Woohoo!🥳 Sundance Film Fest 2021! There were a lot of first-timers at this year’s Sundance (asienne included✌️) – with many of us still adapting to the “new normal” of the all-digital film festivals. Ironically, the most common underlying theme in this year’s selections were: grief (with a glimmer of hope) and the triumphing power of human connection. Intentional or not, after the year that we just had, these seemingly common themes seemed fitting which made most of the films easier to digest and understand, and the characters (even the unlikeable ones) more relatable. Here are the feature films featuring Asian and Asian American leads that premiered over the 7-day festival:
For the Asian American Creative: Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir
Cherished living legend and Asian American trailblazer, Amy Tan, is best known for her iconic literary work, The Joy Luck Club. This very personal documentary dives into the inspirations behind the many stories of Joy Luck and the many intersections that allude to Tan’s own experiences. A must-watch for every Joy Luck fan and Asian American creative.
For the Documentary Aficionado: Writing with Fire
“What kind of life is this? Women face the greatest injustice everywhere. I don’t understand this life.” This in-depth documentary follows a group of women journalists in India who work tirelessly to bring justice to victims of abuse. This doc won The Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary at Sundance. And rightfully so. It might be a difficult watch but a necessary one.
Sometimes, I feel it’s a sin to be born a woman. First, she is made to feel like a burden on her parents…then she becomes a slave to her husband. Her life is so vulnerable.(Writing with Fire, 2021)
For the Indie Comedy Fan: Together Together
Comedian Patti Harrison co-stars with Ed Helms in this adorable comedy about a different kind of intimacy. It’s a breath of fresh air. Much millennial. Very hipster. Please do yourself a favor and watch it without watching the trailer. It makes for a better ,,independent cine-muh,, viewing experience.
For the Whole Family: Marvelous and the Black Hole
There’s one too many changes happening at once and Sammy (Miya Cech) doesn’t know how to cope. Her solution – err, the universe’s solution? Magic. Co-starring comedy legend, Rhea Perlman, Marvelous is a heartwarming tale about finding friendship in the most unlikely places and the acceptance of feels in an Asian family.
For the FIlm Nerd: One for the Road
Produced by renowned filmmaker Wong Kar-wai (In the Mood for Love, 2046) comes this film about the power of friendship and forgiveness. Its unique, dreamy aesthetic takes the viewer on a trip down memory lane (literally) but you decide for yourself if two films successfully diverged into one storyline, or if it should have been two separate films. One for the Road is memorable in itself because it does leave you with a nostalgic feeling…for something – (maybe it’s travelling – prompting feelings of wanderlust) – or someone (maybe it’s an old friend. Old lover. Or even… an old you).
For Fans of Drama Films: Fire in the Mountains
There’s a lot of cultural dynamics at play here. It’s another one that is not an easy watch but definitely a necessary one. Director Ajitpal Singh talked about how reflecting on his own prejudices is what created this film. It’s a deep and powerful social commentary challenging the mainstream view of a culture while showing the reality of the untold stories of women in the rural Himalayas.
Feature Films Missed: I Was a Simple Man
Part One of Three | (Part Two | Part Three)
This Sundance 2021 coverage was made possible by The Sundance Institute.
No copyright infringement intended. All official photos are Courtesy of Sundance Institute.