Weekly Roundup – 2021’s first festival hit, Zhao’s next film, and Southland Tales’ return

Your handy one-stop-shop for film news, interviews, articles, and videos from the week that was.

The year’s first major film festival is now in the books. That means that we also have 2021’s first breakout hit. Premiering at the online edition of Sundance to rapturous response, Sian Heder’s crowd-pleasing CODA – about a gifted teenaged vocalist who is the only hearing member of her family – immediately sparked a bidding war that resulted in Apple paying a record $25-million for the film. A few days later, it went home – well, stayed at home – with four awards. In doing so, it became the first film in the festival’s history to claim all three major awards in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. Blerta Basholli’s understated Hive proved to be a gentle juggernaut in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition where it similarly claimed all three top prizes.

Every year, Filmmaker Magazine asks Sundance’s feature filmmakers a single question. On this occasion, there was really only one query that seemed appropriate: “How did events of 2020 — any of them — change your film, either in the way you approached it, produced it, post-produced it, or are now thinking about it?” Jane Schoenbrun, who helmed the singular We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, shares, “Without realizing it, I made a movie that obeyed the rules of social distancing, before that term was ever part of our common vernacular.”

Chloé Zhao continues to plot an unexpected post-Nomadland course for herself. Having wrapped post-production on Eternals, the most multicultural entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she’s announced that her next project will be writing and directing a sci-fi Western version of Dracula. As Zhao tells The Hollywood Reporter, “I’ve always been fascinated by vampires and the concept of the Other they embody.”

The news of Zhao’s next foray into the realms of genre filmmaking arrives the same week as the infamous “Cannes cut” of Richard Kelly’s epic Southland Tales has resurfaced on Blu-ray. At the 2006 edition of Cannes, the Donnie Darko director’s sophomore feature received such vociferous backlash that Roger Ebert was left “dazed, confused and deafened by the boos.” As Kelly explains to Slant Magazine’s Marshall Shaffer, this new release is part of his bid to finally complete the film. “So much has happened in the world in the 15 years since that it just feels like the world of the film is worth revisiting…. It just feels like now’s really the time, if we’re going to do it, to try and engage with expanding the story and really finishing it with all the resources we have today.”

Acknowledging that readers might be in desperate need of break from the news cycle that doesn’t take the form of outright escapism, Point of View Magazine has helpfully assembled a half-dozen recommendations for documentaries currently available for home viewing. As Madeline Lines writes in her intro for the piece: “We’ve selected some docs that zero in on unique subcultures and stories, immersing you in entirely different worlds while keeping you grounded in reality with the help of non-fiction. While it’s obviously ill advised to stop keeping up with the news for good, a little distraction could be a much-needed balm.”

Finally: Having screened at the online editions of both Sundance and Rotterdam this week, Philippe Lacôte’s Night of the Kings now gets an official trailer in anticipation of its wider release.

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