10 Noteworthy Short Films and Documentaries From Sundance 2021

In this second part of our three-part Sundance 2021 coverage, we talk Short films: both fiction and documentary. From powerful documentaries that raise awareness on social issues, to narratives that cause moments of self-reflection, here are the 10 Short Films from this year’s fest that highlight Asian and Asian American stories:

Official Photos: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

The Criminals (Turkey) – A young couple without a marriage certificate tries to book a hotel room for some privacy but sometimes…the cost of privacy really is just too costly for an overnight stay. 11/10 highly recommend.

Ava From My Class (South Korea) – Anna thinks Ava from her acting class is just the greatest. “I think you’re a really good actress,” a young Anna says. “I don’t think so but thank you,” Ava replies. Then she adds, “Is that why you’ve been staring at me?” Silence. Deafening silence. “I just really like your acting,” Anna finally replies. Everything’s cute and innocent until the dark humor hits towards the end and you just can’t help but laugh wickedly.

Lata (India) – A short portrait of a young domestic worker navigating her way in an affluent household. We see her in various settings from housecleaning, preparing meals, calling home while finishing up her chores, and learning English in her spare time when no one is looking.

BJ’s Mobile Gift Shop – We first see BJ in an interview for an office position somewhere nice. We then see him selling everything under the sun from his mobile shop. The whole time you think he’s just vibing in life, but the end reveal may just hit close to home for many and that’s what makes it even more heartfelt.

The Unseen River (Vietnam/Laos) – It’s a quiet film that shows more than it tells: One river. Various stories. Reconnecting those who visit with a lost someone, something, or even themselves.


Official Photos: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Tears Teacher – He helps people cry. This doc raises a very important conversation about the Repression of Feelings evident across Asian cultures – specifically the Japanese culture. His next goal: he wants to make men in their 40s cry.

This is The Way We Rise – Native Hawaiian slam poet Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio utilizes her art to raise awareness about protecting the sacred sites of Mauna Kea, Hawai’i.

To Know Her – In this doc, we see how decades of homemade videos connected the director to her mother who passed away when she was younger.

The Field Trip – From banking, to paying bills, to starting their careers and working their dream jobs, fifth graders are trained and prepared for the American workplace in various “real-life” mock settings.

Short Films Missed: Mountain Cat

Part Two of Three | (Part One)

This Sundance 2021 coverage was made possible by The Sundance Institute.
No copyright infringement intended. All official photos are Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

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