5 Female Directed Films to Look Out For At Sundance London 2021

With the UK version of the Utah-based festival taking place in the last week of July – a little later than usual – we look forward to our 5 most anticipated films that are screening at Sundance London.

Zola dir. Janicza Bravo

Still from Zola. Two women face each other, making intense eye contact. They are in a mirrored room with coloured lights on the ceiling that are refracted all around them.
Riley Keough and Taylour Paige appear in Zola by Janicza Bravo, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Anna Kooris.

Possibly one of most anticipated films of the year, Zola is the long-awaited adaptation of the now legendary Twitter thread about one woman’s tale of how her and “this bitch” fell out. When the offer of a roadtrip to Florida to make some money stripping arises, Zola (Taylour Paige) jumps in the car with her new friend Stefani (Riley Keough), but the offer of quick cash soon descends into odyssey into the underbelly of America.

With a stacked cast that includes the best dressed man in film Colman Domingo, this adaptation of one of the most recognisable viral tweet threads promises to be a dynamic and vibrant ride. Zola offers a vibrant and uniquely modern road-trip story from an interesting and talented director in Bravo.

Together Together dir. Nikole Beckwith

A man and a woman sit in a doctors office - the man is looking nervous, wide eyes and a quizzical mouth, whereas the woman looks more contained. Behind them is an model of a fetus in a womb.
Ed Helms and Patti Harrison appear in Together Together by Nikole Beckwith, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Tiffany Roohani.

What happens when your relationship with the woman who is the surrogate carrying your baby becomes one of your closest friendships? When Matt (Ed Helms) and Anna (Patti Harrison) are brought together, they both find something they hadn’t realised they’d both been missing.

Together Together isn’t particularly groundbreaking in terms of its genre conventions, but this provides a lens for the exploration of the complications and joys of surrogacy in the twenty-first century. A light-hearted, yet touching look at love, family and relationships.

The Most Beautiful Boy In The World dir. Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri

Picture from the set of Death in Venice. Luchino Visconti stands on the left of the image, a cigarette in his mouth with his sunglasses pushed back on his head.  Björn Andrésen, as a 16 year old is standing next to him, a towel wrapped around his naked torso.
A still from The Most Beautiful Boy in the World by Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri, an official selection of the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Mario Tursi.

When Luchino Visconti cast teenager Björn Andrésen in his film Death in Venice, he declared him ‘the most beautiful boy in the world’. Thrust into the international spotlight at just sixteen, he was unprepared for the effects of celebrity as he was transformed from a schoolboy to the ideal, idealised figure.

Lindström and Petri’s documentary looks back at Andrésen’s life as well as the wider industry and it’s treatment of child actors. At a time when cinema is continuing to reckon with itself, The Most Beautiful Boy in The World promises to be a reminder of why change is vital.

Censor dir. Prano Bailey-Bond

A woman kneels on a forest floor - it is night but the artificial lighting makes it appear red. Her face is covered in blood and the long, dark hair is matted with it as well.
Niamh Algar appears in Censor by Prano Bailey-Bond, an official selection of the Midnight section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

When video nasties exploded in the 1980s and caused a panic that would then be repeated decades later with violent video games, Britain’s very moral fibre was seen to be disintegrating. In Prano Bailey-Bond’s debut film, this era of suspicion is brought to life through the perspective of Enid (Niamh Algar), a film censor still haunted by the disappearance of her younger sister.

When a film by a mysterious exploitation director is passed to her, depicting events eerily similar to her sister’s disappearance, Enid begins to question both her own memory and motives of those around her. Like 2020’s Saint Maud, Censor heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice in British genre cinema.

Pleasure dir. Ninja Thyberg

A young, blonde woman floats in a pool on a bright pink lilo. She is kneeling with her legs apart, wearing a deep red swimming costume. She is looking off screen, mouth parted.
Sofia Kappel appears in Pleasure by Ninja Thyberg, an official selection of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Films exploring the highs and lows of the porn industry are nothing new: from Boogie Nights to Sean Baker’s latest film Red Rocket ,it always provides an interesting, controversial, and intriguing backdrop to very human stories of ambition, desire and exploitation.

With a very commited central performance by Sofia Kappel as a young Swedish woman trying to enter the LA porn industry, explicit sex scenes that are eye-watering brutal, Pleasure is sure to cause a splash this year.

Rose is a film critic , who graduated from the University of Liverpool with an MRes in Film Studies. She loves thrillers, Al Pacino, and multilingual cinema and she’s not entirely sure if she’s a millennial.

Find her on twitter @rosedymock and find more of her work at https://rosedymock.contently.com

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