shoals about FAME studios where legendary artists from Aretha Franklin to The Rolling Stones have all recorded. The April 27 film is followed by a concert from Gregg Allman and The Civil Wars’ John Paul White. DJ and electronic musician Peaches will be headlining on April 26 where she’ll perform live, as well as debut her first film feature, an electro rock opera, Peaches Does Herself.
Just be sure to save some time for the panels (like The Art of the Score: An Afternoon with David Arnold, where the musical director of films such as Casino Royale and Independence Day will speak), question-and-answer sessions after screenings and Hub Talks. These sessions allow you to join in on discussions with the creative teams from the Sundance Institute, documentary filmmakers and more.
Where to Stay
Check in to one of the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Four Seasons Hotel at Canary Wharf’s luxurious guest rooms and you’ll be just a few miles away from The O2. Book a river-view room and you’ll score a gorgeous backdrop of the Thames and London’s skyline. And if you have a little time between flicks, pick up your racquet and head to the tennis courts at the Virgin Active Health Club next door.
Immerse yourself in the West End at The Langham, London, the official hotel of Sundance London. It’s an easy 20-minute ride on the Tube from all the films, concerts and events—that is if you can tear yourself away from the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel’s luxurious rooms and suites.
Unwind at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, which grants guests a luxe stay away from Sundance crowds. When you’re not trying to catch the onscreen stars, check out one of the hotel’s leading roles: The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, London. The Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star spa spans two floors and has private showers in every treatment room, a Zen color therapy, vitality pools, amethyst crystal steam rooms and more.
Where to Eat
Whether or not you decide to stay at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, book a table at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. His knowledge of Britain’s gastronomic history serves as the background for the menu here. You’ll not only enjoy timeless recipes—some dating back to the 16th century—updated for today’s tastes (think spiced pigeon with ale and artichokes or cod in cider with chard and fired mussels), but also an impeccable view of Hyde Park.
Quo Vadis is a charming restaurant located on Dean Street in Soho in a space where philosopher Karl Marx once lived. Today chef Jeremy Lee serves up modern British fare in the form of an ever-changing menu depending on what’s available. Start off with a dish like puntarella with anchovy and a soft-boiled egg or crab soup, and feast on a main course of poached cod, potatoes and aioli or ox liver served with onions and sage. Head to the bar before or after dinner for a signature drink—try one of the handcrafted martinis—or snack on the small plates like cheese straws or a roast beef sandwich and chips.
Photos courtesy of The 02, AEG Europe, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Langham Hotels International Limited and Angel Ceballos