film festivals

Sundance 2021 unveils pandemic lineup of films

Agence France-Presse
Sundance 2021 unveils pandemic lineup of films
The line-up includes Robert Redford's late son James' final film 'Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir'

Next month’s Sundance will be the first major festival highlighting movies made during and about the coronavirus pandemic, as organizers Tuesday unveiled a lineup featuring the final film by co-founder Robert Redford’s late son.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the indie film extravaganza will largely leave behind its usual mountain base in the western US state of Utah, showing premieres online and at nationwide drive-ins and arthouse theaters.

Among them is Life in a Day 2020, Ridley Scott and Kevin Macdonald’s follow-up to their 2011 documentary painting a “global portrait of life on our planet” using thousands of videos shot and submitted by members of the public from a single day in July.

The filmmakers received 300,000 submissions, as people around the world adjusted to their radically transformed life under an unprecedented pandemic.

“These windows into their lives are really extraordinary,” director of programming Kim Yutani told AFP, calling the project a “huge undertaking.”

“Not only is it the 10-year anniversary, this is such a significant year,” she added.

Also on show will be In the Earth, a virus horror film shot in 15 days in August by Ben Wheatley, and documentary In the Same Breath which claims to explore the Chinese government’s efforts to “turn pandemic coverups in Wuhan into a triumph for the Communist Party.”

Several films also address racism following this year’s mass protests against police violence, including Summer of Soul, musician Questlove’s first movie about the huge, forgotten “Black Woodstock” festival that took place in 1969 Harlem.

Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut Passing, based on a 1929 novella about two African-American women struggling with their race and gender identities in New York, will also appear.

Other highlights among 72 feature films include Nicolas Cage’s supernatural action-horror Prisoners of the Ghostland, and cult musical biopic The Sparks Brothers from Edgar Wright.

With the Oscars submissions deadline delayed by coronavirus, Sundance movies will this year be eligible to compete for April’s Academy Awards.

And the festival will feature Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir, the final film from James Redford about the author of the bestselling Chinese-American immigrant novel The Joy Luck Club.

James Redford, a filmmaker, activist, and son of actor Robert, died in October aged 58 from bile-duct cancer.

“It’s incredibly bittersweet… it’s very meaningful for us that we get to play this film for the Sundance audience to whom he meant so much,” festival head Tabitha Jackson told AFP.

“But it’s very sad not to have him with us to take his bow as director.”

Sundance runs from January 28 through February 3. –

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