If you remember COVID-19 cases started popping up in Hollywood right after the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and then—all hell broke out.
This year the Sundance Film Festival understood the seriousness of the world-wide pandemic, and Robert Redford, who created the festival, and his team shaped a semi-virtual event.
Programming Director Kim Yutani offered this: “This year, we have films representing our premiere section, our U.S. dramatic competition, U.S. documentary competition, our two World Competitions, and a Midnight Film.” She added, “It’s really to come out of the gate with a lot of energy.”
Here’s a look at Black Sundance 2021.
Two African-American women who can “pass” as white choose to live on opposite sides of the color line in 1929 New York in an exploration of racial and gender identity, performance, obsession and repression. Based on the novella by Nella Larsen. Starring Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland, Alexander Skarsgård, Bill Camp. Director and Screenwriter: Rebecca Hall.
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 embrapce him, determined to build one that would.
All Light, Everywhere
An exploration of the shared histories of cameras, weapons, policing and justice. As
surveillance technologies become a fixture in everyday life, the film interrogates the complexity of an objective point of view, probing the biases inherent in both human perception and the lens.
Following the class of 2020 at Oakland High School in a year marked by seismic change, exploring the emotional world of teenagers coming of age against the backdrop of a rapidly changing world.
Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
During the same summer as Woodstock, over 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.
Director: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson.
A spiritual journey into the highlands of Harar, immersed in the rituals of khat, a leaf Sufi Muslims chewed for centuries for religious meditations—and Ethiopia’s most lucrative cash crop today. A tapestry of intimate stories offers a window into the dreams of youth under a repressive regime.
The leader of the opposition MDC party, Nelson Chamisa, challenges the old guard ZANU-PF led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, known as “The Crocodile.” The election tests both the ruling party and the opposition—how do they interpret principles of democracy in discourse and in practice?
A re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet, taking place through their cell phones, in a mash-up of Shakespearean dialogue with current social media communication.
Director: Carey Williams. Screenwriters: Carey Williams, Rickie Castaneda, Alex Sobolev.
Judas and the Black Messiah
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. Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Lil Rel Howery, Martin Sheen. Director: Shaka King.
My Name Is Pauli Murray
Overlooked by history, Pauli Murray was a legal trailblazer whose ideas influenced RBG’s
fight for gender equality and Thurgood Marshall’s landmark civil rights arguments. Featuring never-before-seen footage and audio recordings, the film is a portrait of Murray’s impact as a non-binary Black luminary: lawyer, activist, poet and priest who transformed our world.
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. (Episodic)
Night of the Kings
A young man is sent to La Maca, a prison on the Ivory Coast in the middle of the forest ruled by its prisoners. With the red moon rising, he is designated by the Boss to be the new “Roman” and must tell a story to the other prisoners.
Beyond the Breakdown
Imagining alternate narratives for our near-future reality, inside a browser designed to hack our normal online behaviors and cultivate collaborative spaces for self-reflection and renewal.
The Changing Same: Episode 1
An immersive, episodic virtual reality experience where the participant travels through time and space to witness the connected historical experiences of racial injustice in America. A respectful, haunting story infused with magical realism and Afrofuturism about the uninterrupted cycle of the 400-year history of racial terror— past and present.
An immersive web experience and installation, illuminating the power and resilience in Black women’s stories. Interactive audio vignettes generate a multi-generational narrative that collapses past, present and future.
Traveling the Interstitium with Octavia Butler
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.
With the help of their family, friends and faith, three fathers unravel the incomparable partnership of forgiveness and community in North Philadelphia.
Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma
In 1970, Black educators in Chicago developed an alphabet flashcard set to
provide Black-centered teaching materials to the vastly white educational landscape, and the Black ABCs were born. Fifty years later, 26 scenes provide an update to their meanings.
The Fire Next Time
Rioting spreads as social inequality causes tempers in a struggling community to flare, but the oppressive environment takes on a life of its own as the shadows of the housing estate close in.
A God-fearing woman in present-day South Africa finds herself in a transactional relationship as she tries to support her sick husband and daughter.
i ran from it and was still in it
A poetic meditation on familial loss and separation, and the love that endures against dispersion.
An 8-year-old girl with an ability to sense danger gets ejected from Sunday school service. She unwittingly witnesses the underbelly in and around a megachurch in Lagos.
Up at Night
As dusk fades and another night without electricity falls, Kinshasa’s neighborhoods reveal an unstable environment of violence, political conflict and uncertainty over the building of the Grand Inga 3 hydroelectric dam, promising a permanent source of energy to the Congo.
Amidst a racially tense Southern wedding, a biracial bride has the chance to confront her estranged Black father after accidentally hiring his wedding band to perform.