Sundance 2021 finished yesterday and announced its winners the evening before…
FIRST-TIME feature filmmakers Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh are basking in the glory of two Sundance Film Festival awards for their documentary, ‘Writing with Fire’.
The film is about the only-women run media organisation, Khabar Lahariya, in India and one which is staffed by women who are among the most marginalised and discriminated against – and referred to in India, as Dalits.
Delhi-based Thomas’ and Ghosh’s film won in the World Cinema Documentary Audience Award and also picked up a World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Impact for Change accolade.
The Sundance Media Institute in its awards release commented: “In a cluttered news landscape dominated by men, emerges India’s only newspaper run by Dalit women.
“Armed with smartphones, Chief Reporter Meera and her journalists break traditions on the frontlines of India’s biggest issues and within the confines of their own homes, redefining what it means to be powerful.”
The curtain came down on the totally digital seven-day festival yesterday (February 3) and there was also a Sundance award for Riz Ahmed’s executively produced documentary animation film, ‘Flee’. It won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize Documentary.
The film narrates the story of Amin as he flees war-torn Afghanistan to seek refuge in the West and is an animated multi-language feature.
“Amin arrived as an unaccompanied minor in Denmark from Afghanistan. Today, he is a successful academic and is getting married to his long-time boyfriend. A secret he has been hiding for 20 years threatens to ruin the life he has built,” stated the Sundance Media Institute, acknowledging that Danish, French (animation), Swedish and Norwegian companies were involved in its production. Ahmed’s UK-based Left Handed Films and US’ Vice Studios supported the film. Ahmed is set to play Amin in an English language version of the film.
www.asianculturevulture.com reported on Monday (February 1) that the film had been snapped for North American rights by powerhouse distributor Neon for a reported $1m. It distributed 2020 Oscar winner ‘Parasite’. ACV also reviewed both ‘Writing with Fire’ and ‘Flee’. (See our news story about Flee and review)
‘Flee’ was among the opening day offerings (January 28) while ‘Writing with Fire’ dropped on Sunday (January 31).
‘Fire in the Mountains’ was the other Indian film that enjoyed its world premiere this week.
A poignant and powerful family drama set among the gorgeous backdrop of the Himalayas, it deserves to be seen widely. Read the acv review here or see our link below…
The biggest awards winner of Sundance 2021 was the narrative feature, ‘Coda’. It won four awards including the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award, a Directing and Ensemble Award.
Screening on the opening day (January 28) it secured a reported $25m deal with Apple TV earlier this week.
It is about the only hearing child in a family that is deaf, ie ‘Child of Deaf Adults’.
The film is directed and written by Siân Heder, best-known for her writing on the Netflix show, ‘Orange is the New Black’ (2013-2019) and the more recent Apple TV Show, ‘Little America’ (2020) – a series of stories about immigrants in the US. Both Heder’s parents’ were born outside the US, one reportedly in Wales.
The US Grand Jury Prize Documentary went to ‘Summer of Soul (…or When the Revolution Could not be televised)’ – it is about the Harlem Cultural Festival which promoted African American music and culture and the original footage from the festival was lost in a basement for over 50 years until now. Director Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson collected the prize.
Among the other Grand Jury winners was ‘Hive’. It is a drama centred around a woman trying to establish herself and her small business after her husband went missing during the war in Kosovo.
There were also Audience Awards for ‘Summer of Soul’ (US Documentary); ‘Coda’ (US Dramatic); ‘Hive’ (World Cinema Dramatic); ‘Ma Belle, My Beauty’ (Audience Next).
There was a also US Documentary Special Jury Award Emerging Filmmaker Award for ‘Cusp’ and its young women directors Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt. Acv saw the film and thought it a hard watch but if you like cinema verité as raw as it can be and are not squeamish about 15-year-old girls talking sex, child abuse, drugs and guns, it might be for you… See listings below.
As well as ‘Writing with Fire’, ‘Fire in the Mountains’ and ‘Flee’, acv reviews ‘Amy Tan; Unintended Memoir’, and ‘First Date’ as well.
There was British success too in the short film category as the Grand Jury Prize went to ‘Lizard’ which is a BBC Film and directed by Brit Akinola Davies Jr, and written by The Davies Brothers. ACV saw the film yesterday (February 3) as the award-winning films were made available to passholders. It is powerful and deftly constructed and mixed crime and morality and metaphorical tale as seen by a young girl in Lagos, Nigeria.
The 24 award prizes were presented by US actor and comedian Patton Oswalt in a virtual ceremony on Tuesday (February 2) evening.
Most of this year’s festival was online with 73 features screening during the six official days of the festival.
Organisers did well to digitally recreate the actual festival experience as much as possible with avatars, film parties and other socials where you could see, meet and converse with other festivalgoers all through your phone or computer. It seemed to be a popular feature but for acv being seven hours behind Park City (US Mountain Time) made it difficult to be as social as we might have liked. Watching films at 2am was challenge enough! Maybe Park City will beckon again in 2022…
ACV attended the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, in 2019, covering the world premieres of ‘Blinded by the Light’, ‘Late Night’, ‘Photograph’ and the now International Emmy Award-winning TV series, ‘Delhi Crime’.
Fire in the Mountains (Review) – http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/sundance-2021-indian-film-fire-in-the-mountains-brilliantly-encapsulates-the-challenges-of-modernity-versus-tradition-review
More reviews from Sundance 2021 – http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/sundance-2021-amy-tan-unintended-memoir-cusp-first-date-reviews/
News story and links to other Sundance 2021 stories – http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/riz-ahmed-executively-produced-film-flee-wows-sundance-and-bags-first-deal-of-festival/