Sundance Film Festival 2021 to offer unique virtual reality projects, more Black representation
The Sundance Film Festival 2021 will take place from 28 January to 3 February.
This year's Sundance Film Festival will take place largely online. The organisers are urging Hollywood to stay home and watch virtual premieres and Q&As on their laptops.
Industry networking events will see filmmakers' and artists' "avatars" roam and mingle with audiences in chat rooms and virtual-reality cinemas. Some drive-in and arthouse theatres will host real-world screenings and talks, in specific parts of the US where local conditions allow.
The New Frontier exhibition is perhaps the most innovative and exciting experience the festival has to offer. The program can be accessed with or without virtual reality (VR) gadgets.
CNET recommends Fortune (animated documentary); Beyond the Breakdown (a browser-based experience where audience can build their ideal narratives of the future); Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran (a play on the economic disparity that can be watched on the computer or on the phone via an Instagram account); Secret Garden (a 3D gallery experience recounting oral histories spanning generations of African American women); Traveling the Interstitium with Octavia Butler (30-minute long experience allowing audience to alternate portals and watch artists create); Weirdo Night (a virtual show by performance artist Dynasty Handbag); 7 Sounds (an immersive, live-streamed audio-video work that explores the universal influence of sound).
The majority of films showing this year were shot before the arrival of COVID-19 — many of them edited during quarantine. But there are numerous filmmakers at the festival who managed the seemingly impossible feat of making a movie in 2020, while most of us were worrying about having enough toilet paper.
A handful of high-profile films made during the pandemic have recently hit streaming platforms in the US, including the heist comedy Locked Down (on US platform HBO Max). But Sundance will supply the fullest look yet of moviemaking under the pandemic. Even in an independent film world predicated on a can-do spirit, the results — including Homeroom, How It Ends and In the Same Breath — are often striking for their resourcefulness.
Other highlights among 72 feature films at the festival co-founded by Robert Redford include Nicolas Cage's supernatural action-horror Prisoners of the Ghostland, and cult musical biopic The Sparks Brothers from Edgar Wright.
Ridley Scott and Kevin Macdonald will unveil Life in a Day 2020, a follow-up to their 2011 documentary using thousands of videos shot and submitted by members of the public from a single day in July to paint a "global portrait of life on our planet." Zoe Lister-Jones areunites with her Craft: Legacy star Cailee Spaeny for How It Ends, co-starring Olivia Wilde and Fred Armisen. And CODA, a day one film from Sian Heder about a child of deaf adults, is expected to be one of the breakouts.
There is Mariem Pérez Riera’s Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It, which examines how the entertainer battled racism to become one of the few performers to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Lucy Walker has a documentary about the history of wildfires, Bring Your Own Brigade and Jonas Poher Rasmussen will debut his animated refugee documentary Flee.
And then there’s the more unconventional efforts like animator Dash Shaw’s psychedelic Cryptozoo, featuring the voices of Lake Bell, Michael Cera and Grace Zabriskie. Or Nattawut Poonpiriya’s Wong Kar-Wai produced drama One for the Road.
The festival line-up also has many highly-anticipated projects from Black filmmakers — Rebecca Hall's film on racial identity Passing; Jamila Wignot's documentary Ailey on the late African-American dancer, director and choreographer; Judas and the Black Messiah; Summer of Soul (...Or: When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Questlove's doc on 1969's Harlem Cultural Festival with unseen footage of performances from BB King, Nina Simone, Sly and the Family Stone; Carey William's retelling of Romeo and Juliet in R#J; Comedian Jerrod Carmichael's directorial debut On the Count of Three.
Sundance Film Festival 2021 runs from 28 January to 3 February.
(With inputs from agencies)
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