Sundance Film Festival 2021

WIF congratulates the filmmakers of marginalized genders who have directed films that will be on the 2021 Sundance Film Festival program. Fifty percent of the works that have been selected for the festival have at least one woman director, and six projects have non-binary directors. These films are listed below.

U.S. Dramatic Competition

Presenting the world premieres of narrative feature films, the U.S. Dramatic Competition offers Festivalgoers a first look at groundbreaking new voices in American Independent film.

Director and Screenwriter: Siân Heder
As a CODA – Child of Deaf Adults – Ruby is the only hearing person in her deaf family. When the family’s fishing business is threatened, Ruby finds herself torn between pursuing her love of music and her fear of abandoning her parents.

Director and Screenwriter: Rebecca Hall
Two African American women who can “pass” as white choose to live on opposite sides of the color line in 1929 New York in an exploration of racial and gender identity, performance, obsession and repression.

Director and Screenwriter: Nikole Beckwith
When young loner Anna is hired as the surrogate for Matt, a single man in his 40s, the two strangers come to realize this unexpected relationship will quickly challenge their perceptions of connection, boundaries and the particulars of love.

Director and Screenwriter: Karen Cinorre
Ana is transported to a dreamlike and dangerous land where she joins a team of female soldiers engaged in a never-ending war along a rugged coast. Though she finds strength in this exhilarating world, she comes to realize that she’s not the killer they want her to be.

Director: Erin Vassilopoulos; Screenwriters: Erin Vassilopoulos, Alessandra Mesa
On the run, Marian returns to her hometown in upstate New York to hide out with her estranged identical twin sister, Vivian. Struggling to put the past behind her, Marian lies about the reason for her return, leaving her sister in the dark until their two worlds begin to collide.

U.S. Documentary Competition

Presenting the world premieres of nonfiction feature films, the U.S. Documentary Competition offers Festivalgoers a first look at American films illuminating the ideas, people, and events that shape the present day.

Director: Jamila Wignot
Alvin Ailey was a visionary artist who found salvation through dance. Told in his own words and through the creation of a dance inspired by his life, this immersive portrait follows a man who, when confronted by a world that refused to embrace him, determined to build one that would.

Directors: Parker Hill, Isabel Bethencourt
In a Texas military town, three teenage girls confront the dark corners of adolescence at the end of a fever dream summer.

Director: Debbie Lum
In a universe where cool kids are nerds, the orchestra is world class and being Asian American is the norm, seniors at Lowell High School compete for the top prize: admission to the college of their dreams.

Director: Maisie Crow
Home to one of the region’s largest law enforcement education program, students at Horizon High School in El Paso train to become police officers and Border Patrol agents as they discover the realities of their dream jobs may be at odds with the truths and people they hold most dear.

Director: Mariem Pérez Riera
Rita Moreno defied both her humble upbringing and relentless racism to become one of a select group who have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award. Over a seventy year career, she has paved the way for Hispanic American performers by refusing to be pigeonholed into one-dimensional stereotypes.

Director: Natalia Almada
A mother wonders, will my children love their perfect machines more than they love me, their imperfect mother? She switches on a smart-crib lulling her crying baby to sleep. This perfect mother is everywhere. She watches over us, takes care of us. We listen to her. We trust her.

World Cinema Dramatic Competition

These narrative feature films from emerging talent around the world offer fresh perspectives and inventive styles.

Director: Ana Katz
Sebastian, a man in his thirties, works a series of temporary jobs and he embraces love at every opportunity. He transforms, through a series of short encounters, as the world flirts with possible apocalypse.

HIVE (Kosovo-Switzerland-Macedonia-Albania)
Director and Screenwriter: Blerta Basholli
Fahrije’s husband has been missing since the war in Kosovo. She sets up her own small business to provide for her kids, but as she fights against a patriarchal society that does not support her, she faces a crucial decision: to wait for his return, or to continue to persevere.

PLEASURE (Sweden-Netherlands-France)
Director and Screenwriter: Ninja Thyberg
A 20-year-old girl moves from her small town in Sweden to LA for a shot at a career in the adult film industry.

Director and Screenwriter: Amalia Ulman
Amidst the devastation of post-crisis Spain, mother and daughter bluff and grift to keep up the lifestyle they think they deserve, bonding over common tragedy and an impending eviction.

Director and Screenwriter: Iuli Gerbase
A mysterious and deadly pink cloud appears across the globe, forcing everyone to stay home. Strangers at the outset, Giovana and Yago try to invent themselves as a couple as years of shared lockdown pass. While Yago is living in his own utopia, Giovana feels trapped deep inside.

World Cinema Documentary Competition

These nonfiction feature films from emerging talent around the world showcase some of the most courageous and extraordinary filmmaking today.

FAYA DAYI (Ethiopia-U.S.)
Director, Screenwriter and Producer: Jessica Beshir
A spiritual journey into the highlands of Harar, immersed in the rituals of khat, a leaf Sufi Muslims chewed for centuries for religious meditations – and Ethiopia’s most lucrative cash crop today. A tapestry of intimate stories offers a window into the dreams of youth under a repressive regime.

Directors: Kristina Lindström, Kristian Petri
Swedish actor/musician Björn Andresen’s life was forever changed at the age of 15, when he played Tadzio, the object of Dirk Bogarde’s obsession in Death in Venice – a role which led Italian maestro Luchino Visconti to dub him “the world’s most beautiful boy.”

PRESIDENT (Denmark-U.S.-Norway)
Director: Camilla Nielsson
Zimbabwe is at a crossroads. The leader of the opposition MDC party, Nelson Chamisa, challenges the old guard ZANU-PF led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, known as “The Crocodile.” The election tests both the ruling party and the opposition – how do they interpret principles of democracy in discourse and in practice?

Director and Screenwriter: Michelle Latimer
An examination of Thomas King’s brilliant dismantling of North America’s colonial narrative, which reframes history with the powerful voices of those continuing the tradition of Indigenous resistance.

Director and Screenwriter: Sally Aitken
Valerie Taylor is a shark fanatic and an Australian icon – a marine maverick who forged her way as a fearless diver, cinematographer and conservationist. She filmed the real sharks for Jaws and famously wore a chainmail suit, using herself as shark bait, changing our scientific understanding of sharks forever.

TAMING THE GARDEN (Switzerland-Germany-Georgia)
Director Salomé Jashi
A poetic ode to the rivalry between men and nature.

Directors and Producers: Rintu Thomas, Sushmit Ghosh
In a cluttered news landscape dominated by men, emerges India’s only newspaper run by Dalit women. Armed with smartphones, Chief Reporter Meera and her journalists break traditions on the frontlines of India’s biggest issues and within the confines of their own homes, redefining what it means to be powerful.


This showcase of world premieres presents highly anticipated films on a variety of subjects, from both the fiction and nonfiction worlds.

Director and Screenwriter: Lucy Walker
A character-driven vérité and revelatory investigation takes us on a journey embedded with firefighters and residents on a mission to understand the causes of historically large wildfires and how to survive them, discovering that the solution has been here all along. (Documentary)

Director: Nanfu Wang
How did the Chinese government turn pandemic coverups in Wuhan into a triumph for the Communist party? An essential narrative of firsthand accounts of the coronavirus, and a revelatory examination of how propaganda and patriotism shaped the outbreak’s course – both in China and in the U.S. (Documentary)

Director and Screenwriter: Kate Tsang
A teenage delinquent befriends a surly magician who helps her navigate her inner demons and dysfunctional family with sleight of hand magic, in a coming-of-age comedy that touches on unlikely friendships, grief, and finding hope in the darkest moments. (Narrative)

“Philly D.A.”
Created By: Ted Passon, Yoni Brook, Nicole Salazar
A groundbreaking inside look at the long shot election and tumultuous first term of Larry Krasner, Philadelphia’s unapologetic District Attorney, and his experiment to upend the criminal justice system from the inside out. (Episodic Documentary)

Directors, Screenwriters and Producers: Daryl Wein, WIF Film Finishing Fund grantee Zoe Lister-Jones
On the last day on Earth, one woman goes on a journey through LA to make it to her last party before the world ends, running into an eclectic cast of characters along the way. (Narrative)

Director: Robin Wright
The poignant story of one woman’s search, in the aftermath of an unfathomable event, for meaning in the vast and harsh American wilderness. Cast: Robin Wright, Demián Bichir, Kim Dickens. (Narrative)

Directors: Betsy West, Julie Cohen
Overlooked by history, Pauli Murray was a legal trailblazer whose ideas influenced RBG’s fight for gender equality and Thurgood Marshall’s landmark civil rights arguments. Featuring never-before-seen footage and audio recordings, a portrait of Murray’s impact as a non-binary Black luminary: lawyer, activist, poet, and priest who transformed our world. (Documentary)

Director: Marilyn Agrelo
How did a group of rebels create the world’s most famous street? In 1969 New York, this “gang” of mission-driven artists, writers and educators catalyzed a moment of civil awakening, transforming it into Sesame Street, one of the most influential and impactful television programs in history. (Documentary)


The Spotlight program is a tribute to the cinema we love and presents films that have played throughout the world.

Director: Mona Fastvold
Music supervision by WIF Board member Tracy McKnight
Somewhere along the mid-nineteenth century American East Coast frontier, two neighboring couples battle hardship and isolation, witnessed by a splendid yet testing landscape, challenging them both physically and psychologically.


Pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling populate this program. Digital technology paired with unfettered creativity promises that the films in this section will shape a greater next wave in American cinema.

Director and Screenwriter: Carlson Young
Decades after the accidental drowning of her twin sister, a self-destructive young woman returns to her family home, finding herself drawn to an alternate dimension where her sister may still be alive.

Director and Screenwriter: Jane Schoenbrun
A teenage girl becomes immersed in an online role-playing game

Director and Screenwriter: Marion Hill
A surprise reunion in southern France reignites passions and jealousies between two women who were formerly polyamorous lovers.


From horror flicks and bizarre comedies to works that defy any genre, these unruly films will keep you wide awake and on the edge of your seat.

Director and Screenwriter: Prano Bailey-Bond
When film censor Enid discovers an eerie horror that speaks directly to her sister’s mysterious disappearance, she resolves to unravel the puzzle behind the film and its enigmatic director – a quest blurring the lines between fiction and reality in terrifying ways.

Directors, Screenwriters and Producers: Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Dusty Mancinelli
A troubled woman on the edge of divorce returns home to her younger sister after years apart. But when her sister and brother-in-law betray her trust, she embarks on a vicious crusade of revenge.

Director: Frida Kempff
When Molly moves into her new apartment after a tragic accident, a strange noise from upstairs begins to unnerve her. As its intensity grows, she confronts her neighbors – but no one seems to hear what she is hearing.

Indie Series Program

Our Indie Series Program was created specifically for bold stories told in multiple episodes, with an emphasis on independent perspectives and innovative storytelling.

4 FEET HIGH (Argentina-France)
Directors: María Belén Poncio, Rosario Perazolo Masjoan
Juana, a 17-year-old wheelchair user, aims to explore her sexuality but is ashamed of her body. Trying to find her place in a new high school, she will go through failure, friendship, fear and politics until she builds her own pride.

“Would You Rather” (France-Germany)
Creators: Lise Akoka, Romane Guéret
Sixteen-year-olds Shaï, Djeneba, Aladi, and Ismaël grew up in a working-class Paris neighborhood. Together, they watch hours drift by, cracking jokes, and playing their favorite game, “Would you rather?” As the group’s equilibrium suddenly shifts, they have to start making choices – in their lives and their game.

SEEDS OF DECEIT (Netherlands)
Director: Miriam Guttmann
The revelation that Dr. Karbaat clandestinely used his own semen to inseminate more than 65 of his patients shocked the world. A vivid portrayal of how that happened and all the ways it haunts those affected: the emotional trauma of coming to terms with a changed life, a new identity.

Short Films Program

Driven by innovation and experimentation, the Short Films Program calls out filmmaking’s most original voices.

Shorts Program 1

Director: Josefin Malmén
He may be god enough, but is he good enough? A slightly surreal comedic exploration of the fine line between a bodybuilder’s self-loathing and self-loving.

BAMBIRAK (Germany)
Director: Zamarin Wahdat
When Kati stows away in her father’s truck, Faruk must juggle his responsibilities as a single dad while holding down his first job in a new country. As their relationship deepens, a brush with covert racism tests their bond.

FIVE TIGER (South Africa)
Director: Nomawonga Khumalo
A God-feating woman in present-day South Africa finds herself in a transactional relationship as she tries to support her sick husband and daughter.

Shorts Program 2

Director: Melody C. Roscher
Amidst a racially tense Southern wedding, a biracial bride has the chance to confront her estranged Black father after accidentally hiring his wedding band to perform.

LATA (India-U.S.)
Director: Alisha Tejpal
Lata, a 23-year-old domestic worker, navigates her way through an upper-class home in South Mumbai. Doors consistently open and close, giving Lata selective access to the various contending realities that occupy this space.

Director: Rikke Gregersen
Minutes before takeoff, a situation occurs, preventing an airplane from departing. In an attempt to prevent the deportation of one passenger, another refuses to sit down—forcing the pilot to take a political stand.

MOUNTAIN CAT (Mongolia-U.K.)
Director: Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir
A troubled girl is coerced into seeing a shaman. Trapped by the ancient beliefs that pacify her mother, she finds peace in the physical realm, unleashing her repressed, youthful spirit on the shaman when she realizes his true identity.

Shorts Program 3

Directors: Sam Guest, Julia Baylis
Determined to save her wheelchair ramp from repossession, Daisy confronts the shady insurance agent who owes her money.

AVA FROM MY CLASS (U.S.-South Korea)
Director: Youmin Kang
Anna thinks Ava is the best actress in her class.

Director and Screenwriter: Kelly Fyffe-Marshall
A Black man comes face-to-face with the realities of being Black in the twenty-first century.

Shorts Program 4

Director: Annie St-Pierre
December 24, 1984, 10:50 p.m.: Julie and her cousins ate too much sugar, and Santa Claus is late. Denis, alone in his car, is anxious about setting foot in his former in-laws’ house to pick up his children.

Director: Trish Harnetiaux
An idyllic picnic of one is upended after the arrival of a stranger.

Director: Hazel McKibbin
A young woman grapples with the aftermath of reporting sexual harassment in the workplace.

Animation Spotlight

Director and Screenwriter: Alisi Telengut
An exploration of the Indigenous worldview and wisdom based on ancient shamanistic traditions and animistic beliefs in Siberia and Mongolia. With handcrafted animation, a testament of reclaiming animism for environmental ethics and nonhuman materialities.

Directors: Sara Hirner, Rosemary Vasquez-Brown
Glenn is a woman on an unwholesome mission, but just how far will she go to conquer the clique—and social media at large?

Director: Sasha Lee
As Seolgi is lying on a grass field with friends, a shooting star falls, and dark, intrusive thoughts hit her. Her melancholy blooms into bright and colorful “flower people,” dancing and wishing for a meteorite to end the world.

Documentary Shorts Program 1

Director: Ciara Lacy
An exploration of the creative process, following native Hawaiian slam poet Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, as her art is reinvigorated by her calling to protect sacred sites atop Maunakea, Hawai’i.

Directors: Kaitlyn Schwalje, Alex Wolf Lewis
Snowy, a four-inch-long pet turtle, has lived an isolated life in the family basement. With help from a team of experts and his caretaker, Uncle Larry, we ask: Can Snowy be happy, and what would it take?

Director: Renee Maria Osubu
With the help of their family, friends, and faith, three fathers unravel the incomparable partnership of forgiveness and community in North Philadelphia.

Director: Sierra Pettengill
Told entirely through archival material tracing Harlon Carter, considered the “father of the modern NRA,” across the decades, this short film reveals the links between the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Border Patrol, and gun culture.

Director: Noémie Nakai
Yoshida is a self-proclaimed “tears teacher.” A firm believer that regular crying promotes healthier living, he’s made it his mission to make more people weep.

Documentary Shorts Program 2

Directors: Meghan O’Hara, Mike Attie, Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck
A group of fifth graders learns what it takes to get ahead in the modern American workplace.

Director: Natalie A. Chao
A poetic exploration of the camera’s gaze and a family’s relationship with the filmmaker’s mother.

SPIRITS AND ROCKS: AN AZOREAN MYTH (Belgium-Hungary-Switzerland-Portugal)
Director: Aylin Gökmen
On a volcanic island, inhabitants are caught in an unending cycle: The threat of impending eruptions and the burden of past traumas loom over them. Some draw upon myth and religious beliefs to interpret their precarious situation; others demonstrate resilience.

New Frontier

“According to Sundance, of the 32 artists in the New Frontier lineup, 44% identify as women, 9% as non-binary, 44% as BIPOC, and 22% as LGBTQ+.” [Variety]

4 FEET HIGH VR (Argentina-France)
Lead Artists: María Belén Poncio, Rosario Perazolo Masjoan, Damian Turkieh, Ezequiel Lenardón
Juana, a 17-year-old wheelchair user, aims to explore her sexuality but is ashamed of her body. Trying to find her place in a new high school, she will go through failure, friendship, fear and politics until she builds her own pride.

“The Changing Same: Episode 1” (U.S.)
Lead Artists: WIF Film Finishing Fund grantee Michèle Stephenson, Joe Brewster, Yasmin Elayat
An immersive, episodic VR experience where the participant travels through time and space to witness the connected historical experiences of racial injustice in America. A respectful, haunting story infused with magical realism and Afrofuturism about the uninterrupted cycle of the 400-year history of racial terror — past and present.

“Prison X — Chapter 1: The Devil and The Sun” (Australia, Bolivia, India)
Lead Artists: Violeta Ayala, Alap Parikh, Maria Corvera Vargas, Roly Elias
Heavy doors open and you are swept into an infamous Bolivian jail, where you live among devils, saints, wicked characters, corrupt prison guards and even a Western filmmaker. In Prison X, inhabit the dreams and nightmares of the Neo-Andean underworld.

Lead Artist: Stephanie Dinkins
An immersive web experience and installation, illuminating the power and resilience in Black women’s stories. Interactive audio vignettes generate a multi-generational narrative that collapses past, present, and future.

Lead Artists: Sophia Nahli Allison, idris brewster, Stephanie Dinkins, Ari Melenciano, Terence Nance
Inspired by the ideas of Octavia Butler, voyaging into the interstitium: a liminal space, a cultural memory, containing the remnants of our ancestors, a place of refuge, a place of recentering, a portal into an alternate dimension.

Lead Artists: Tony Patrick, Lauren Lee McCarthy, WIF Film Finishing Fund grantee Grace Lee
Imagines alternate narratives for our near-future reality inside a browser designed to hack our normal online behaviors and cultivate collaborative spaces for self-reflection and renewal.

Lead Artists: Weronika Lewandowska, Sandra Frydrysiak
A virtual erotic poem created in artistic animation with ASMR and interactive elements, immersing the viewer in the sensual experience of poetry and dance.

Lead Artists: Javaad Alipoor, Kirsty Housley
A darkly comedic, urgent new play about entitlement, consumption and digital technology, exploring the ubiquitous feeling that our societies are falling apart through the story of two young members of the Iranian elite, asking what their deaths tell us about climate change, social collapse and Instagram.

Lead Artists: Anna West, David Callanan
A VR cubicle of cardboard boxes begins to glitch, revealing an empty dark space in front of you ― until something glimmers in the distance, a wave of blue flooding towards you. A chorus of real memories and imagined futures expands, until only the largest memories are left.

Lead Artists: Jibz Cameron, Mariah Garnett
A filmed edition, hosted by Dynasty Handbag, of the wildly popular, underground, eponymous live performance and comedy event that, until COVID-19, was held monthly in Los Angeles.