Normally, when the sundance film festival Starts at the end of January, the film awards season has long been launched and is in full swing in Hollywood. This year, the pandemic has turned everything upside down.
Producers, stars and reporters won’t gather as usual in the snow-capped mountains of Utah to swap the latest Oscars rumors.
The festival, one of the most important for independent cinema in the United States, will take place mainly via the internet from Thursday. And the coronavirus having forced the Oscars to postpone their ceremony to April 25 – unprecedented – this means that several heavyweights of the 2021 edition have not yet been released, or even for some have not even been unveiled at the critical.
Suffice to say that all eyes of the film industry are on the Sundance Festival this year, launched in the 1980s with the help of the legendary Robert Redford. “We really realized that oh, it’s new, we’re going to be in the shooting window for the awards,” Tabitha Jackson, director of the festival, told AFP.
The proof is at Sundance that the Warner Bros. studios decided to show a world preview of the highly anticipated Judas and the Black Messiah, where Daniel Kaluuya plays the young leader of the Black Panthers Fred Hampton.
Other high-profile films screened at Sundance include Land, a drama set in the wild landscapes of the Rockies and first pass behind the camera of Robin Wright (female star of the series House of Cards), or The World To Come, produced by Casey Affleck, who also plays a role.
“In a way, it is a launching track (towards the Oscars) but on the other hand, we do not yet know very well what 2021 will look like” as regards the releases of films, noted Ms. Jackson. last month. “So I’m very curious to see how people will choose to use this shooting window.”
Snow boots vs. slippers
With or without Sundance, independent films seem set this year to take center stage in a film awards season unlike any other: all the competitions have been postponed, like the famous Golden Globes which should have already been distributed at this time of the year but will not reveal their nominations until February 3.
With most cinemas still closed in the United States due to the devastation of Covid-19, the studios are doing postponement after postponement for their big productions (Dune, the next James Bond, etc.) to try and save the recipes.
Ironically, a calendar disrupted by the cancellation of many festivals last year, the films that will be presented at Sundance could find themselves struggling with the works that were illustrated last year at the same festival.
Among these are The Father, drama signed by French author Florian Zeller, with Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman, and Promising Young Woman, female thriller set against a backdrop of #MeToo revenge, starring Carey Mulligan.
Other successes of the 2020 edition of Sundance, Minari, portrait of an American family of Korean origin, can try to repeat the feat of Parasite which won the Oscar for best film last year, or the documentaries Boys State and Time.
“There are so many films that are the topic of conversation right now that started their artistic life at Sundance last year,” notes Tabitha Jackson.
The festival organizers, however, urge the small world of Hollywood to have these discussions via the internet and virtual screenings.
Only a few drive-ins and small independent theaters will show the films in different locations across the United States, where health restrictions permit, but not in Los Angeles or Utah, where the pandemic is raging.
All participants are invited to “swap their snow boots for slippers” and take advantage of the circumstances to “see more movies than you could do in the mountains under normal circumstances”, insists Ms. Jackson.
A total of 72 feature films will screen at Sundance, which runs from January 28 to February 3.