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11 Hot Movies for Sale at Virtual Sundance Film Festival

Courtesy of 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.”


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.


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

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

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

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

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

Director: Maisie Crow Cast: 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

Director: James Ashcroft Cast: Daniel Gillies, Erik Thomson, Miriama McDowell, Matthias Luafutu 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

Director: Amalia Ulman Cast: Amalia Ulman, Ale Ulman, Nacho Vigalondo, Zhou Chen, Saoirse Bertram 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.


Director: Carey Williams Cast: Camaron Engels, Francesca Noel, David Zayas, Diego Tinoco, Siddiq Saunderson, Russell Hornsby Sales agent: Endeavor Content, WME Buzz: Think of “R#J” as “Romeo and Juliet” for Gen Z. The latest retelling of Shakespeare’s classic, which features BIPOC actors, takes place entirely through cell phones. “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” He’s on Instagram, of course.

Variety's Brett Lang, Rebecca Rubin, and Matt Donnelly contributed to this post.


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