Sundance Log 2021 Day 1 (Shorts, FLEE)

Hello from the Sundance Film Festival…inside my house! Yes this is my 5th time attending the festival, my first time as approved press. As can be expected they are doing an all virtual festival this year and it honestly has its pluses and minuses. Gone are the long lines (especially if you don’t have the locals pass like last year) It’s also admittedly nice to be able to take breaks, tweet while watching and other such obnoxious behaviors you can’t do in a screening.

However, obviously I miss out on the group-feel of the festival. They are trying their best to mimic that with chatrooms and even gave directors and some critics (not me) VR sets to increase the realism. Still, nothing is quite the same as being there and chatting with folks, finding out what they’ve seen and going to see it. The festival is a great experience and I can’t wait until it is back in full force.

Today I saw 3 programs as part of Day 1 of the festival. This includes 2 shorts programs and my first feature film. Here are my mini reviews:

Animation Spotlight

Despite being a massive animation fan I must own I am not usually a big fan of the Animation Spotlight at Sundance. Often it has felt like a lot of Don Hertzfelt copycats and one of him is enough for me thank you very much! However, I don’t know if it is because I am interviewing all the animators for Rotoscopers but I feel like this is a better batch than normal this year.

The highlight of the 9 shorts is GNT which is very vulgar and foul-mouthed but funny short about group of catty friends trying to win points on social media and The Fourfold by Alisi Telengut which uses paint and paper with stop motion to tell a story about the earth. The rest were all good and worth watching.

8 out of 10

Smile Worhty

Shorts Program 1

Next up we have the first of 2 live action shorts programs. This a very different group of shorts with about the only thing connecting them being their length and being in live action. My favorite is called BJ’s Mobile Gift Shop which¬† is a charming short about a man who carries a red suitcase around town that is a go-to lifesaving gift shop in a bag. You spill coffee on your shirt? He’s ready to help. You lose power to your phone? He’s got a charger to help. He also challenges his stuffed suit friends to think outside their boxes in some great scenes.

However, I did not like the last short Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma. It was really long and was attempting to portray Black America but felt like scripted randomness, which I really hate in documentaries. Not for me.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Flee

My first feature film of the festival is an animated documentary about a man named Amin who tells his story to his friend director Jonas Poher Rasmussen. This is not the first animated documentary I’ve seen. Waltz with Bashir and the incredible Tower come to mind. However, it’s an uncommon enough format to feel fresh and exciting. It also is ambitious in its scope taking you from Amin’s life in Afghanistan when his father is taken away, to him fleeing to Denmark, to his coming to terms with his sexuality and getting married. That’s a lot for one film to take on!

I was particularly moved by the ending when Amin receives acceptance from someone whom he expects rejection. It is very moving. Some of the animation could be smoother but it does the job we needed it to do. I really enjoyed watching Flee.

7.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

So there you have it. Day 1 is done! Did you get to watch anything at Sundance today? Let me know in the comments section.