A still from CODA
A still from CODA

Forget the pandemic and the isolated lockdown period that followed, it’s time for film lovers to celebrate again. Indeed, the Sundance Film Festival 2021 has created quite a buzz… what with a lot of films selling like hot cakes, pre-sale bonanzas, one whooping huge acquisition sale worth $25 million and several award-winning documentaries making the grade. So, indeed, it’s the time for cine lovers to ‘yoohoo’ again!

Of course, the Sundance Film Festival 2021 had its share of fireworks. CODA, a family drama swept the top four prizes in the US dramatic competition section — the Grand Jury prize, direction award, audience award and a special jury prize for best ensemble. CODA had already broken a record when Apple Studios acquired it for $25 million dollars in a fierce bidding war on the opening night itself. Quite a feat in itself!

It’s been a good beginning as all the opening night films bagged top honours. Flee, an animated film on a gay Afghani refugee, earned the Grand jury prize in the World Cinema Documentary Competition. One For The Road, a tale of two buddies roaming through Thailand earned a special jury mention for creative vision. Hive, directed by Blerta Basholli, traces the journey of a single mother who struggles to survive after her husband disappears in the war in Kosovo. The film won top honours in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, which included three awards — jury, direction and audience award. And, the best part is three of the four ‘best direction’ awards went to women. Three cheers for women talent!

The Documentary segment also showcased some good films. Summer Of Soul won the grand jury awards and the audience award in the US Documentary competition. The Jonathon Oppenheim Editing Award went to Kristina Motwani and Rebecca Adorno for Homeroom. India, too, made it’s presence felt with the documentary Writing with Fire, which won the audience award.

The dark shadow of the pandemic did affect the Sundance Film Festival 2021 as instead of the usual 10 days of films screenings, it was cut down to only six days with many live events, including the awards, being conducted virtually.

Given that the pandemic has scarred the world like never-before, there were films on the coronavirus global attack as well. Take, for instance, the movie In The Same Breath, which is scarily inspired by real-life events that happened in Wuhan, the epicentre of the pandemic. Then there was In The Earth, which took off on the new pandemic normal, followed by How It Ends, which eerily talked about the end of the world. A tad scary as reel suddenly seemed too close to real life events.

But, thankfully, there were films which were not so dark and were a delight to watch. Some of the best ones were Judas And The Black Messiah, I Was A Simple Man and John And The Hole. A special mention goes to Robin Wright’s directorial debut titled Land. It is a simple tale of a woman who seeks isolation in the Rocky Mountains after she faces personal grief and while battling the unforgiving elements, finds her resilience and strength. This film touches a chord and has received a lot of critical acclaim.

But, overall, it was a good year for creativity as films and documentaries dabbled in out-of-the-box content. The festival has paved the way for good cinema. So, here’s hoping more film festivals will follow suit.

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