For the first time since its inception, this year’s iteration of the Sundance Film Festival wasn’t held in picturesque Park City, Utah. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the showcase turned into a virtual event. Promising directors were still on hand to showcase their work, but viewers were able to watch them from the comfort of their living rooms. It wasn’t just the way films were presented that changed, though. The pandemic also impacted how many of these movies were made and what they’re about.
The shift is most obvious in films that are explicitly about the pandemic, of which there are several. One of the most arresting movies of Sundance, The Pink Cloud, is about living a life under lockdown, but amazingly, it was written in 2017 and filmed in 2019, long before COVID dominated our lives. The dramatic comedy How It Ends isn’t about the pandemic in any way, but it’s clear that directors Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones had to find creative ways around distancing restrictions. The story is playfully dark.
Sundance managed its 2021 festival virtually and the winners were revealed.
Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic Siân Heder, CODA Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch, On the Count of Three U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Actor Clifton Collins Jr., Jockey U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Ensemble The cast of CODA (Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez, Troy Kotsur, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Daniel Durant, and Marlee Matlin) U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary Summer Of Soul (… Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) Audience Award: U.S. Documentary Summer Of Soul (… Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) Directing Award: U.S. Documentary Natalia Almada, Users Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award: U.S. Documentary Kristina Motwani and Rebecca Adorno, Homeroom U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker Parker Hill, Isabel Bethencourt, Cusp U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Nonfiction Experimentation Theo Anthony, All Light, Everywhere World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic Hive Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic Hive Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic Blerta Basholli, Hive World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting Jesmark Scicluna, Luzzu World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Creative Vision Baz Poonpiriya, One for the Road World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary Flee Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary Writing With Fire Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary Hogir Hirori, Sabaya World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Vérité Filmmaking Camilla Nielsson, President World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Impact for Change Rintu Thomas, Sushmit Ghosh, Writing With Fire NEXT Audience Award Marion Hill, My Belle, My Beauty NEXT Innovator Award Dash Shaw (director), Jane Samborski (animation director), Cryptozoo Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize Alexis Gambis, Son of Monarchs Sundance Institute/Amazon Studios Producers Award for Narrative Features Natalie Qasabian, Run Sundance Institute/Amazon Studios Producers Award for Documentary Features Nicole Salazar, Philly D.A. Sundance Institute NHK Award Meryam Joobeur, Motherhood Sundance Institute/Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Nonfiction Juli Vizza Sundance Institute/Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Fiction Terilyn Shropshire