Sundance 2021 Guide: Bundle Up and Settle in on Your Sofa


Attending the Sundance Film Festival has never been easier. Passes are expensive, accommodations are even more expensive, the nearest airport is nearly an hour away, and you wait in long lines (in Utah, in January) for screenings – at least the ones that don’t sell out (most of them do).

But like so many film festivals in the Covid era, Sundance, which starts Thursday, has gone virtual this year. While that means there’s no chance of bumping into celebrities randomly in the bathroom (well, less chance), it does mean anyone who can collect $ 15 – the price of a single movie ticket – can enter. You don’t even have to put on long johns and snowshoes unless your super is particularly stingy in the heat.

So … what to see Even if it’s scaled-down like this year, the festival program is a bit overwhelming – 73 feature films and 50 shorts – and it’s not that you can make your selections based on reviews or buzz like most of these titles have never been has been seen before. But if you’re the type of viewer who wants to attend a virtual Sundance, you are probably the type of viewer who has enjoyed films from previous festivals. Here are some recommendations from this year’s list that will remind you of the great films from previous Sundances. The festival runs until Wednesday. Tickets and other details can be found at sundance.org.

Chloé Zhao’s powerful, serious drama “The Rider” (which played in the Spotlight section of the 2018 festival) is about a rodeo driver who is excluded from his beloved work and unsure of where his life will lead next . In Clint Bentley’s “Jockey” (at this year’s US Dramatic Competition), the versatile character actor Clifton Collins Jr. (“Capote”) appears as a racing jockey who is faced with a similar dilemma: When he makes one final run at a championship, that’s that Appearance of a young jockey claiming to be his son forces the aging athlete to think about who he will be when not on a horse.

Luca Guadagnino’s adaptation of André Aciman’s novel was one of the highlights of Sundance 2017, and for good reason: the beauty of its shining Italian prospects was only matched by the tenderness of its dramatization of first love (and loss). The first-time feature filmmaker Marion Hill plays “Ma Belle, My Beauty” (in this year’s next section) in a similar key and mixes beautiful European locations – this time the dazzling vistas of southern France – with a sophisticated story of romantic entanglements, when a newly married couple the woman, who had once loved both of them welcomed them to their home for a surprise visit.

The 2001 Sundance Film Festival audiences knew they were seeing something special in “Donnie Darko,” Richard Kelly’s dazzling, deep immersion in time travel, wormholes, the end of the world and suburban boredom. It is so strange and distinctive that it is virtually incomparable, but these nerve-wracking vibrations are also contained in Jane Schoenbrun’s next selection “We all go to the world exhibition”. A lonely teenage girl’s journey into a mind-changing online role-playing horror game is another emotionally resonant teenage identity story with generous portions of horror and science fiction mixed in.

One of Sundance’s 2018 breakout titles, Morgan Neville’s “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” was a poignant and heartbreaking documentary about the life and legacy of public service child favorite Fred Rogers. Resembling a similar historical and emotional area, Marilyn Agrelo’s adaptation of Michael Davis’ Bookmines describes how educators and entertainers came together in the late 1960s to bring new ideas about teaching and learning – and a new focus on downtown kids – in the To put “Sesame Street” into practice. ”And as with“ Neighborhood ”,“ Street Gang ”has enough archive clips and songs loaded to arouse even the most resilient viewer in the heart of nostalgia.

Carlos López Estrada’s comedy-drama was one of Sundance’s 2018 opening films and one of the most memorable – a vibrant, engaging story of two lifelong best friends exploring changes in their lives and the world around them. This film is based on the relationship between its protagonists (played by co-writers Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs). An even higher-stakes related relationship is at the center of On the Count of Three, in which actor and comedian Jerrod Carmichael (making his directorial debut) and Christopher Abbott are best friends, linked by a suicide pact.

One of the most iconic documentaries in Sundance history – and non-fiction history – is the 1994 sports epic “Hoop Dreams,” which takes two high school basketball players through a four-year cycle of hopes and disappointments. First-time director Ali El Arabi also introduces two young sports fanatics: Fawzi and Mahmoud, best friends who are obsessed with football but are trapped in a Jordanian camp for Syrian refugees. And like the themes of “Hoop Dreams”, Fawzi and Mahmoud see their sport not just as a hobby, but as a way out of their gloomy surroundings into a better, better future.

I love it or hate it, no one who has seen the 2016 US Dramatic Competition winner, “Swiss Army Man”, has forgotten the story of a forgotten man on a desert island who befriends a farting corpse. The same spirit of the Gonzo, all story telling, abounds in Dash Shaw’s adult animation centered on a secret zoo that houses rare and imaginary beasts (like the unicorn and Baku) and the people in that one is drawn into live its orbit.

Nanette Burstein’s 2008 Sundance documentary, American Teen, which focused on five high school students in the small town of Indiana, turned the problems of a typical senior high school student into compelling drama. Director Peter Nicks (who also made Sundance 2017 winner “The Force”) captures a much more turbulent period in his documentary “Homeroom,” which guides the 2020 class at Oakland High School through a senior year of calls for elimination by the district police and then knocked down by the pandemic.

One of Sundance’s most notable fictional high school films was Rian Johnson’s 2005 Special Jury Prize, “Brick,” which looked at the types and tropes of secondary school narrative through the lens of classic film noir. Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp’s “First Date” is also a step backwards as they cross classic high school dating comedy with 80s action and “Repo Man” -like surrealism, a playful genre mashup with a beating heart underneath .

Jim Jarmusch’s Deadpan comedy “Stranger Than Paradise” was an early indie hit, making it one of Sundance’s first big outbreaks (where it won the 1985 Special Jury Prize). It remains one of the most influential independent films of all time, so it is not surprising that it can be heard in Amalia Ulman’s directorial debut, “El Planeta,” another black and white absurd comedy about survival. But it also goes in his wonderfully personal direction: Ulman not only writes and directs, but also plays a desperate student who does little grifts with her mother (played by Ulman’s own mother Ale Ulman).



Robert Dunfee