2021 Sundance: Best of the Fest

2021 Sundance: Best of the Fest

The 2021 Sundance Film Festival has been a dream come true. Yes, just like many others I wish I was getting to partake in this event live with other film critics from around the world, but sadly we couldn’t do that. I still was able to make the best of this festival and over the past 5 days I was able to rattle off 20 films, and more than 25 reviews and articles. It was a difficult, but engaging process, and I am so thankful for Sundance for giving me this opportunity.

I also want to give thanks to Sundance for making this an easy and smooth transition into the Virtual Style. Any question was answered promptly, and while there might have been a few hitches, the apps and website were as crisp as you could get. They did a really fantastic job in adapting, and I think more festivals should replicate what Sundance was able to pull off.

In my final article, I want to highlight all of Sundance. I am going to start this off by announcing the winners of the different competitions, but then I will announce the best of the fest for me. Included will be the movies, performances, directing, and screenplays that I thought were the best of Sundance.

Sundance Award Winners

  • U.S. Dramatic Audience Award
    • CODA
  • U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury
    • CODA
  • U.S. Dramatic: Directing
    • Sian Heder, CODA
  • Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award
    • Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch, ON THE COUNT OF THREE
  • Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award
    • Kristina Motwani, HOMEROOM
  • U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Ensemble Cast
    • CODA
  • U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Acting
    • Clifton Collins Jr., JOCKEY
  • U.S. Documentary Audience Award
    • SUMMER OF SOUL (… OR WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED)
  • U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Award
    • SUMMER OF SOUL (… OR WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED)
  • U.S. Documentary: Directing
    • Natalia Almada, USERS
  • U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Nonfiction Experimentation
    • Theo Anthony, ALL LIGHT, EVERYWHERE
  • U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Emerging Filmmaker
    • Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt, CUSP
  • World Dramatic Audience Award
    • HIVE
  • World Dramatic Grand Jury Award
    • HIVE
  • World Dramatic: Directing
    • Blerta Basholli, HIVE
  • World Dramatic Special Jury Award: Creative Vision
    • ONE FOR THE ROAD
  • World Dramatic Special Jury Award: Acting
    • Jesmark Scicluna, LUZZU
  • World Documentary Audience Award
    • WRITING WITH FIRE
  • World Documentary Grand Jury Prize
    • FLEE
  • World Documentary: Directing
    • Hogir Hirori, SABAYA
  • World Documentary Special Jury Award: Impact for Change
    • WRITING WITH FIRE
  • World Documentary Special Jury Award: Verite Filmmaking
    • PRESIDENT
  • NEXT Innovator Award
    • CRYPTOZOO
  • NEXT Audience Award
    • MA BELLE, MY BEAUTY
  • Short Film Special Jury Award: Grand Jury Prize
    • LIZARD
  • Short Film Special Jury Award: U.S. Fiction
    • THE TOUCH OF THE MASTER’S HAND
  • Short Film Special Jury Award: International Fiction
    • BAMBIRAK
  • Short Film Special Jury Award: Acting
    • Deanna Gibson, WIGGLE ROOM
  • Short Film Special Jury Award: Nonfiction
    • DON’T GO TELLIN’ YOUR MOMMA
  • Short Film Special Jury Award: Screenwriting
    • Serhat Karaaslan, THE CRIMINALS
  • Short Film Special Jury Award: Animation
    • SOUVENIER SOUVENIER

Now onto my personal rankings of the fest. The reviews can be found by clicking the title.

Best Films

  1. Mass
  2. CODA
  3. On the Count of Three
  4. Prisoners of the Ghostland
  5. Judas and the Black Messiah
  6. Together Together
  7. The Dog Who Wouldn’t be Quiet
  8. At the Ready
  9. Marvelous and the Black Hole
  10. Cryptozoo
  11. Jockey
  12. John and the Hole
  13. Human Factors
  14. Prime Time
  15. Passing
  16. MAYDAY
  17. Land
  18. R#J
  19. I Was a Simple Man
  20. Wild Indian

Best of the Rest

  • Directing
    1. Fran Kranz, MASS
    2. Sian Heder, CODA
    3. Sion Sono, PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND
    4. Jerrod Carmichael, ON THE COUNT OF THREE
    5. Shaka King, JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
    6. Ana Katz, THE DOG WHO WOULDN’T BE QUIET
    7. Ronny Trocker, HUMAN FACTORS
    8. Clint Bentley, JOCKEY
    9. Pascual Sisto, JOHN AND THE HOLE
    10. Karen Cinnore, MAYDAY
  • Actor – Lead and Supporting
    1. Jason Isaacs, Mass
    2. Christopher Abbott, On the Count of Three
    3. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
    4. Clifton Collins Jr., Jockey
    5. Bartosz Bielenia, PRIME TIME
    6. Troy Kotsur, CODA
    7. Ed Helms, Together Together
    8. Nic Cage, Prisoners of the Ghostland
    9. Jerrod Carmichael, On the Count of Three
    10. Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Actress – Lead and Supporting
    1. Emilia Jones, CODA
    2. Ann Dowd, Mass
    3. Martha Plimpton, Mass
    4. Dominique Fishback, Judas and the Black Messiah
    5. Marlee Matlin, CODA
    6. Patti Harrison, Together Together
    7. Tessa Thompson, PASSING
    8. Robin Wright, LAND
    9. Rhea Pearlman, MARVELOUS AND THE BLACK HOLE
    10. Sofia Boutella, PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND
  • Screenplay
    1. MASS
    2. ON THE COUNT OF THREE
    3. CODA
    4. PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND
    5. JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
    6. TOGETHER TOGETHER
    7. JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
    8. THE DOG WHO WOULDN’T BE QUIET
    9. MARVELOUS AND THE BLACK HOLE
    10. CRYPTOZOO

Closing Thoughts

  • Of the group, I think Mass is the only one with real Oscar potential, aside from an Original Song from CODA.
  • When it comes to pure favorite, for all its cliches, CODA touched me the absolute most. I love that it embraced the cliches and embraced the formula and it worked because everyone bought in.
  • Jason Isaacs, Emilia Jones, and Christopher Abbott all gave my favorite performances of the entire festival.
  • The most fun I had while watching a movie is easily Prisoners of the Ghostland.
  • Mass is the best overall script for just how well it can pull emotions and tell a story, but On the Count of Three is right there as well.
  • Cryptozoo will forever be one of the most insane film experiences I have ever seen.
  • Some disappointment, some excitement, and some gems, overall I think this was an outstanding first Sundance.

2021 Sundance Coverage

2021 Film Rankings

Jacob is a Graduate of Western Kentucky University where he earned a History/Film Studies Degree. He is a film critic and co-founder of the Music City Drive-In. He is also a member of the North American Film Critics Association and the Music City Film Critics’ Association. You can find him on Twitter @Tberry57.

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