Student attends Sundance Film Festival


Photo by Sami Luke

Sami Luke, Managing Editor

On the weekend of Jan. 30 through Feb. 1 I had the privilege of attending three films at the renowned Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Sundance is among the most prominent independent film festivals in the country. Annually, films are showcased in the hundreds at Sundance. Some of the popular films in the festival gain publicity and catch movie deals.

The Stanford Prison Experiment, winner of the Alfred P. Sloan feature film prize at the Sundance Film Festival in the drama competition was a to be announced films I had the privilege of viewing. The film is based off of a real experiment conducted in 1971 at Stanford University. The Stanford Prison Experiment features an excellent score of familiar young actors including: Ezra Miller, Moises Arias, Jack Kilmer and Michael Angarano.

A Stanford psychologist named Dr. Philip Zimbardo (Billy Crudup) sets up a two week prison simulation, where male student volunteers who go to Stanford  play the roles of prison guards and prisoners for 15 dollars a day. There were no deciding characteristics differentiating prisoners and prison guards, the decision was made simply by the flip of a coin.

The prison guards are quick to assert their authority and self righteousness, the prisoners follow their lead almost immediately. An abusive, fearful relationship forms between the prison guards and prisoners. The experiment is taken out of proportion, astronomically.

The film exerted intensity with multiple climax-type moments. However, moments of comedy gave the film a much needed lighter feeling.

People are power hungry. As soon as power is given to a person– imaginary or real, it is bound to go to their head.

The Stanford Prison Experiment gave crucial information to Psychologists about power roles between prisoners and prison guards– which could pertain to any given authoritative relationship. Teacher student relationship, child parent relationship, employee boss relationship etc.