10 Hot Movies for Sale at Virtual Sundance Film Festival

All-night bidding wars are as much a staple of the Sundance Film Festival as snow drifts and thin air. The mountaintop gathering highlights the best of indie film and shines a light on the next generation of Tarantinos and Soderberghs. This year looks different. Sundance will go virtual in 2021 due to COVID-19. But that doesn’t mean that studio executives and agents aren’t going to be working the phones just as furiously. Here’s a look at films that have the goods to inspire streaming services and indies to go toe-to-toe in the hopes of landing the next “Palm Springs” or “Promising Young Woman.”

Coda

Director: Sian Heder
Cast: Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez, Troy Kotsur
Sales agent: CAA/ICM
Buzz: This drama about a girl who is the only hearing person in her deaf family is said to be emotionally stirring and commercial, two things that should resonate with potential buyers. A prize opening-night slot doesn’t hurt.

Summer of Soul

Director: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
Sales agent: Cinetic Media
Buzz: The documentary about the Harlem Cultural Festival, a summer concert series that unfolded in 1969, marks the directorial debut of Questlove. Unsurprisingly, given the filmmaker’s musical bona fides, it boasts archival footage of performances by rock, soul and R&B greats like Stevie Wonder and the 5th Dimension. The event, known as “Black Woodstock,” didn’t receive substantial coverage from mainstream media of the time. “Summer of Soul” could change that.

Passing

Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson appear in Passing by Rebecca Hall, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Edu Grau.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Director: Rebecca Hall
Cast: Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland
Sales agent: Endeavor Content
Buzz: It can be tricky to pull off movie adaptations of beloved books. But Rebecca Hall could make a compelling case with “Passing,” a cinematic retelling of Nella Larsen’s novella about two African American women who can “pass” as white and choose to live on opposite sides of the color line in 1929 New York.

How It Ends

Zoe Lister-Jones and Cailee Spaeny appear in How it Ends by Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Daryl Wein.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Director: Daryl Wein, Zoe Lister-Jones
Cast: Zoe Lister-Jones, Cailee Spaeny, Olivia Wilde, Fred Armisen, Helen Hunt
Sales agent: Endeavor Content
Buzz: After the chaos of 2020, an apocalyptic thriller may be exactly what audiences are looking for to escape the pandemic doldrums. “How It Ends” takes place during the final day of Earth as one woman ventures through Los Angeles to make it to her last party.

On the Count of Three

On The Count of Three Sundance

Director: Jerrod Carmichael
Cast: Jerrod Carmichael, Christopher Abbott, Tiffany Haddish
Sales agent: UTA
Buzz: Comedian Jerrod Carmichael’s directorial debut has a hell of a premise. The darkly comedic drama centers on two best friends with two guns and a pact to end their lives when the day is done.

The Sparks Brothers

A still from The Sparks Brothers by Edgar Wright, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Jake Polonsky.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Director: Edgar Wright
Sales agent: CAA
Buzz: How can one rock band be enormously popular and also vastly overlooked? Edgar Wright, the director of cult favorites such as “Shaun of the Dead” and “Baby Driver,” explores that moral quandary in a documentary that revolves around brothers Ron and Russell Mael.

The Blazing World

Vinessa Shaw and Carlson Young appear in The Blazing World by Carlson Young, an official selection of the NEXT section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Director: Carlson Young
Cast:
Udo Kier, Carlson Young, Dermot Mulroney, Vinessa Shaw
Sales agent:
Endeavor Content
Buzz: This horror-fantasy — about a woman haunted by the memory of watching her sister drown when they were children — is visually arresting and could be the kind of elevated genre fare that studios love to snap up at Sundance. Early word is that Young combines a trippy premise with tense storytelling, and a killer score from a member of Foster The People.

At the Ready

A still from At the Ready by Maisie Crow, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Director: Maisie Crow
Sales agent:
Cinetic
Buzz: This look at a group of high school students in El Paso who are training to become police officers and border agents hits on hot button topics like child separation and immigration. What makes “At the Ready” so fascinating is that many of the teenagers that Crow profiles are Latinx and live a few miles from the border, forcing them to grapple with these issues in surprising ways.

Coming Home in the Dark

Daniel Gillies and Matthias Luafutu appear in Coming Home in the Dark by James Ashcroft, an official selection of the Midnight section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Goldfish Creative.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Director: James Ashcroft
Sales Agent: CAA
Buzz: in recent years, Sundance has seen a surge in prestige horror-thriller titles that both devastate audiences and elevate genre filmmakers to A-list status (Ari Aster’s “Hereditary, Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s terminally bleak “The Lodge”). “Coming Home in the Dark” is not about jump scares, rather an exploration of human brutality set against a family road trip hijacked by strangers.

El Planeta

El Planeta

Director: Amalia Ulman
Sales Agent: UTA
Buzz: Multidisciplinary artist Amalia Ulman has such momentum headed into Sundance that competing sales agents expressed jealousy over not being able to screen the film in advance. In “El Planeta,” she tells the sadly contemporary tale of a mother and daughter projecting an image of glamour and upward mobility in Spain. The pair are living meal to meal, grifting their way through polite society, on the verge of eviction and trying to stay one step ahead of their crushing reality.

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