Sundance Film Festival 2021 streams buzzy movie premieres straight to your home

A nonetheless from A Glitch within the Matrix, a documentary about simulation principle (and sure, it will reference Elon Musk).


Sundance Institute

The Sundance Film Festival kicked off Thursday, and for the primary time, you possibly can partake on this planet’s premier unbiased movie fest — and among the best locations to take a look at high digital actuality experiments — with out stepping exterior your entrance door. 

For many years, Sundance has stuffed stars, filmmakers and movie fanatics into the snowy hamlet of Park City, Utah, remodeling the quaint ski resort city right into a teeming hub for movie lovers each January. With bumper-to-bumper visitors on its picturesque Main Street, events packed into homes on the foot of mountains enveloped in white, and dozens upon dozens of movie screenings daily, Park City all the time sheltered Sundance’s frenzy like a snow globe, full with flurries that quickly hushed all of the bustle. 

While the allure of Park City made Sundance distinctive, it may add challenges to attending. Most premier movie festivals are in main metropolitan areas, however touring to Sundance usually meant a ticket to Salt Lake City after which one other hour or so drive into the mountains. As a resort city, Park City is provided with extra lodge rooms, condos and Airbnbs than you’d discover in different villages its dimension. But throughout Sundance, the availability of locations to keep is all the time approach wanting demand, driving up costs to eye-popping ranges. 

Scene from the animated film Fortune

Fortune, a part of the New Frontier program at Sundance, faucets into your cellphone’s augmented actuality instruments to unfold an animated documentary in regards to the world’s biggest counterfeiter in your personal home. 


Sundance Institute

This yr, although, the coronavirus pandemic has pressured Sundance to rework right into a (principally) distant affair. That’s making it accessible to a wider swath of individuals than ever earlier than. 

Almost the whole thing of the fest is on-line this yr for anybody within the US to take pleasure in, and elements of the fest are accessible regardless of the place you reside on this planet. In the US, movie premieres can stream straight to your TV. You can be a part of director Q&As afterward from your sofa and drop into post-premiere events from your laptop computer. New digital environments re-create the expertise of pageant mingling, whether or not becoming a member of a crowded cinema to watch a movie on the large display or exploring a gallery-like house for the New Frontier program — the fest’s tech-heavy department targeted on cutting-edge storytelling. (Did we point out these digital areas are all floating in orbit above the Earth’s floor close to the International Space Station?)

Sundance is all the time a serious endeavor to determine annually, even for individuals who know the way it ticks. This yr brings added challenges of studying how to “attend” the pageant too. But armed with some recommendations on motion pictures, tasks and talks that tech lovers will need on their radar, you possibly can determine how to fest to swimsuit your wants. For New Frontier, you will want a $25 Explorer Pass. For movies, you want to get particular person tickets (for motion pictures that are not offered out.)

Sundance movies with a tech bent

Sundance’s slate of movies, which kicked off with Thursday’s premieres within the weeklong pageant, are all accessible by way of the fest’s website and may be streamed to good TVs, too. 

Scene from the film Bring Your Own Brigade

Bring Your Own Brigade is a documentary exploring raging wildfires like people who have decimated areas of California. 


Sundance Institute

Many movies had been offered out earlier this week, solely to grow to be out there once more Thursday because the pageant launched extra capability. 

If one thing you need to see is offered out, you possibly can all the time test again on the title you are desirous about, since extra tickets might grow to be out there nearer to the fest. The pageant recommends checking as soon as a day for the titles you are eyeing. And each movie has two alternatives to for viewing: its premiere, when you could have a three-hour window to begin the movie, and a full day’s price of availability two days after that. 

Films with a tech or science bent, or which have been producing early buzz typically, with tickets out there embody: 

  • How It Ends –  A “pre-apocalyptic comedy” set “on the day an asteroid is scheduled to obliterate Earth.”
  • Eight for Silver – A interval horror piece that is a “gruesome Gothic spin on werewolf lore.” 
  • In the Same Breath – A documentary in regards to the origin and unfold of COVID-19, placing the trauma of well being care staff and people in mourning alongside an indictment of Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump.
  • In the Earth – A horror thriller involving a lethal virus ravaging the Earth. 
  • All Light, Everywhere – A documentary in regards to the “surprising connections among technology, weapons, and mechanics of motion.”
  • Users – A movie that “marvels at and fears for a world in which a child is not only at risk from a warming Earth but comes to trust a perfectly constructed artificial caretaker over his own biological mother.”
  • A Glitch within the Matrix – A “documentary examining simulation theory — the idea that this world we live in might not be entirely real. Simulation theory is as old as Plato’s Republic and as current as Elon Musk’s Twitter feed. A Glitch in the Matrix traces the idea’s genesis over the years.”
  • Coming Home within the Dark – Against the law thriller about an unhinged highway journey and abduction within the New Zealand wilderness.
  • Bring Your Own Brigade – A documentary about out-of-control wildfires, “our out-of-balance relationship with nature and…what it will take to restore this delicate equilibrium.”
  • Strawberry Mansion – A surreal romance in a glitchy future dystopia the place a surveillance state conducts “dream audits” to gather taxes on folks’s unconscious lives.
  • The Pink Cloud – Two strangers are pressured to search shelter collectively after a lethal cloud mysteriously takes over their metropolis and the planet settles into an prolonged quarantine. They are pressured to come to phrases with an accelerated timeline for his or her relationship.
  • R#J – A retelling of Romeo and Juliet carried out solely by way of social media and smartphone screens. 
  • Son of Monarchs – With a Mexican scientist residing in New York as its protagonist, this movie explores the person’s tragic household historical past as his personal travels mimic the migrations of the monarch butterflies he research and loves.
  • Searchers – “Is there anything worse than dating in New York City? Yes. It’s called dating in New York City during a pandemic — but at least in this film, you only have to watch others do it.”
Scene from the film Prisoners of Ghostland

Prisoners of Ghostland is a mashup of Western, samurai and postapocalyptic thriller. 


Sundance Institute

If you need to attempt your luck at snagging tickets later to sold-out movies, these are both seemingly to attraction to your inside geek or have been a few of the titles with essentially the most buzz (or each):

  • Prisoners of the Ghostland – A “delirious mash-up of Western, samurai, and postapocalyptic” thriller, starring Nicolas Cage as a financial institution robber.
  • CODA – A teen, the one listening to member in a deaf household, struggles to resolve the trail her future will take, torn between serving to her household’s struggling fishing enterprise and following a dream of singing at music college.

New Frontier

New Frontier helped put digital actuality on Hollywood’s map. In Park City, the New Frontier installations are a few of the most enjoyable locations to go to — and a few of the trickiest if you would like to see the whole lot. On high of the timed tickets wanted for entry to the New Frontier venues, savvy fest-goers know to strategize prematurely with a triage of their high tasks. to allow them to rush to get a spot on the listing earlier than they’re booked. It’s like an artsier Black Friday sale, solely persons are racing to attempt loopy VR experiments fairly than rating a big-screen TV.

All of that’s out the window this yr. New Frontier’s tasks can be found on demand all through all the run of the pageant, apart from a couple of that contain a component of dwell efficiency, which can be found on demand at particular occasions.

And you do not want a VR setup to expertise all of them, both. Roughly half the tasks want solely a pc or a cellphone to take a look at. They embody: 

  • Fortune – A comedic animated documentary of kinds in regards to the world’s biggest counterfeiter, Fortune faucets into the augmented-reality skills of your iPhone or Android cellphone, in addition to Snapchat filters. 
  • Beyond the Breakdown – A browser-based expertise the place folks can world-build for his or her ideally suited imaginative and prescient of 2050, by way of a dialog augmented by a man-made intelligence and a human workforce to maintain a dwell dialog efficiency going. 
  • Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran – A two-device expertise for your cellphone and pc, this is sort of a dwell theater piece blended with a time capsule, about ultrarich Iranian children and conspicuous consumption.
  • Secret Garden – A browser expertise like a three-dimensional gallery, Secret Garden broadcasts photographs from six girls from completely different time durations, telling narratives that overlap one another as you wander.
  • Traveling the Interstitium with Octavia Butler – A interactive browser-based work transforms your laptop computer right into a primordial pool of artists, the place you possibly can dip into portals to see what they’re creating. 
  • Weirdo Night – Performance artist Dynasty Handbag’s month-to-month dwell present in Los Angeles shut down when the pandemic hit, however she determined to do yet another revue to an viewers of no one and filmed it.
  • 7 Sounds – An aural work that takes you thru seven audio recordings “into a meditation on the power of sound to bend time, cross borders, and profoundly shape our perception.”

Virtual actuality tasks are available two flavors: Those that you would be able to watch with untethered headsets like an Oculus Quest 1 or 2, and people who require a higher-octane headset tethered to a desktop. 

Scene from the VR experience Namoo

Namoo, a digital actuality expertise in New Frontier, explores the phases of life by way of the metaphor of a tree that sprouts recollections. 


Sundance Institute

VR works that do not require a desktop rig embody: 

  • Namoo – A chunk supported by well-known immersive studio Baobab, Namoo explores the phases of life by following the expansion of a tree that sprouts recollections from its branches. 
  • 4 Feet High VR – A companion to a one of many indie collection titles that you would be able to additionally watch with the identical move that unlocks New Frontier, 4 Feet High VR options 360-degree episodes a couple of teen’s coming-of-age at a brand new highschool, as she navigates id and sexuality as an individual in a wheelchair.  
  • Tinker – A mixture of VR with dwell theater efficiency, by which you expertise the story — of rising up with a grandfather performed by a dwell actor — with quite a few different members. 

And tasks needing a desktop-tethered VR headset embody:

  • The Changing Same: Episode 1 – A collection of works about racial terror, utilizing digital time journey and magical realism to create a pilgrimage from a interval of slavery to post-racial utopia.
  • Nightsss – An “ASMR erotic poem,” in accordance to New Frontier’s curator, Nightsss is an expertise with out an narrative meant to stimulate your senses by way of ASMR and the haptic suggestions of the controllers. 
  • Prison X – Chapter One: The Devil and the Sun – A legendary tackle the expertise of a Bolivian jail crammed with Andean deities. 
  • To Miss the Ending – A venture in regards to the worth of recollections, To Miss the Ending fast-forwards to a future after we add our recollections into an AI and reconnect with family members contained in the community.

Sundance in house

New Frontier can also be the principle attraction within the digital setting Sundance constructed for this yr’s on-line pageant — those floating above the Earth in house close to the ISS. But organizers additionally constructed this warren of digital areas to serve different pageant functions too, like mingling and events. 

Based on WebXR, you possibly can entry the digital areas by way of a easy Web browser, ideally Google’s Chrome. But it is also accessible with digital actuality headsets for a way more immersive really feel. Your avatar is straightforward floating geometry, topped with a circle that options your uploaded image. 

The digital environments embody an area backyard entryway to get oriented, after which three principal group areas: Film Party, Cinema House and the New Frontier Gallery. The house backyard is a single-user house the place you possibly can arrange your avatar and get accustomed to the mechanics of transferring round on this digital world. 

Scene from the film Users

Users, a movie in regards to the “ruthless locomotion of technology,” will display in Sundance’s digital Cinema House. 


Sundance Institute

The Film Party is the place you will go for these post-premiere digital events. This can also be the one house that transforms that picture circle on your avatar right into a dwell webcam feed. Think of it like a Zoom bar on sterioids. With spatialized audio, you possibly can hear folks extra clearly as you method them. 

Cinema House is the setting’s solely house that is unique for folks utilizing VR headsets. It re-creates the idea of watching a movie communally in a theater. Attendees can grasp on the market and socialize for 10 minutes earlier than communication turns off in the course of the movie as you watch collectively on a digital huge display. After the movie, every participant is transported to that post-movie movie occasion. It’ll display such movies as Users, a movie in regards to the “ruthless locomotion of technology,” and a particular collection of worldwide shorts from the pageant lineup.

Finally, essentially the most freeform group house is the New Frontier Gallery, which is like strolling round an interstellar artwork exhibit. If you stroll over to sure spots alongside the sting, you could have a picture-perfect view of the ISS crusing over the planet. This is the place you possibly can leap into all of the New Frontier tasks. 

Tucked contained in the New Frontier Gallery is a gateway to a digital social experiment, extra of an unstructured playground known as do {not} play that places dwell video chats inside interfaces which might be way more enjoyable than your normal Zoom gallery. Instead of faces in Brady Bunch-intro squares, you and mates can webcam chat in a simulated Amsterdam bar or a personal karaoke parlor.

Sundance 2021: The fundamentals

First, the free stuff: While a lot of Sundance’s program requires a ticket or a move, the pageant will make all of its talks out there free to anybody who creates an account on the Sundance website. The full slate of digital talks might have have gems that attraction to you, however for folks with a tech and science bent, the standout is The Big Conversation: Come Together. This panel, impressed by how the primary picture of a black gap was created, makes use of the lens of movie and TV to talk about how collaboration in sciences like astronomy, house exploration, climatology, bioscience and virology can advance human information and our personal survival.

Most of pageant’s passes provide you with extensive alternatives to nab a movie premiere both throughout a single day of the fest or its total run, however these are largely offered out. However, you possibly can nonetheless entry movies and — for the tech-savvy outfitted with digital actuality headset — the New Frontier program filled with tech-driven tasks. For movies, you should purchase single-film tickets to particular motion pictures for $15 (for US viewers solely). Or if New Frontier is your principal goal, you will get an Explorer Pass for $25, which unlocks all of the digital worlds Sundance created, together with the entire New Frontier program, plus you get entry to the the fest’s program of 4 episodic tasks and the complete program of movie shorts. 

If you do get a ticket or reservation for a movie premiere, you unlock extra than simply streaming the movie itself. Fifteen minutes earlier than the official begin time, members can take part a text-based chat amongst themselves and the filmmakers, akin to chatting whereas ready in line (simply with out the sub-freezing temperatures). After a premiere, viewers will leap over to a dwell Q&A with the filmmakers on YouTube. And then you possibly can go to the movie’s after-party at a digital bar, one of many digital environments in orbital house. 

Anyone with a reservation for a movie premiere can begin watching anytime in the course of the debut’s three-hour window, after which they’ve up to 4 hours to full it. And all movies even have a second-day screening window if you cannot make the premieres. Two days after a movie debuts, it is going to be out there to stream anytime for twenty-four hours beginning at 9 a.m. PT. 

Sundance’s organizers have crafted a myriad of explainers to element the nitty-gritty of how all this works. That consists of common overviews of how the pageant will go, as nicely guides to getting your tech setup in place prematurely, whether or not you are streaming a movie or diving into one of many pageant’s digital worlds.  

The pageant can even have in-person occasions as a part of a satellite tv for pc screening program. These happen at greater than two dozen native cinemas in cities throughout the US, together with San Francisco; Austin, Texas; and Atlanta. 

A nonetheless from A Glitch within the Matrix, a documentary about simulation principle (and sure, it will reference Elon Musk).


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