Ah, the new year…a time for new beginnings and new things to come for many. In the new year, the entertainment world always has new movies to check out and see. When people think of movies coming out this year, many will think of “No Time to Die,” “F9,” “Dune” or “The Matrix 4.” While I am excited about the big tent-pole releases, I am also excited to see what the releases by small, independent and foreign filmmakers will bring to the table. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the virtual Sundance Film Festival, one of the largest and well-known festivals in the world, as a member of the press. Now, I am here to discuss some of the films I saw and let you know if they should be on your radar. 

Coda” is directed by Sian Heder and tells the story of the Rossi family: an all-deaf family, except for the daughter, Ruby. The Rossi family must navigate their work lives and Ruby’s passion for music and singing. This film is the definition of a crowd-pleaser! It is filled with heart and love and will leave many audiences weeping by the end. While the film is fairly predictable at times, you cannot help but marvel at the family dynamic. It is brought to life by a fantastic lead performance from Emilia Jones and a great supporting cast. The direction of the film takes the audience to familiar territories covered in other films, and the writing, again, feels a bit cliched, falling under the genre’s trappings without actually doing anything new. The film also has a hard time on how to end, having multiple places where the story could come to a close. With a film like this, you cannot help but feel for the characters and their struggles. The family allows the audience to instantly fall in love with them and want them to succeed. “Coda” is a heartwarming and wholesome dramedy that will surely be a favorite for many! 

7/10

“Flee” is directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen and is an animated documentary. This story is about an Afghan man retelling the story of his troubled past, moving with his family from country to country and the trauma that he struggles with. “Flee” is a documentary that will get under your skin more as the film progresses. It is filled with haunting imagery, presented in a very unique and stylish animation style that experiments with different territories to present the theme of trauma. The score for the film is very atmospheric, creating a very disturbing layer around the film. The pacing of the film is smooth and does not overstay its welcome, clocking in at only 83 minutes, and each minute feels earned. “Flee” is one of the most well-presented documentaries I have seen in a long time, with a story that is harrowing and animation that will intrigue. 

9/10

“Censor” is the directorial debut of Welsh filmmaker Prano Bailey-Bond, and it tells the story of Enid, a film censor in the 1980s, during the “video nasty” era in London. As one film shocks her to the core, she must explore the secrets of her past and why that film spoke to her. This film uses inspirations from horror auteurs Dario Argento, David Cronenberg and Brian De Palma and makes something original and unique. “Censor” is a cult classic in the making! This hypnotic story will cause viewers to get lost in the characters and imagery presented on the screen. With gore that will make squeamish people turn their heads, it is a true revitalization of the “video nasty” sub-genre, but in glorious fashion. This film is carried by Niamh Algar’s skin-crawling performance, going through so many acting hurdles and reaching incredible heights. Bailey-Bond’s direction is intriguing and engaging, making you want to further explore its mythos. While it does take its time to get itself going, “Censor” is a film that will divide many. Some may think it is a great thrill, while others may think it is violent for the sake of being violent. However, as a horror fan, I was enthralled by the entirety of it. It surely places Bailey-Bond as a filmmaker to keep an eye on! 

8/10

These are just some of the first few films I’ve been able to see at Sundance, and though I do have a lot more to tell you all about, the experience of being able to have press credentials to Sundance is one of the most gratifying moments in my life. Sure, I would love to be able to see these films in Park City, Utah, and get to sit in a theatre with all my fellow journalists. It’s also great to be able to sit and watch all these great films in an environment where I am comfortable in!

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