Normally, we’d be gearing up for a week-plus in Park City, anticipating days of dodging slick patches on sidewalks, sprinting from shuttle to shuttle to get to screenings and trading stories with our fellow festivalgoers about what we’ve seen and what we’ve loved. Now, of course, the 2021 Sundance Film Festival — which kicks off tomorrow and runs until February 3rd — will be an all-virtual, and a vastly different affair. No need for those snow boots. Keep your parka on the hanger, and your pajamas on if you want. It’s all just a few laptop keystrokes away. So much of what makes a festival vital is the sense of being there, in the same way that so much of what makes festival reporting such a rush is the chance to convey that experience back to readers. (On the plus side, we can all watch this stuff together regardless of how close to Utah you are — go to festival.sundance.org for tickets.)
But what’s always made Sundance such a key part of the annual moviewatching/fest-trawling ecosphere is the sense of discovery — and the programmers have thankfully kept that aspect intact. Below are 15 films we’re looking forward to catching over the next handful of days, from docs on the band Sparks and the summer-of-’69 “black Woodstock” concerts to an adaptation of a classic Harlem Renaissance novel, an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it-and-we-feel-fine comedy and a gonzo Nicolas Cage joint featuring samurai, sports cars and exploding leather suits.