Sundance Film Fest 2021: Buzzy Features

Sundance Film Fest 2021: Virtual Edition–Online Deals, First-time Filmmakers, Hot Films

Hot List
Courtesy of Sundance

Clockwise from top left: Sundance Film Festival titles ‘CODA,’ Eight for Silver,’ ‘On the Count of Three,’ ‘Searchers’ and ‘One for the Road.’

Last year, the Sundance Film Fest included record-breaking deals in both narrative and nonfiction sales.

This year is described by buyers and sellers as a “festival of discovery,” with half the program coming from first-time directors.

Heading into Sundance last year, many of the big domestic titles were Never Rarely Sometimes Always and A24’s Minari and Zola.

This year, only one of the dramatic competition titles (Together Together) has been presold out of the films in the dramatic competition.

This years’ selections do not have the high-profile ensembles.

Docu are of major interest, Edgar Wright (The Sparks Brothers), Questlove (Summer of Soul) .

The traditional studios are expected to sit out this year’s market, but streamers are looking to feed their pipe lines. The pandemic marketplace pits Sundance titles against studio films with releases still being incrementally pushed back. The belief early on in the COVID-19 crisis that services would dip into pools of available independent features has not borne out in the way some sellers had hoped. Fortunately, as CAA Media Finance’s Nick Ogiony notes, the majority of acquisition titles are offered in all territories, which often is a prerequisite for streamers. “Having these movies available worldwide has all buyers interested because there is such a vibrant market for movies that can be exploited on a global basis.”

By now the virtual film market format is well-honed after the sales activity at Cannes and Toronto Film Fests.

Here are some buzzy titles.

‘Coda’

'Coda'
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival–‘Coda’

DIRECTOR Sian Heder

STARS Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez, Marlee Matlin

In her Sundance return, Heder’s drama follows the only hearing person in a deaf family and her choice between pursuing her passion for music or staying put to help her parents’ fishing business.

The title screens on day one of the festival.

‘Eight For Silver’

Eight for Silver
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival
‘Eight for Silver’

DIRECTOR Sean Ellis

STARS Boyd Holbrook, Kelly Reilly, Alistair Petrie

A werewolf story, Silver is the festival’s genre standout. This Gothic horror is set in the 1800s in a remote country village where a man is sent to investigate wild animal attacks.

‘John and the Hole’

John and the Hole
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

DIRECTOR Pascual Sisto

STARS Charlie Shotwell, Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Ehle, and Taissa Farmiga

The psychological thriller (official Cannes selection) is penned by one of the writers of the Oscar winning Birdman (Nicolas Giácobone).

It centers on a kid who holds his family captive in a hole in the ground.

‘Mass’

Mass
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival
‘Mass’

DIRECTOR Fran Kranz

CAST Jason Isaacs, Ann Dowd, Martha Plimpton, Reed Birney

This drama offers an acting showcase for the four leads, who play two sets of parents coming together years after a tragic school shooting, in which one of their children was the victim and the other was the shooter.

‘My Name Is Pauli Murray’

My Name is Pauli Murray
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

DIRECTORS Betsy West and Julie Cohen

The directing team behind the Oscar-nominated RBG is back with a portrait about lesser-known legal hero Murray, a nonbinary Black lawyer who argued for civil rights and women’s rights, whose work inspired Ginsburg and Thurgood Marshall.

Participant, which made RBG and John Lewis: Good Trouble, is behind the doc.

‘On The Count of Three’

On the Count of Three
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

DIRECTOR Jerrod Carmichael

CAST Carmichael, Christopher Abbott

The acclaimed comedian’s first major onscreen role since The Carmichael Show is his directorial debut. The frenetic black comedy occurs when two best friends plan to end their lives.

Tiffany Haddish, J.B. Smoove and Henry Winkler are in the cast.

‘One for the Road’

One for the Road
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival
‘One for the Road’

DIRECTOR Baz Poonpiriya

STARS Tor Thanapob, Ice Natara

Wong Kar-wai produced this world dramatic competition selection, a Thai road movie about estranged friends who come together to fulfill a bucket list after one is diagnosed with cancer.

‘Searchers’

'Searchers'
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival
‘Searchers’

DIRECTOR Pacho Velez

This documentary follows a diverse group of New Yorkers (including the filmmaker) as they navigate various dating apps.

‘Summer of Soul’

Summer of Soul
Courtesy of Mass Distraction Media
‘Summer of Soul’

DIRECTOR Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson

This music documentary from the Roots co-founder is about 1969’s Harlem Cultural Festival (aka Black Woodstock) that saw performances from Nina Simone and Stevie Wonder.

The day-one premiere used 40 hours of never-seen-before footage.

‘Wild Indian’

Wild Indian - Sundance Film Festival - Publicity - H 2021
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival
‘Wild Indian’

DIRECTOR Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.

STARS Michael Greyeyes, Chaske Spencer

An alum of the Sundance Labs and recipient of the Native Producer Fellowship, Corbine makes his feature debut with this crime thriller about two men forced to confront their cover-up of the murder of a classmate.

Jesse Eisenberg and Kate Bosworth also star.