Every January in Utah, the Sundance Film Festival comes to town. It’s the largest independent film festival in America and prides itself on screening world premieres and promoting new voices. This year’s line-up is the usual quality mix of US and World narrative and documentary features, experimental and future visions and the best of short filmmaking. For the first time ever, 2021 sees the festival become a virtual event. If you live in America and want to see some of the most innovative filmmaking around, we have a few recommendations for you. Tune in from the 28 January.
The third and most personal in a trilogy of vérité portraits [The Waiting Room (2012), The Force (2017)], Homeroom follows a group of high school seniors in the tumultuous school year ending in Spring 2020. A year derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic and rocked by the national trauma of the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others, Homeroom celebrates the tenacity of today’s youth.
Captains of Zaatari
Two best friends Mahmoud and Fawzi living in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan have an undying dream of becoming professional soccer players while facing the difficult reality of their lives. Despite being confined under dire conditions, they remain hopeful and practice day in and day out. When a world-renowned sports academy visits, both have a chance to make this dream come true.
At the advertising agency they co-own, French-German couple Nina and Jan have signed a new politically charged client, forcing them to confront their clashing priorities. To escape mounting tensions at work, they whisk their kids, Max and Emma, away to their seaside vacation home. But what’s meant to be an idyllic off-season retreat turns sinister when a mysterious home invasion sets everything off balance. Though at first the aftermath brings the family closer, as they try to put the incident into perspective, their accounts of what took place begin to unravel alongside the couple’s faith in each other.
When Marian is on the run, she goes to the only place she knows is safe: her childhood home. She is greeted by her estranged sister, Vivian, a stay-at-home housewife struggling to conceive and on the verge of a failing marriage. Though the two are identical twins, they live opposite lives. Marian’s mysterious return disrupts Vivian’s small-town routine, and the sisters must learn to reconnect and reconcile. When Marian’s haunting past finally catches up to her, their separate worlds collide, catapulting both sisters into grave danger.
At the Ready
Just 10 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. The film 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.
Seasoned horse jockey Jackson (Clifton Collins Jr.) has weathered decades of races on the riding circuit, but he now finds himself facing what could be his last season as his health deteriorates. With the help of Ruth (Molly Parker) and a promising new horse, Jackson starts to prepare for the upcoming championship. His plans take a left turn when a budding young jockey (Moisés Arias) shows up and claims to be his son. Caught between yearning for a connection and uncertainty about his own future, Jackson confronts difficult questions regarding his legacy.
With just a mobile phone and a gun, Mahmud, Ziyad and other volunteers from the Yazidi Home Center risk their lives trying to save Yazidi women and girls being held by ISIS as Sabaya (sex slaves) in the most dangerous camp in the Middle East, Al-Hol in Syria. Often accompanied by female infiltrators and working mostly at night, Mahmud and Ziyad must act extremely quickly to avoid potential violence.
Decades after covering up his classmate’s murder, Michael (Michael Greyeyes) has moved on from his reservation and fractured past. When a man who shares his violent secret seeks vengeance, Michael goes to great lengths to protect his new life.
Fahrije’s husband has been missing since the war in Kosovo, and along with their grief, her family is struggling financially. In order to provide for them she launches a small agricultural business, but in the traditional patriarchal village where she lives, her ambition and efforts to empower herself and other women are not seen as positive things. She struggles not only to keep her family afloat but also against a hostile community who is rooting for her to fail.
A woman (Molly) who has just experienced a traumatic incident is unnerved by a haunting knocking sound from upstairs in her new apartment building. As the noises become more desperate and increasingly sound like cries for help, she confronts her neighbors, but it seems no one else can hear them. In an unsettling quest for truth, Molly soon realizes that no one believes her, and begins to question if she even believes herself – a realization that is perhaps even more chilling.
To see the full schedule and purchase tickets, visit the Sundance website.