With an overall somewhat bleak future ahead, it’s difficult to find any bit of optimism for 2021 with expected COVID-19 protocols still in effect. However, have no fear, Sundance Institute is still chugging forward as they do every year by setting the tempo for Film Festivals around the world. Setting the standard for independent film, it’ll be no different this year as the lineup is looking as beautiful as ever. Here are my most anticipated films from each category.
U.S Dramatic Competition
CODA stands for Child of Deaf Adults. Children born to deaf adults happens much common than we would think. CODA is about Ruby, a young hearing girl from a deaf family that is torn between identities. She has to decide whether or not to help keep the family business “afloat” or continue her dream of singing, with a boy that supports her.
Not a lot is known about this film, but it’s synopsis sounds intriguing. A young woman named Ana is mysteriously transported to a surreal and deadly land where she joins forces with an army of girls engaged in a war. It’s not often that Sundance brings in a science-fiction drama, so we’re here for it.
Being someone who is first nations, it’s refreshing to see native filmmakers get noticed. Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr. an up and coming director, coming off the success of his two short films Shinaab and Shinaab Part II is finally debuting his first feature film, Wild Indian. A story about Makwa, an Anishinaabe boy that murders one of his schoolmates, along with a his close friend. The two boys cover up the murder and continue living into adulthood where they’re eventually confronted with that fateful day and have to the reality of what they did.
Try Harder! Takes a glimpse into the lives of the students of the top public high school in San Francisco. Putting in perspective the amount stress that builds up due to the pressure to stay on top of what it takes to be successful.
All Light, Everywhere
This documentary explores the “observer effect” a term used often in Physics that describes the process in which the act of observation disturbs the system that’s being observed. Director Theo Anthony investigates how this theory is interpreted among humans.
A happenchance documentary that follows the lives of three friends in a small Texas town. Cusp is nothing new in the realm of “Coming of age” media, but adds to the ever evolving genre and explores the harsh realities of growing up.
World Cinema Dramatic Competition
Synopsis provided by Sundance: “Newly arrived Swedish transplant Bella Cherry coyly announces to an airport immigration official that she’s come to Los Angeles for “pleasure,” but upon her subsequent dive into the world of adult entertainment, she soon realizes it is clearly business. Though she warms to the friendly affirmations of the more seasoned girls, eager-but-green Bella relies on her instincts to navigate her experiences with predatory managers, male-dominated sets, and backbiting competitors.”
Coming off the success of Corpus Christi (Boże Ciało) actor Bartosz Bielenia is back with another intense psychological drama Prime Time. Taking place in 1999 during a live coverage of New Year’s Eve while it gets hijacked by a mysterious captor with hidden intentions.
Synopsis provided by Sundance: “To escape mounting tensions at the advertising agency they co-own, French-German couple Nina and Jan whisk their kids, Max and Emma, away to their seaside vacation home. The couple has signed a new politically charged client, forcing them to confront their clashing priorities. But what’s meant to be an idyllic off-season retreat turns sinister when burglars tear through the house, unseen by anyone except Nina. Though at first the aftermath brings the family closer, it’s short-lived. As the police investigate and the evidence doesn’t add up, the account of what took place begins to unravel alongside the couple’s faith in each other.”
How It Ends
Synopsis provided by Sundance: “On the day an asteroid is scheduled to obliterate Earth, freewheeling Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones) scores an invite to one last wild gathering before it all goes down. Making it to the party won’t be easy, though, after her car is unceremoniously stolen, and the clock is ticking on her plan to tie up loose ends with friends and family. With a little help from her whimsical younger self (Cailee Spaeny), Liza embarks on a journey by foot across Los Angeles as she seeks to make peace with her regrets—and find the right company for those last few hours.”
Synopsis provided by Sundance: “Imagine the most dreaded, tense, and emotionally draining interaction you could find yourself in and multiply it by 10. That is exactly what two sets of parents—Richard (Reed Birney), Linda (Ann Dowd), Jay (Jason Isaacs), and Gail (Martha Plimpton)—are facing. Years after a tragedy caused by Richard and Linda’s son tore all their lives apart, Jay and Gail are finally ready to talk in an attempt to move forward.”
Sundance is always seems to stick to their roots by including a good ‘ol fashion western drama. This year, that’s Land. Following up her incredible success with House of Cards and Wonder Woman, Robin Wright plays Edee, a woman whose life is dramatically changed. Seeking peace, she packs up and moves out into the wild Rocky Mountains where she struggles to find her purpose in life.
Synopsis provided by Sundance: “Cryptids are creatures whose existence is disputed or unsubstantiated. When Amber and Matt get lost in the woods during a sex date, they stumble upon a high-security fence. On the other side, they find a cryptid—a unicorn—that would change their lives.”
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
Synopsis provided by Sundance: “Late on a cold night somewhere in the U.S., teenage Casey sits alone in her attic bedroom, scrolling the internet under the glow-in-the-dark stars and black-light posters that blanket the ceiling. She has finally decided to take the World’s Fair Challenge, an online role-playing horror game, and embrace the uncertainty it promises. After the initiation, she documents the changes that may or may not be happening to her, adding her experiences to the shuffle of online clips available for the world to see. As she begins to lose herself between dream and reality, a mysterious figure reaches out, claiming to see something special in her uploads.”
Synopsis provided by Sundance: “In fair Verona, a war as old as time is brewing between rival houses—but it’s being captured in a new way. Montague and Capulet Gen Zers are using their cell phones to document the eruptions of violence plaguing their communities. In the middle of it all, Romeo discovers Juliet’s artwork at a party, and the two inevitably fall in love. As tensions between their families escalate, the two plead for peace and desperately search for a way to escape their star-crossed destiny.”
A Glitch in the Matrix
Midnight, a category within the Sundance Film Festival that focuses on horror and similar genre themes has always been somewhat overshadowed by the other categories. A Glitch in the Matrix is set out to make that different this year. An intensely themed documentary that explores “Simulation theory” A theory that suggests that reality as we know it, is merely a simulation. As if we are characters in some elaborate RPG.
Synopsis provided by Sundance: “What. Is. That. Noise. When Molly hears knocking coming from the ceiling in her new apartment, she naturally searches for the source. The upstairs neighbors don’t know what she’s talking about and dismiss her with cool indifference. Is this all in her mind? After all, she’s still processing a traumatic event that left her mentally unwell, and the unprecedented heat wave isn’t helping her think clearly. As the knocking intensifies and gives way to a woman’s cries, Molly becomes consumed with finding out the truth. Could it be Morse code? Is someone trapped? And more importantly, why doesn’t anyone care?”