Watch Sundance films from home…right now!

If you’re a fan of independent film, there’s nothing better than being at the Sundance Film Festival. And if you’re a fan of independent film, there’s nothing worse than not being at the Sundance Film Festival. The future of indie cinema is unspooling before the eyes of your fellow cinephiles, and all you can do is sit back and read about it on Facebook. The Internet is a double-edged sword in this regard. Social media gives you instant and constant access to festival buzz — but for a long time you couldn’t act on that buzz until those buzzy movies found distribution and made their way to your local theater. Slowly but surely, though, the Internet is starting to bring Sundance films, old and new, right into your home. Now while Park City’s bustling, you can do a lot more than just refresh your Twitter feed for hours on end while you cry into a pint of ice cream (not that I would, y’know, do something like that. I have a very rich and full life of, uh, other things).

For starters, you can stream nine short films from Sundance ’12 right now Yahoo. They range from a story of two squabbling brothers reunited by their father’s death to a dark comedy about texting-crazed teens to a “meditation on life, death, and synchronized swimming.” I’m still working my way through them, but my favorite so far is THE DEBUTANTE HUNTERS, a documentary about Southern Belles who love to kill and eat deer. After you watch all the films, you can vote on your favorite; the winner gets $5,000. That buys a lot of deer meat.

If you’re looking for entertainment of a slightly longer variety, the Sundance Institute just launched a new online initiative that might fit the bill. Partnering with film distributor New Video, they’re working to make all Sundance alumni films without preexisting homes available for stream or download on a variety of web platforms. So, for example, right now over on SundanceNOW, you can rent more than a dozen former Sundance titles, from oldies but goodies like 1994 Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner WHAT HAPPENED WAS to newer titles like the 2007 video game documentary CHASING GHOSTS.

If you’re a Netflix subscriber, there’s also a ton of Sundance alums available on Watch Instantly. Type in “Sundance” into Netflix’s search window and you’ll get dozens of options. Basically whatever kind of mood you’re in, they’ve got you covered, from mystery to comedy to activist documentary. Here’s just ten of my favorites (the links will take you right to their pages on Netflix):

BRICK (2005)
BUCK (2011)
CLERKS (1994)
HUMPDAY (2009)?
SLACKER (1991)

If you plow through all those titles and you still want more — first of all, you need to cut back on the coffee. But second of all, you should check and see if you’re in one of the lucky cities participating in Sundance Film Festival USA. Next Thursday, January 26, the festival will send one film to each of the following towns for a special screening: Ann Arbor, Michigan; Boston, Massachusetts; Brooklyn, NY; Chicago, Illinois; Houston, TX; Nashville, TN; Orlando, FL; San Francisco, CA; and Tuscon, AZ (click over to for the full list of films and more screening info). If you’re not near one of those metropolises, at least you have all those online options to keep you busy. And look on the bright side. You won’t even have to waiting in the freezing cold to watch any of them.