Despite being predominantly virtual, the program for Sundance Film Festival 2021 was still as excitingly jam packed, featuring 71 features, 50 Shorts, 4 Indie Series and 14 New Frontier Projects.
Despite the fact it was difficult to gauge an audience reaction in the same way as a packed cinema, the festival still broke records, with a streaming service impressively smashing the all-time sales record for an acquisition.
It’s interesting to see this festival beginning to break down barriers in the industry, as the a lot of distributors battling for the titles were streaming services such as Amazon, Netflix and Apple. Still, traditional distributors have been active too, highlighting a vote of confidence in brick-and-mortar cinemas and their experience.
Check out the full list of distribution deals which occurred at the festival:
Apple Studios smashed Sundance records by snapping up the Worldwide rights for crowd and critic pleaser CODA by paying more than $25 million, fighting off stiff competition from streamers Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Writer and director Sian Heder’s film about a hearing girl born into a deaf family of fishermen beat the previous record of $22.5 million paid for Palm Springs last year by NEON and Hulu. According to Deadline, the acquisition came down to Amazon and Apple in the closing stages.
Apple is expected to showcase the film, which swept the awards night picking up the top prize in the U.S. Dramatic competition, on the company’s Apple TV+ streaming service.
NEON announced the first acquisition out of this year’s Sundance on Sunday 29 January, snapping up the North American rights to Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s award winning Flee not long after it’s premiere.
The film, executive produced by Riz Ahmed and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, was officially selected for Cannes 2020 and made its debut on opening night of Sundance in the World Documentary Competition to rave reviews and critical acclaim for both its intimate story and unique approach.
NEON announced the co-distributor as theatrical player Participant Media, opting against a streamer.
Sony Pictures Classics acquired all worldwide rights to Jockey, which was directed by Clint Bentley and written by Bentley and Greg Kwedar. The film centres on an aging jockey (Collins, Jr.) who hopes to win one last title for his longtime trainer (Parker), who has acquired what appears to be a championship horse.
“Filmmakers Clint Bentley (a formidable directing debut), co-writer Greg Kwedar and producer Nancy Schafer have made such a good movie, that is engaging, satisfying, visual, and precise cinematic storytelling,” stated Sony Pictures Classics.
Sony Pictures Classics negotiated the deal with ICM Partners, on behalf of the filmmakers. International sales were handled by Films Boutique.
Streaming giant Netflix scooped the worldwide rights to Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut Passing, starring Tessa Thompson and Rebecca Hall, for a $15m deal. This marks the second significant streamer sale following Apple’s winning bid for CODA.
The film, an adaption of Nella Larsen’s 1929 Harlem Renaissance novel, follows the differing lives of two old school friends, with one of the women passing themselves off as white.
Endeavor Content will handle world sales.
PASSING, the Sundance directorial debut from Rebecca Hall, is officially coming to Netflix!— NetflixFilm (@NetflixFilm) February 4, 2021
Starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga as two childhood friends, the film — shot in gorgeous black-and-white — is an exploration of racial identity set in 1920s New York. pic.twitter.com/l7AWwrYfXE
Misha and the Wolves
A couple of distribution deals have been made for this head spinning Holocaust documentary, including Netflix who picked up the global SVOD window and will carry the film exclusively in North America.
The film, directed by Sam Hobkinson, documents the fascinating tale of a woman whose unbelievable Holocaust survival memoir takes the world by storm. However, all might not be as it seems, especially according to her aggrieved publisher.
According to Deadline, other distributors include BBC Storyville (UK), ZDF Arte (Germany & France), VPRO (the Netherlands), VRT (Belgium), SVT (Sweden), DR (Denmark), NRK (Norway), YLE (Finland), RUV (Iceland), Movistar+ (Spain), Yes Docu (Israel), RTS (Switzerland), RTVS (Slovenia), ERT (Greece), and TG4 (Ireland).
NEON announced its second acquisition of the Sundance Film Festival with Jamila Wignot’s Ailey, the moving and intimate portrait of dance legend Alvin Ailey.
Darcy Heusel, NEON’s Head of Impact and Audience Engagement, remarked “Ailey is a searing and inspirational account of a visionary artistic genius who used his gift of dance and movement to express the Black American experience. Jamila Wignot has created an indelible portrait of both the artist and his work and NEON is thrilled to be part of continuing his legacy by bringing this remarkable film to theaters across the country.”
Dogwoof will be handling international sales.
Adult animated feature Cryptozoo has been picked up by film distributor Magnolia Pictures, who also acquired Rodney Ascher’s A Glitch in the Matrix prior to the festival, according to Variety.
The film, written and directed by Dash Shaw, follows a couple who get high and inadvertently stumble across a zoo full of magical and mystical beasts.
The voice cast features Lake Bell, Michael Cera, Angeliki Papoulia and Zoe Kazan.
Playing with Sharks
Science and nature based specialists National Geographic Documentary Films have reportedly scooped feature documentary Playing with Sharks.
The film documents the life of Australian global marine pioneer, icon and filmmaker Valerie Taylor, who was a prominent expert in the field of sharks.
The doc is written and directed by Sally Aitken and produced by WildBear Entertainment and Dogwoof.