Film festivals play a critical role in the independent cinema ecosystem—one that has been disrupted by necessary postponements and cancellations of some of 2020’s most important events. Thanks to Mailchimp and film distributor Oscilloscope, SXSW’s 2020 shorts can be watched online for free. Tribeca Film Festival currently screens shorts (many from alumni) through their “A Short Film a Day Keeps the Anxiety Away” campaign. And the ReelAbilities Film Festival has moved online to reelabilities.org, now through 6 April. We are certain to see more initiatives like this in the coming months.
Fortunately enough, the 2020 Sundance Film Festival took place in Park City, Utah at the end of January. One of the most beloved stops on the cinema circuit, Sundance introduces films and virtual reality experiences that will be talking points throughout the year. Some of our favorites from this year have snagged theatrical distribution (like Zola, which found a home with A24, and The Father, out 20 November thanks to Sony Pictures Classic). The fate of others (like Coded Bias and Omniboat) remains to be seen. And, of course, several are out already. Below we’ve highlighted Sundance films—feature-length and short—available to watch now.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Netflix had a strong presence at Sundance—including audience award-winner Crip Camp, a documentary boasting President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as executive producers. Emmy award-winner Nicole Newnham and disability rights activist Jim LeBrecht directed the picture, which looks at the start of a movement from its beginnings at Camp Jened, a destination for teens with disabilities.
Also on Netflix right now, the three acclaimed dramas Horse Girl, The Last Thing He Wanted, and Lost Girls demonstrate the strength of programming at the film festival—and Netflix. On 17 April, Sergio will premiere on the streaming service, too. Later this summer, the documentary Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado will be available. Of course, Miss Americana, the Taylor Swift documentary, also premiered at Sundance and is available now.
From the Sundance’s Kids’ slate, Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made has already entered into wide release through Disney’s streaming service. The 99-minute feature, recommended for kids eight and up, was helmed by Tom McCarthy—who co-wrote and directed the 2016 Academy Award Best Picture winner Spotlight.
At the time of publish, acquisitions and productions of feature films by other services aren’t available. That said, Apple TV+ took on the acclaimed documentary Boys State with A24. Amazon scored Herself and Uncle Frank, neither with release dates yet. Hulu landed Sundance favorite Palm Springs and also Bad Hair, with no dates announced. HBO, however, will premiere Academy Award-nominated director David France’s Welcome to Chechnya on 30 June. The documentary digs into the atrocious LGBTQ+ persecution in the region.
Ever an integral component in the film festival experience, short films act as a launchpad for stories and storytellers. Festival acceptance for these films is as competitive, if not more so. This year, Broken Orchestra—a documentary directed by Charlie Tyrell about the Symphony for a Broken Orchestra project—offers a triumphant 11-minute experience. It’s a must-watch on Vimeo now.
A diverse selection of animated short films are also available on Vimeo for free. Director Nate Milton’s Eli delivers an odd, meditative and philosophical experience. Michelle Milles’ How Did We Get Here? film artfully depicts atrophy. Both Florentine Grelier’s My Juke-Box and Andrea Vinciguerra’s No, I Don’t Want to Dance! tap into the power of music and performance—and Sawako Kabuki’s Takoyaki Story is actually a music video for 1980Yen.
On NOWNESS, director Danny Lee’s Junior Bangers documents 11-year-old banger racers from the English Midlands in 13 compelling minutes. The New York Times op-doc Betye Saar: Taking Care of Business, directed by Christine Turner, hones in on the 93-year-old artist for nine minutes.
Special Event Screenings
Tangential to the official Sundance festival programming, special events dot the city to preview highly anticipated filmic projects. Four of these are available to watch now or soon. HBO’s six-part McMillions documentary miniseries chronicles the McDonald’s Monopoly game scam that boiled up between 1989 and 2001. Nanette Burstein’s documentary Hillary, a portrait of former Secretary of State Clinton, streams on Hulu. Season two of the Daniel Radcliffe and Steve Buscemi series Miracle Workers is underway on TBS. And Snowpiercer, the TV adaptation of the film by Parasite‘s Academy Award-winning director Bong Joon Ho and comic by author Jacques Lob and illustrator Jean-Marc Rochette, hits TNT in May.
Hero image courtesy of Metrograph