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We usually don't pay too much attention to the Sundance Film Festival on Slog since it's over in Park City and we're in Seattle. But this year is different. Sundance is going digital, partnering with film organizations around the country to create an accessible and safe national event. In Seattle, the fest is working with Northwest Film Forum to put together forum panels and workshops, like Our Right to Gaze, a 90-minute session on dismantling industry gatekeeping and empowering BIPOC/LGBTQ+ creators. The fest kicks off this Thursday (Jan. 28) and runs through next week (Feb. 3), and we'll have daily film reviews up on Slog once the fest kicks off.

You have a few days to prepare, so we first suggest you get into a time machine and buy your passes like we told you to (there are still some individual tickets available). Then you should watch this great How to Sundance video from Sorry to Bother You director Boots Riley, embedded above. Mr. Boots helps you out by explaining how to create your own individualized digital festival schedule. After you listen to Boots, listen to us: We're highlighting some of the films we're most excited about seeing this year, starting with Coda.

CODA
USA, 2020, 111 min, Dir. Siân Heder
U.S. Dramatic Competition

SHOWTIMES: Jan. 28 @ 5PM, Jan. 30 @ 7AM
CODA stands for Child of deaf adult.
CODA stands for "Child of deaf adult(s)." Courtesy of Sundance Institute
CODA follows 17-year-old Ruby (Emilia Jones), the only hearing member of a deaf family who spends her mornings helping her parents (Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur) and brother (Daniel Durant) keep their fishing business open. But her interest in joining the school's choir and exploration of a future outside the fishing business creates tension between her family and her dreams. Director Siân Heder wanted to tell the story of a deaf family authentically, casting deaf actors throughout the film.

Why We're Excited to Watch: Marlee Matlin is a national treasure and it's our patriotic responsibility to watch everything she's ever in.

ON THE COUNT OF THREE
USA, 2020, 84 min, Dir. Jerrod Carmichael
U.S. Dramatic Competition

SHOWTIMES: Jan. 29 @ 6PM, Jan. 31 @ 7AM
Ok, maybe this will be cute (and dark).
Ok, maybe this will be cute (and dark). Courtesy of Marshall Adams and Sundance Institute
Comedian Jerrod Carmichael directs and stars in his first feature film, On the Count of Three, as Val, a young man who decides to commit suicide. He makes a pact with his suicidal best friend Kevin (Christopher Abbott) to shoot and kill each other at the end of the day. But before they do, there's some unfinished business they must get in order before they send each other off. If this sounds dark, just know that Sundance describes this film as an "unusual existential bromance."

Why We're Horny to Watch This One: Ummm, Jerrod Carmichael and Christopher Abbott in a BROMANCE???????? You have our attention!!!!!

PASSING
USA, 2020, 98 min, Dir. Rebecca Hall
U.S. Dramatic Competition

SHOWTIMES: Jan. 30 @ 3PM, Feb. 1 @ 7AM
The film is shot in black and white, cuz, get it?
The film is shot in black and white, cuz, get it? Courtesy of Edu Grau and Sundance Institute
Based on Nella Larsen's 1929 Harlem Renaissance novel of the same name, Passing follows two mixed-race childhood friends who pass as white but decide to live on opposite sides of the color line. Meaning, Irene Redfield (Tessa Thompson) leads her life as a Black woman while Clare Kendry (Ruth Negga) decides to try to fold herself into white society. When they reencounter each other as adults, they become obsessed with each other's lives as their reacquaintance threatens the identities they've constructed for themselves.

Why Jasmyne Will Either Sob or Slam Her Computer Down in a Fit of Rage Over This Movie: This is Jas speaking—I haven't read the source material, but I'm interested to see if this film subverts the "tragic mulatta" trope or jumps headlong into it. Also Dev Hynes did the score, so maybe we should prepare ourselves to hear some lo-fi synthy sounds over a 1920s Harlem.

TOGETHER TOGETHER
USA, 2020, 90 min, Dir. Nikole Beckwith
U.S. Dramatic Competition

SHOWTIMES: Jan. 31 @ 12PM, Feb. 2 @ 7AM
Nothing really hits like an unexpected and tender friendship.
Nothing really hits like an unexpected and tender friendship. Courtesy of Tiffany Roohani and Sundance Institute.
Together Together is an odd couple story, following a 26-year-old woman, Anna (Patti Harrison), who becomes a surrogate for Matt (Ed Helms), a single man in his 40s. For Anna, surrogacy is just a way to get an extra bit of cash to help finish her college, but as Matt enthusiastically inserts himself into her life they "forge an unlikely friendship" over this shared experience.

Patti Really Sold This Movie to Us: Patti Harrison is a delightful weirdo, whom you may recognize as the bitchy secretary from Shrill. We hope that Together Together will give her enough space to show the world her talents, so she can officially launch into space and become a star.

FIRST DATE
USA, 2021, 103 min, Dir. Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp
Next

SHOWTIMES: Jan. 31 @ 6PM, Feb. 2 @ 7AM
Some Central California representation!
Some Central California representation! Courtesy of Manuel Crosby and Sundance Institute

I (meaning Chase Burns) spent my summers growing up in Lodi, California, which is near Valley Springs, California, which is where this film is set. Directors Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp have crafted a playful and fun teen film set in that often-overlooked corner of The Golden State. The press materials for this one suggest it's a genre mash-up, a little like "Superbad meets True Romance." We're excited to find out what that means.

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Why You Should Care About This One: There are still tickets available! Snag them up NOW!

PLEASURE
Sweden/Netherlands/France, 2021, 100 min, Dir. Ninja Thyberg
World Cinema Dramatic Competition

SHOWTIMES: Jan. 31 @ 9PM, Feb. 2 @7AM
That gaze!
That gaze! Courtesy of Sundance Institute

This Swedish-Dutch-French coproduction from director Ninja Thyberg follows the character of Bella, a 20-year-old woman who moves from Sweden to LA to become the world's Next Big Porn Star. That sentence alone has us signing up to watch this feature from Thyberg (her first!), but the real-life porn star cast that rounds out the film (Kendra Spade, Dana DeArmond, Chris Cock, and Mark Spiegle) is what draws us in. Pleasure was selected for Cannes and is described as "a film about ambition and feminism, set in one of the world's most patriarchal structures."

What First Hooked Us: Sofia Kappel's gaze. Porn performers really know how to embody a role.