Second Wave of Excellent Films from Sundance Film Festival 2021

 This is the second article about my Sundance Film Festival 2021 experience. The first four days, I saw eight memorable movies that impressed me. The last two days or so, three more added to their ranks. These are movies I enjoyed and would recommend, depending on your taste. 

A little boy sits in a sea of yellow chairs
Still image from All Light, Everywhere

All Light, Everywhere, directed by Theo Anthony

Theo Anthony has a reputation for creating documentaries that challenge public perceptions of truth and shed light on social inequalities. In All Light, Everywhere, he presents a terrifying look at the history and current use of surveillance equipment, body cameras, and optical tools in finding objective truth in intense situations. Ultimately, Anthony proves his thesis, which is that objective truth through visual images is impossible because optical gadgets are always tainted by the wearer's perspective. The backstage tour of Axon Enterprises is as disturbing as anything I've seen at this festival. Hearing the man breakdown how a taser works in such matter-of-fact terms chilled my blood. In a world where body cameras are often relied upon as a tool to keep police accountable, All Light, Everywhere manages to horrify without any blood, guts, or bogeymen. Although the premise didn't initially sound that interesting, once I hit the play button, I couldn't stop watching, thanks to the trippy score by Dan Deacon and Anthony's experimental visual style. 

All Light, Everywhere won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance for Experimental Non-Fiction and will be distributed by Super Ltd, a division of Neon. 

A group of people hunt for werewolf
[L-R] Amelia Crouch as Charlotte and Alistair Petrie as Seamus Laurent in THE CURSED

The Cursed (Old Title: Eight for Silver)
, Directed by Sean Ellis

The Cursed is the kind of supernatural monster movie I haven't seen since the early 1990s when Bram Stoker's Dracula, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, came to the screen. The Twilight movies paved the way for paranormal romances, where the focus seemed to be having a sexy vampire or werewolf boyfriend. The Cursed goes back to the roots of the genre. After European land owners commit an unspeakable evil towards a Romani tribe with an original claim to the land, a curse is laid upon the sacred ground where the atrocity occurred. The curse spreads as others are bitten. Atmospheric storytelling had me curled up in the fetal position during this gothic horror. Sean Ellis takes his time building the terror we feel towards the beast. The origin story of the evil coming to the Renaults' land is original and something I haven't seen done before. The costumes and set pieces capture the eye. Bonus points: There's no token romance plot to take up space. 

A female bartender serves a drink to a boy at a bar
[L-R] Violette as Prim and Thanapob Leeratanakajorn as Boss in ONE FOR THE ROAD

One for the Road, directed by Nattawut Poonpiriya

Although One for the Road was one of the first day premieres, it wasn't until the last day of the festival that I was able to catch this heartwarming film that won a Special Jury Award for Creative Vision in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. This Thai-language road trip movie combines friendship, true love, mixology, and music appreciation into a moving story about the people we meet and love, even if it's for a short season. When Aood learns he is dying of cancer, he asks Boss to return to Thailand and accompany him on a road trip during which he will meet his most precious exes and make amends. But Aood has many surprises for Boss on this trip, and the story morphs into something far deeper midway through. A truly satisfying ending may have you longing for a trip to the coast as soon as possible. A New York Sour for the road, please.