Film Festival

Film Festival: Sundance 2021 Is A Festival With A Difference

This year's Sundance Film Festival will be a bit different; the much-esteemed festival will take place mostly online due to the global pandemic of Covid-19.

Kicking off on Thursday, 28 January, the festival will not be the usual, that many are accustomed to, the event which used to run for eleven days will now be seven days. The pandemic has turned everything upside-down, in standard years, the festival would also take place during Hollywood's award season, this is not the case this year, as award season has been slightly delayed.

Sundance usually plays a significant role, in conversations around award season, because around this time film producers, actors and journalists usually meet to swap last-minute Oscar tips and catch a first glimpse of the next year's batch of contenders, but with the Oscars delayed to April 2021- several top contenders have not been released or even screened for critics yet, meaning Sundance could play an outsized role in the awards conversation.

"It certainly became apparent that 'oh, this is new, we're going to be in the awards window,'" Sundance festival head Tabitha Jackson told AFP. However, the show must carry on, one of the things to look forward to in this year's festival is Warner Bros' world premiere for its highly anticipated Judas and the Black Messiah, with Daniel Kaluuya's turn as the young, tragic Black Panther leader Fred Hampton hotly tipped for recognition.

Others include wilderness drama "Land" - the directorial debut from House of Cards star Robin Wright - and period romance The World To Come, produced by and co-starring Casey Affleck. "In one sense it's a short runway (to the Oscars), but in the other, there's still uncertainty about what 2021 is going to look like" for movie releases, said Jackson last month. "So I'll be interested to see how people choose to use that window."

Other highlights among 72 feature films at the festival co-founded by Robert Redford include Nicolas Cage's supernatural action-horror Prisoners of the Ghostland, and cult musical biopic The Sparks Brothers from Edgar Wright. Ridley Scott and Kevin Macdonald will unveil Life in a Day 2020, a follow-up to their 2011 documentary using thousands of videos shot and submitted by members of the public from a single day in July to paint a "global portrait of life on our planet."

Beyond Sundance, it is said that indie films appear restrained for a landmark year at various delayed awards including the Golden Globes - which would ordinarily have taken place by now, but they haven't even announced nominations yet. With most US cinemas closed by the Coronavirus, studios have repeatedly pushed back the releases of their biggest, most expensive movies. Sundance organisers have urged Hollywood to stay home and watch virtual premieres and Q&As on their online devices. The much-loved industry networking events will also have to take place virtually or online.

Sundance starts on Thursday, and it ends on 3 February.

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