Michael Greyeyes, Robin Wright and Casey Affleck are among the notables who loom large in the Sundance 2021 lineup.
The annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah traditionally attracts hordes of industry insiders, entertainment journalists, established and up-and-coming actors — and indie moviemakers eager to win prizes, generate buzz, and gain theatrical and/or streaming distribution for the movies they have made. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, in-person attendance will be much smaller for this year’s event. But Sundance organizers have risen to the occasion by expanding their horizons and offering a largely “virtual” festival that kicks off Thursday and continues through Wednesday, Feb. 3.
Of the many films included in the Sundance 2021 lineup, these are six that should be of special interest to C&I readers. You can expect to read and hear more about them in the weeks and months ahead.
C&I reader favorite Michael Greyeyes (pictured above) stars in a thriller, written and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr., about a man forced to confront his violent past decades after the savage murder of a classmate. Jesse Eisenberg, Kate Bosworth, Chaske Spencer, Phoenix Wilson and Julian Gopal are among the co-stars.
The World to Come
Oscar winner Casey Affleck — the subject of a cover-story profile in our upcoming April issue — is a producer and co-star of director Mona Fastvold’s compelling period drama, in which he portrays Dyer, a taciturn farmer coping with the demands of working his land and the tragic loss of his young daughter. But the chief focus of the film is the emotionally complex relationship between Abigail (Katharine Waterston), Dyer’s stoically forlorn wife, and Tallie (Vanessa Kirby of Pieces of a Woman), a vibrant newcomer to their isolated area of 1850s upstate New York.
Clifton Collins Jr. (Small Time Crime, HBO’s Westworld) stars in Clint Bentley’s drama as Jackson, an aging jockey who sets his sights on winning one last championship with the help of a supportive woman (Molly Parker) and a promising horse. But he’s distracted from his dream when a budding young jockey (Moisés Arias) shows up and claims to be his son. Fun fact: Collins is the grandson of actor Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, whose many credits include a memorable supporting role as an excitable hotel owner opposite John Wayne in Rio Bravo
Bring Your Own Brigade
In 2018, California was beset by the double whammy of the Camp Fire, which decimated the Northern California town of Paradise, and the Woolsey Fire, which roared through Malibu in the south. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lucy Walker examines the various causes for such destructive wildfires in a documentary that, according to the Sundance 2021 program notes, “reveals how responsibility continually gets shifted, with ordinary people left suffering the dangerous consequences. Bring Your Own Brigade cogently exposes our out-of-balance relationship with nature and explores what it will take to restore this delicate equilibrium.”
At The Ready
The showbiz trade paper Variety has dubbed director Maisie Crow’s documentary one of “11 Hot Movies for Sale at Virtual Sundance Fest,” so expectations are high. What’s it all about? According to the Sundance 2021 program notes: “Just ten miles from the US-Mexico border, Horizon High School in El Paso, Texas is home to one of the region’s largest law enforcement education programs and one of the country’s largest immigrant populations. For many, a career in the police force, Border Patrol or DEA is an opportunity for a stable, middle-class life and a shot at the American Dream. [At The Ready] follows three Mexican-American teens hailing from the school’s Criminal Justice Club, where they train for no-knock drug raids, hostage negotiations and active shooter scenarios in the school hallways. As the students strive toward their law enforcement aspirations, they begin to discover the realities of these jobs may be at odds with the people they hold most dear.”
Robin Wright does double duty as director and star of a contemporary drama with — no kidding — a Jeremiah Johnson vibe. After enduring a devastating tragedy, Edee (Wright) finds herself unable, or unwilling, to maintain ties to her family and friends, and seeks solitude in a secluded cabin in the wilds of the Rockies. Trouble is, she has little or no experience dealing with the challenges of life so far removed from the comforts of civilization, and comes close to death until a seasoned hunter (Demián Bichir) offers aid — and tutelage — that she only reluctantly accepts.