2021 Sundance Film Festival and AFS Announce Program Selections Debuting in Austin at Pioneer Farms Drive-In

(Still from narrative feature SON OF MONARCHS) 

Brady Dyer, Communications Manager

2021 Sundance Film Festival and Austin Film Society Announce Program Selections Debuting in Austin at Pioneer Farms Drive-in

AFS Hosts Series of Free Online Panels in Conjunction with the Festival

January 7, 2021 (Austin, TX) — The nonprofit Sundance Institute announced last month the new independent work selected for the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, January 28 – February 3, 2021. The Festival will take place digitally via a feature-rich, Sundance-built online platform and in-person screenings across the country on Satellite Screens including in Austin (public health permitting). AFS is proud to partner with Sundance as an official Satellite Screen to bring film selections from the 2021 program to Austin. After closely monitoring the Covid-19 situation and in adherence with the City’s current Stage 5 level guidelines, AFS will present all screenings at the Drive-in at Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farms to ensure the safest experience possible. The full lineup of Austin drive-in screenings is here and listed below, and tickets will go on sale for AFS members Thursday, January 7 at 1PM. Remaining tickets will go on sale Monday, January 11 for the general public.

Online, Festival attendees can gather in virtual waiting rooms, participate in live Q&A’s, and congregate in new environments to interact in a variety of ways, both new and familiar. In December, the Institute shared details of how the Festival will meet audiences where they are this year through the online platform and their wide-ranging network of Satellite Screens.

In addition to the films screening at our Drive-In, Austin Film Society will present a series of online panel discussions featuring a rich line up of special guests as part of the Sundance Film Festival’s Beyond Film programming. All panels are free and open to the public, but attendees must register in advance of the event to receive log-in instructions.

The complete line up of screenings and online panels are listed below and more information can be found on the AFS website at austinfilm.org/sundance


Directed by Alexis Gambis
Thursday, January 28, 7PM
Enchanted by the monarch butterflies of Michoacán, Mexico, since he was a child, Mendel dedicates his career as a scientist in New York to mapping out the monarch’s genetics. But he is haunted by flashbacks of being orphaned alongside his older brother, Simon, when their parents died in a flood. When Mendel travels home to attend the funeral of his grandmother, it’s clear Simon harbors deep resentment toward him for having left. Migrating back and forth between Mexico and New York, Mendel starts to neglect his new girlfriend and grows spiritually restless as he obsesses over the iconic butterfly. Then he confronts his brother about what really happened the night their parents died.

Tenoch Huerta delivers a soul-searing performance in this transformative drama by director Alexis Gambis. The film viscerally captures the scientific marvel and splendor of the butterfly, which in turn creates a mythic parallel to Mendel’s primal fears. SON OF MONARCHS is at once a spiritual and biological quest of the next generation—fulfilling its destiny by never losing sight of ancestral ties. This recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize is a special Science on Screen® presentation featuring a recorded filmmaker Q&A. Science on Screen is an initiative of the Coolidge Corner Theatre with major support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. NARRATIVE FEATURE

Directed by Iuli Gerbase
Friday, January 29, 7PM
Giovana and Yago are strangers who share a spark after meeting at a party. When a deadly cloud mysteriously takes over their city, they are forced to seek shelter with only each other for company. As months pass and the planet settles into an extended quarantine, their world shrinks, and they are forced to come to terms with an accelerated timeline for their relationship. With all their other interactions governed by screens, and with the strain of isolation setting in, Giovana and Yago struggle to reinvent themselves and reconcile the differences that threaten to tear them apart.

Director Iuli Gerbase has crafted an ambitiously stylish debut feature set in an evocative, not-too-distant world that eerily echoes life in lockdown. Both a delicate exploration of what it means to connect in a world we no longer recognize and an unflinchingly honest look at the ways we shape our own reality, THE PINK CLOUD digs deeply into the underbelly of collective loneliness to offer us a way out. NARRATIVE FEATURE

Directed by Maisie Crow
Sunday, January 31, 6PM
Ten miles from the Mexican border, students at Horizon High School in El Paso, Texas, are enrolling in law enforcement classes and joining a unique after-school activity: the criminal justice club. Through mock-ups of drug raids and active-shooter takedowns, they inch closer to their desired careers in border patrol, policing, and customs enforcement. We follow Mexican American students Kassy and Cesar and recent graduate Cristina as they navigate the complications inherent in their chosen path and discover their choices may clash with the values and people they hold closest.

Through intimate access and a clear-sighted lens, director Maisie Crow takes us inside one of the largest policing education programs in the region, offering a rare portrait of Latinx adolescents grappling with their place within their communities. Unafraid of confronting the difficult questions that lurk at the intersection of identity, immigration, and personal politics, AT THE READY asks: What is the price of pursuing dreams that have very real ramifications?  DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Directed by Carlson Young
Sunday, January 31, 8:30PM
Ever since Margaret (Carlson Young) was six years old, she has been haunted by the memory of watching her sister drown during an explosive fight between her parents. As a young woman, she slides further into her twisted inner life, ultimately finding herself on the brink of suicide. Through an epic journey down the smokiest and scariest corridors of her imagination, she tries to exorcise the demons pushing her closer and closer to the edge.

THE BLAZING WORLD is Carlson Young’s debut feature; it is based on her short of the same name, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Young brings to life in striking vibrancy an internality that is at once darkly beautiful and entirely terrifying. Blending horror and fantasy, this film is imaginative and gutsy, painting Margaret’s inner life as at once an alien realm and a devastatingly familiar emotional landscape. Manifesting her trauma through a series of lusciously unnerving locations and moving, bizarre interactions, Young unearths something often quietly, privately buried in our struggles toward the light. NARRATIVE FEATURE

Directed by Natalia Almada
Monday, February 1, 6PM
Acclaimed filmmaker Natalia Almada captures the ruthless locomotion of technology. Her camera flies with ferocious speed alongside jet streams, trains, trucks, and underwater cables that carry data at the speed of light. But just as her lens documents the power of frenetic human invention, so does it dive into technology’s greatest existential competitor: rising oceans, crackling fires, scorched mountain tops—a planet at war with so-called societal progress. In the center of this storm, Almada’s young son stares unquestioningly into his computer screen and is rocked to sleep by a seamlessly paced electronic crib. He’s soothed by forces outside of Almada’s—or, for that matter, any parent’s—influence.

With transcendent camerawork that peers into the internal organs of a technologically dependent planet, USERS both marvels at and fears for a world in which a child is not only at risk from a warming Earth but comes to trust a perfectly constructed artificial caretaker over his own biological mother. DOCUMENTARY FEATURE


A Conversation with Richard Linklater and MISS JUNETEENTH Director Channing Godfrey Peoples
Thursday, January 28, 4PM CST
Join us for a conversation between two Texas filmmakers: the 5-time Academy Award nominated writer/director Richard Linklater and writer/director Channing Godfrey Peoples, whose breakout debut feature MISS JUNETEENTH was recently nominated for two Gotham Awards. Richard Linklater’s name is evocative of independent filmmaking in Texas and regional auteurism. His generation of filmmakers contributed to defining the image of the Sundance Film Festival, which endures even as big changes in festivals and the industry changed the “Sundance experience” for filmmakers. Texas-based filmmaker Channing Godfrey Peoples premiered her debut feature, MISS JUNETEENTH at Sundance in January 2020. Her experience at Sundance and beyond reflects some contemporary trends for artists in the independent film industry and is taking her on a very different journey than Linklater’s 30 years prior. Both Linklater and Peoples have early works focused on specific communities in Texas, aiming to represent them cinematically and authentically. The filmmakers will sit down for a virtual conversation to explore the creative threads that connect them, and the journey of making independent films today. MISS JUNETEENTH was supported by Austin Film Society’s artist development programs, including the AFS Grant and Artist Intensive. Presented in partnership with the Houston Cinema Arts Society.

Texas Women Producers
Saturday, January 30, 11AM CST
Three acclaimed female producers, each with a new film premiering at Sundance 2021, discuss how they built and are sustaining their careers outside of the industry poles of New York and Los Angeles. Featuring: Elizabeth Avéllan, veteran producer of the blockbuster SPY KIDS franchise as well as PREDATORS and SIN CITY, who is premiering her new independent film, THE BLAZING WORLD in Sundance NEXT; Liz Lodge Stepp, producer of Sundance Documentary Competition title USERS and the previous Sundance award winner MONSTERS AND MEN; and Hillary Pierce, producer of Sundance Documentary Competition title AT THE READY, and AFS Grant-supported project. Hillary previously produced SXSW award-winner THE RIVER AND THE WALL, also supported by AFS artist development programs. Presented in partnership with Austin’s Women in Film and Television.

Shifting Perspectives About the Border
Monday, February 1, 1PM CST
Join us for a conversation with regional filmmakers who are creating stories about the Texas/Mexico border communities that bring complexity and nuance missing from the national dialogue. The discussion includes director Maisie Crow of the Sundance US Documentary Competition selection AT THE READY, and Angie Reza Tures, Executive Director of Femme Frontera, an organization supporting women filmmakers in the west Texas/Mexico border region. AT THE READY was supported by Austin Film Society artist development programs, including the AFS Grant and Doc Intensive. Presented in partnership with Femme Frontera.

JOCKEY Filmmakers Talk Texas Film
Tuesday, February 2, 6PM CST
Director Clint Bentley and writer/producer Greg Kwedar of US Narrative Competition selection JOCKEY (and previously of the SXSW Grand Jury Prize winner TRANSPECOS) sit down with Sailor Bear’s Toby Halbrooks (A GHOST STORY, PETE’S DRAGON) to talk about making independent work from the growing film community of North Texas. JOCKEY was the 2020 recipient of the AFS Grant Pioneer Film Fund Award, in partnership with Sailor Bear Entertainment and the Oak Cliff Film Festival. Presented in partnership with the Oak Cliff Film Festival.

Black Media Story Summit-Texas
The 2nd Black Media Story Summit-Texas, following the inaugural summit held during the 2019 Houston Cinema Arts Festival, at the historic DeLuxe Theater in Houston’s 5th Ward, will be a virtual affair, and part of the Sundance Film Festival’s “Beyond Film” Sundance Satellite programming.  This free virtual conference will bring together 100 guests, including filmmakers/content creators of color, foundations, tech, distributors, and social justice leaders on the Eventive virtual platform for a day of collaboration and discussion about new strategies designed to support diverse black stories. The Texas summit is one of several regional events that continue the conversation started at the inaugural Black Media Story Summit in 2018 originated by Black Public Media and aims to galvanize local efforts to amplify black stories. Presented in partnership with Black Public Media and Houston Cinema Arts Society.

Programming details to be announced.

Founded in 1985 by filmmaker Richard Linklater, AFS creates life-changing opportunities for filmmakers, catalyzes Austin and Texas as a creative hub, and brings the community together around great film. AFS is committed to racial equity and inclusion, with an objective to deliver programs that actively dismantle the structural racism, sexism and other bias in the screen industries. AFS supports filmmakers from all backgrounds towards career leaps, encouraging exceptional artistic projects with grants and support services. AFS operates Austin Studios, a 20-acre production facility, to attract and grow the creative media ecosystem. Austin Public, a space for our city’s diverse mediamakers to train and collaborate, provides many points of access to filmmaking and film careers. The AFS Cinema is an ambitiously programmed repertory and first run arthouse with broad community engagement. By hosting premieres, local and international industry events, and the Texas Film Awards, AFS shines the national spotlight on Texas filmmakers while connecting Austin and Texas to the wider film community. AFS is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.