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This year’s Sundance Film Festival is venturing into new territory: Virtual screenings. As a longtime sponsor of the fest, SAGindie will be there in spirit (and online) for this year’s virtual outing – taking place Januray 28 – February 3, 2021. And though we may have to watch the movies from our homes, we still will be watching some movies. Which movies, you ask? Well, we’ve polled our staff for their top Sundance 2021 movie picks.

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Darrien’s Picks:

For the first time in decades, I will see more than 5 films at Sundance. Without that pesky snow, parties/receptions, meetings, and panels dominating my days, I can finally commit serious time to movie-watching (thanks, COVI—, …wait)

Here are my most anticipated movies of Sundance 2021:

CODA
(U.S. Dramatic Competition, Directed by Siân Heder. As a CODA — Child of Deaf Adults — Ruby is the only hearing person in her deaf family. When the family’s fishing business is threatened, Ruby finds herself torn between pursuing her love of music and her fear of abandoning her parents.)

PASSING
(U.S. Dramatic Competition, Directed by Rebecca Hall. Two African American women who can “pass” as white choose to live on opposite sides of the color line in 1929 New York in this exploration of racial and gender identity, performance, obsession, and repression. Based on the novella by Nella Larsen.)

AILEY
(U.S. Documentary Competition, Directed by Jamila Wignot. Alvin Ailey was a visionary artist who found salvation through dance. Told in his own words and through the creation of a dance inspired by his life, this immersive portrait follows a man who, when confronted by a world that refused to embrace him, determined to build one that would.)

HOW IT ENDS
(Premieres, Directed by Daryl Wein & Zoe Lister-Jones. On the last day on Earth, one woman goes on a journey through Los Angeles to make it to her last party before the world ends—running into an eclectic cast of characters along the way.)

TRAVELING THE INTERSTITIUM WITH OCTAVIA BUTLER
(New Frontier, Directed by Sophia Nahli Allison, Idris Brewster, Stephanie Dinkins, Ari Melenciano, Terence Nance. Inspired by the ideas of Octavia Butler, voyaging into the interstitium: a liminal space, a cultural memory, containing the remnants of our ancestors, a place of refuge, a place of recentering, a portal into an alternate dimension.)

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
(Premieres, Directed by Shaka King. FBI informant William O’Neal infiltrates the Illinois Black Panther party when J. Edgar Hoover fears charismatic leader Chairman Fred Hampton will emerge as a Black Messiah. O’Neal lives in fear of discovery and cannot escape the deadly trajectory of his betrayal.)

 

Eliza’s Picks:

CRYPTOZOO
(NEXT, Directed by Dash Shaw. As cryptozookeepers struggle to capture a baku (a legendary dream-eating hybrid creature), they begin to wonder if they should display these rare beasts in the confines of a cryptozoo — or if these mythical creatures should remain hidden and unknown.)

SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED)
(U.S. Documentary Competition, Directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. During the same summer as Woodstock, more than 300,000 people attended the Harlem Cultural Festival, celebrating African American music and culture, and promoting Black pride and unity. The footage from the festival sat in a basement, unseen for over 50 years, keeping this incredible event in America’s history lost—until now.)

STREET GANG: HOW WE GOT TO SESAME STREET
(Premieres, Directed by Marilyn Agrelo. How did a group of rebels create the world’s most famous street? In 1969 New York, this “gang” of mission-driven artists, writers and educators catalyzed a moment of civil awakening, transforming it into Sesame Street, one of the most influential and impactful television programs in history.)

STRAWBERRY MANSION
(NEXT, Directed by Albert Birney & Kentucker Audley. In a world where the government records and taxes dreams, an unassuming dream auditor gets swept up in a cosmic journey through the life and dreams of an aging eccentric named Bella. Together, they must find a way back home.)

THE PINK CLOUD
(World Cinema Dramatic Competition, Directed Iuli Gerbase. A mysterious and deadly pink cloud appears across the globe, forcing everyone to stay home. Strangers at the outset, Giovana and Yago try to invent themselves as a couple as years of shared lockdown pass. While Yago is living in his own utopia, Giovana feels trapped deep inside.)

THE SPARKS BROTHERS
(Premieres, Directed by Edgar Wright. How can one rock band be successful, underrated, hugely influential, and criminally overlooked all at the same time? Take a musical odyssey through five weird and wonderful decades with brothers Ron and Russell Mael, celebrating the inspiring legacy of Sparks: your favorite band’s favorite band.)

WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR
(NEXT, Directed by Jane Schoenbrun. A teenage girl becomes immersed in an online role-playing game.)

LIFE IN A DAY 2020
(Special Screenings, Directed by Kevin Macdonald. An extraordinary, intimate global portrait of life on our planet, filmed by thousands of people across the world on a single day: July 25, 2020.)

 

Colin’s Picks:

FIRST DATE – Sounds like a modern take on Mystery Date (this is a good thing)
(NEXT, Directed by Manuel Crosby & Darren Knapp. Conned into buying a shady ’65 Chrysler, Mike finds his first date with the girl-next-door, Kelsey, imploding as he is targeted by criminals, cops, and a crazy cat lady. A night fueled by desire, bullets, and burning rubber makes any other first date seem like a walk in the park.)

HOW IT ENDS
(Premieres, Directed by Daryl Wein & Zoe Lister-Jones. On the last day on Earth, one woman goes on a journey through Los Angeles to make it to her last party before the world ends—running into an eclectic cast of characters along the way.)

ON THE COUNT OF THREE
(U.S. Dramatic Competition, Directed by Jerrod Carmichael. Two guns. Two best friends. And a pact to end their lives when the day is done.)

MISHA AND THE WOLVES
(World Cinema Documentary Competition, Directed by Sam Hobkinson. A woman’s Holocaust memoir takes the world by storm, but a fallout with her publisher-turned-detective reveals her story as an audacious deception created to hide a darker truth.)

PHILLY D.A.
(Premieres, Directed by Ted Passon, Yoni Brook, Nicole Salazar. A groundbreaking inside look at the long-shot election and tumultuous first term of Larry Krasner, Philadelphia’s unapologetic district attorney, and his experiment to upend the criminal justice system from the inside out.)

ONE FOR THE ROAD
(World Cinema Dramatic Competition, Directed by Baz Poonpiriya. Boss is a consummate ladies’ man, a free spirit, and a bar owner in NYC. One day, he gets a surprise call from Aood, an estranged friend who has returned home to Thailand. Dying of cancer, Aood enlists Boss’s help to complete a bucket list—but both are hiding something.)

 

Shefali’s Picks:

SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED) – The movie I’m most excited to see. Pretty insane that this footage has never been released, but also incredibly exciting!
(U.S. Documentary Competition, Directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. During the same summer as Woodstock, more than 300,000 people attended the Harlem Cultural Festival, celebrating African American music and culture, and promoting Black pride and unity. The footage from the festival sat in a basement, unseen for over 50 years, keeping this incredible event in America’s history lost—until now.)

CODA – Although I haven’t seen Tallulah yet, CODA also looks awesome and I really enjoyed the two episodes Siân Heder directed in GLOW.
(U.S. Dramatic Competition, Directed by Siân Heder. As a CODA — Child of Deaf Adults — Ruby is the only hearing person in her deaf family. When the family’s fishing business is threatened, Ruby finds herself torn between pursuing her love of music and her fear of abandoning her parents.)

TOGETHER TOGETHER – Should also be fun — I love Patti Harrison and am excited to see her as the lead.
(U.S. Dramatic Competition, Directed by Nikole Beckwith. When young loner Anna is hired as the surrogate for Matt, a single man in his 40s, the two strangers come to realize this unexpected relationship will quickly challenge their perceptions of connection, boundaries, and the particulars of love.)

PASSING
(U.S. Dramatic Competition, Directed by Rebecca Hall. Two African American women who can “pass” as white choose to live on opposite sides of the color line in 1929 New York in this exploration of racial and gender identity, performance, obsession, and repression. Based on the novella by Nella Larsen.)

ON THE COUNT OF THREE
(U.S. Dramatic Competition, Directed by Jerrod Carmichael. Two guns. Two best friends. And a pact to end their lives when the day is done.)

MARVELOUS AND THE BLACK HOLE
(Premieres, Directed by Kate Tsang. A teenage delinquent befriends a surly magician who helps her navigate her inner demons and dysfunctional family with sleight-of-hand magic, in a coming- of-age comedy that touches on unlikely friendships, grief, and finding hope in the darkest moments.)

RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT
(U.S. Documentary Competition, Directed by Mariem Pérez Riera. Rita Moreno defied both her humble upbringing and relentless racism to become one of a select few who have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award. Over a 70-year career, she has paved the way for Hispanic American performers by refusing to be pigeonholed into one-dimensional stereotypes.)

 

Michael’s Picks:

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH – I’m psyched to see Judas & the Black Messiah (finally!).
(Premieres, Directed by Shaka King. FBI informant William O’Neal infiltrates the Illinois Black Panther party when J. Edgar Hoover fears charismatic leader Chairman Fred Hampton will emerge as a Black Messiah. O’Neal lives in fear of discovery and cannot escape the deadly trajectory of his betrayal.)

ON THE COUNT OF THREE – Looks really cool and has some buzz.
(U.S. Dramatic Competition, Directed by Jerrod Carmichael. Two guns. Two best friends. And a pact to end their lives when the day is done.)

CODA – The buzz around CODA is very positive, so I’m definitely interested.
(U.S. Dramatic Competition, Directed by Siân Heder. As a CODA — Child of Deaf Adults — Ruby is the only hearing person in her deaf family. When the family’s fishing business is threatened, Ruby finds herself torn between pursuing her love of music and her fear of abandoning her parents.)

WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR – I’m eager to see my old pal Jane Schoenbrun’s feature debut.
(NEXT, Directed by Jane Schoenbrun. A teenage girl becomes immersed in an online role-playing game.)

CRYPTOZOO – Also looks cool.
(NEXT, Directed by Dash Shaw. As cryptozookeepers struggle to capture a baku (a legendary dream-eating hybrid creature), they begin to wonder if they should display these rare beasts in the confines of a cryptozoo — or if these mythical creatures should remain hidden and unknown.)
 
WHAT MOVIES ARE YOU EXCITED TO (VIRTUALLY) WATCH THIS SUNDANCE?

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If you’re an independent filmmaker or know of an independent film-related topic we should write about, email blogadmin@sagindie.org for consideration.

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