Sundance Film Festival 2021 Diary

Sundance Diary Day Two Friday, January 29, 2021

Filmmaker Alex Camilleri stays true to the neo-realistic moviemaking style by casting ‘Luzzu’ with non-actors.

The opening weekend of the reimagined Sundance Film Festival is underway, and I’m convinced that a digital Sundance will be more than a one-time affair.

I’ve been thinking about XR technology and Sundance since writing the Fast Company article ‘Live-Streaming Doc, “Life Itself,” and The Evolution of Sundance and Crowdfunding Films,’ and the QUARTZ article ‘This Year’s Sundance Film Festival uses your body as a movie screen.’ Like many creative colleagues, I’ve been joining virtual brainstorms and summits throughout the time of COVID-19.

XR storytelling projects in the New Frontier program continue to edge Sundance toward a virtual experience. Past interactive works like the ‘Dance Trail’ app, a virtual dance activation, and ‘The Book of Distance,’ a family history activation from artist Randall Okita, deliver augmented reality storytelling to global audiences. This year’s New Frontier section involves immersing yourself in the activations via an avatar and connecting with other attendees via chat zones. The experience feels welcoming, warm, and inclusive.

Outside the Sundance community, significant events from CES to ADOBE MAX and SXSW shift from in-person to digital. Looking to the after-COVID-19 economy, creative events like Sundance will continue to connect creative communities in a hybrid manner. Artists and industry professionals will come to think of the Reimagined Sundance Film Festival 20021 as a creative shift.

What I’m Watching:

Luzzu

Showing in the World Cinema Dramatic section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, Maltese-American Filmmaker Alex Camilleri transforms Jesmark (Jesmark Scicluna), a struggling Maltese fisherman, into an everyday hero who connects with audiences everywhere. Camilleri tells the most human of stories in ‘Luzzu,’ the delicate balance of honoring family history with the practical needs to earn enough money to live. Camilleri combines An ensemble of non-actors, the gentle pace of simple storytelling, and a matter-of-fact narrative into a compelling story. In the quiet moments closing out the movie, you wonder what’s next for Jesmark and his family. You also anticipate the next feature from Camilleri, who shows himself to be a storytelling talent worth following. Click here for a full review of ‘Luzzu.’

Filmmakers Zoe Listerman-Jones and Robin Wright (bottom row) join Jacqueline Lyanga, Founder, Global Cinematheque, and Kerensa Cadenas, senior editor at The Cut, for a virtual panel.

What I’m Learning:

How I Get It Done Presented by Stella Artois

Filmmakers Zoe Listerman-Jones and Robin Wright join Jacqueline Lyanga, Founder, Global Cinematheque, for a lively conversation on establishing life/work balance during COVID-19 and exceeding creative goals. Kerensa Cadenas, senior editor at The Cut, moderates the lively discussion that includes Wright previewing her Sundance drama, Land.

‘There is no weekend anymore…We have never worked harder. It’s non-stop because of these Zoom calls.’ – Robin Wright, Actor and Director the Sundance feature ‘Land,’ on the seeking balance in the time of COVID-19.

What’s New:

Digital Viewing Windows replace wait-list lines snaking outside Park City venues. Sure, you’re no longer able to generate festival buzz with fellow Sundance attendees while waiting for a screening, but the virtual access results in a custom schedule that’s yours and yours alone.

What’s the Same:

Virtual Main Street Brand Houses include longtime festival sponsors, from Chase Sapphire to Dell and Acura to Canada Goose. It’s fantastic seeing Sundance partners embrace the XR spirit and connect digitally with festival attendees.

Behind the Screens:

I have a nerdy, Sundance confession to share. I’ve been attending Sundance long enough to establish favorite seats at each of the festival venues. Eccles Theater? That’s the left side of the balcony. Park City Library? Front row on the right aisle.  Attending the virtual Sundance means I have to come up with a reimagined format for watching movies. I’m watching movies at my NOVEL Coworking office in downtown Cincinnati and my nearby home office. I admit that I’m missing the Eccles balcony but loving the commute.

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