Just like Christmas dinner and the nasty office wine tasting, Sundance is going virtual this year.
That means you no longer have to haul a mile in the mountains of Park City, Utah to get one on time Film premiere. (I collapsed in a snow bank once.) No longer standing in line in the cold outside the Eccles Theater for hours only to find out that last seat had just been taken. No more elite wearing scarves that cost as much as a used Toyota Corolla.
But even if we can’t drink craft beer with Richard Linklater in a converted shoe store, we still have the movies. Sundance premiered more than 70 films through its online portal and several stationary theaters across the country from January 28 to February 3. This time anyone in the US can buy a ticket. And in contrast to the Toronto International Film Festival or Telluride, which are based on big names and titles, Sundance is about bold new discoveries. So the quality should be about the same as any other year.
Since this is an indie film festival, some films will fill up – everyone hit the pause button! – but some have already made me salivate. Single tickets ($ 15) and passes sell at 2:00 p.m. Thursday. E.T. at Sundance.org.
Sundance has become a lightning rod for documentaries – especially crazy ones like Weiner and Three Identical Strangers. The latest speaker is « Mischa and the Wolves » on author Misha Defonseca, who published a harrowing autobiography of World War II in 1997 entitled « Mischa: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years ». In the book, the woman claimed that – after her Jewish parents were taken by Nazis – she was forced into the wild, where she became a wild child raised by wolves. Fake news! Nine years later, the writer admitted that her story was a deception: she is Catholic and did not even leave her house during the war.
The anticipation of the thriller by Spanish director Pascual Sisto has been growing for months since he too was a selection for the canceled Cannes Film Festival last spring. The disturbing plot borders on comedic: A boy (Charlie Shotwell) holds his family – played by Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Ehle and Taissa Farmiga – hostage in a hole he discovers in his suburb. After the holidays it sounds downright cathartic.
Sundance is one of the best curators of artistic horror films. Exhibition Aaaaaaah !: You premiered « Get Out » in 2017. Most of the time, scary films debut in their « Midnight » section, like this year’s « Knocking ». The film is a « Tell-Tale Heart » -style thread about a woman who hears a deafening throb that nobody else notices.
Half of the directors at this year’s festival are making their feature film debut – which makes it all the more depressing that they cannot soak up the fame personally. However, one beginner isn’t a Hollywood novice: Robin Wright. In this drama, the actress « House of Cards » stages a woman who seeks refuge in the Rocky Mountains after a tragedy.
A threatening pink cloud floats towards a Brazilian city and people drop dead. The government is forcing the population to lock up and they stay in their homes for years. Ridiculous and completely implausible. However, what intrigues this foreign film is that it was made before the pandemic. « It was conceived as a feminist film, » director Iuli Gerbase told Variety.
What could end up as the toughest watch of the festival also has a titanic cast of actors to make the trauma worth it. A group of parents – played by Reed Birney, Ann Dowd, Jason Isaacs, and Martha Plimpton – speak to the shooter who killed their children years earlier. One room, a lot of tension.
Sundance calls this « dark weird ». It’s dark because it’s a suicide attempt. It’s funny because it was directed by my comedian Jerrod Carmichael and stars Christopher Abbott, Tiffany Haddish, Henry Winkler and J. B. Smoove.
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