Sundance Film Festival London opens with Edgar Wright’s The Spark Brothers

The Sundance Institute and Picturehouse Cinemas are delighted to announce that Sundance Film Festival: London will return to Picturehouse Central for its sixth year from 29 July to 1 August 2021, as an in-person event.

The Festival will once more welcome filmmakers to present their work to cinema audiences, with this year’s programme promising to include upwards of 12 features, panel discussions, Q+As and special guest appearances.

The Festival opens with the UK premiere of Edgar Wright’s debut documentary The Sparks Brothers, a musical odyssey through five weird and wonderful decades with brothers Ron and Russell Mael. In partnership with Universal, consecutive screenings of the film will take place in multiple cinemas across the UK with a filmmaker Q+A simultaneously broadcast from Picturehouse Central on 29 July 2021.

Says Sundance Film Festival Director Tabitha Jackson: “We’re thrilled to return to London and expand across the UK with an exciting program of films that tell fresh, independent stories — stories which are essential as we endeavour to understand our past while we reimagine our present and future.”

Clare Binns, Joint Managing Director Picturehouse Cinemas added: “It’s great to be back working with all of our friends at the Sundance Film Festival. We’re so excited to bring back inspiring independent films to the big screen – during this year’s Sundance London we will come together to watch, discuss, and immerse ourselves in an art form which has since been lost to us for over a year.”

Edgar Wright says “I was just 5 years old when I was hypnotised by Ron & Russell Mael (collectively Sparks) staring at me from the telly on a 1979 episode of Top Of The Pops. Over the next four decades, their music has been a riddle turned full on obsession.

“The final destination of my fascination has been to make what I believe is the only thing stopping them from being as big as they deserve to be; a document of their incredible journey in music and everyone they’ve inspired along the way. It’s very exciting for me to finally bring The Sparks Brothers to Sundance London since, as the UK were the first country to embrace Sparks genius. I look forward to everyone falling in love all over again or being as amazed as I was when I first saw and heard them.”

More on the film: There aren’t many bands who arrive at their 50th anniversary on a creative roll, still luring in new generations of fans, making Top 10 albums, and doing so by releasing music every bit as challenging and inventive as their earliest recordings. In fact, there is precisely one: Sparks.

Ron and Russell Mael are rock’s original Odd Couple, as inscrutable as they are fascinating. Never content to rest on their laurels or follow musical trends, they have achieved commercial success only intermittently, and almost despite themselves. Edgar Wright’s music documentary The Sparks Brothers captures the art-pop pioneers at an improbable late career high, as well as recounting the story of how they got there, asking why they aren’t as celebrated as they deserve to be, and finding out how they became your favourite band’s favourite band.

The documentary was produced by Edgar Wright and Nira Park, though their company Complete Fiction Pictures, along with producers George Hencken, and Complete Fiction’s Laura Richardson. The film was financed by MRC Non-Fiction. Universal will release the film in the UK on 30 July 2021.

The 2021 Sundance Film Festival took place from 28 January to 3 February both online and in-person in 20 cities across America. The seven-day Festival reached a total audience 2.7 times larger than at the typical 11-day Utah edition. Audiences participated from all 50 states and 120 countries.

Due to the COVID pandemic, Sundance Film Festival: London was not able to take place in 2020. Picturehouse Cinemas collaborated with the Sundance Institute to host the digital Celebration of Sundance Film Festival: London which took place online for UK audiences from 7–9 August. Three feature films from Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, were presented – Allan Ball’s Uncle Frank; Luxor, directed by Zeina Durra; and Boys State, directed by Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine and winner of the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary at the 2020 Festival. Alongside which a programme of 8 short films were presented which highlighted some of filmmaking’s most original voices.

Alongside the opening and closing night films, the festival will present a selection of sensational and wide-ranging filmmaking: Mass, starring Jason Isaacs and Ann Dowd alongside Martha Plimpton and Reed Birney, is an agonising drama following two sets of parents in the aftermath of a fatal high school shooting and is the debut feature from director-screenwriter Fran Kranz; winner of the U.S. Grand Jury Prize, U.S. Dramatic Audience Award at the 2021 edition of Sundance, CODA (dir. Sian Heder, winner of Best Director in the U.S. Dramatic section at the 2021 Festival), which stars British actress Emilia Jones, is a warm-hearted comedy-drama following the hearing daughter of two deaf parents as she navigates helping her family run their struggling fishing business, whilst trying to keep up at school. Dash Shaw’s Cryptozoo is a mythical animation centering around the premise of Cryptozoology, a subculture who preserve the knowledge of folkloric creatures, with vocal performances from Lake Bell and Michael Cera.

In addition, cinema goers will be able to take in The Nest, Sean Durkin’s long-awaited follow up to Martha Marcy May Marlene (which premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival), with superb performances from British actor Jude Law, alongside Carrie Coon. Receiving its world premiere at the Festival in 2021, Human Factors (dir. Ronny Trocker) balances phenomenal performances and effortlessly invents its own rules, reminding us even the closest family members may be only intimate strangers. Director Nikole Beckwith returned to the Festival this year with warm-hearted comedy Together Together, having previously screened Stockholm, Pennsylvania at the 2015 edition. The film stars comedy king Ed Helms alongside newcomer Patti Harrison.

As in previous years, along with Edgar Wright, the London edition will support British talent with Prano Bailey-Bond’s Censor, an intoxicating horror feature set against the backdrop of the ‘video nasties’ social hysteria in 1985. The film made its world premiere at the 2021 festival, as did Sam Hobkinson’s Misha and The Wolves, an engrossing documentary feature which stylishly blends reenactments, interviews, and archival footage to tell a vivid story about truth, deception, and self-preservation.

Together with Misha and The Wolves, the festival’s documentary features share an equally impactful cinematic experience: Writing With Fire (winner of the Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary, and the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Impact for Change, at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival). Directed by feature debut duo Rintu Tomas and Sushmit Ghosh, the documentary acts as an electrifying reminder to never underestimate the strength of a woman who’s had enough. Co-directors Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri’s The Most Beautiful Boy In The World is a thoughtful and quietly devastating meditation on obsession, trauma, and the cost of fame, telling the story of Björn Andrésen, and the burden he faced as a consequence of being proclaimed to be “the world’s most beautiful boy.”; Nanfu Wang’s In The Same Breath, which builds a damning indictment of Chinese and American leadership’s response to the pandemic, signals her return to the Festival following her 2019 Sundance Grand Jury Prize winning documentary One Child Nation.

The 2021 festival continues the Sundance tradition of supporting emerging voices in filmmaking: First Date, a dark comedy turned coming of age thriller, signals the directorial debut for duo Darren Knapp and Manuel Crosby; a further feature debut in this year’s lineup comes from director Carson Young in the form of horror-fantasy hybrid, The Blazing World, based on a short of the same name which premiered at the Festival in 2018. 

Two short film programmes will showcase the work of emerging and established independent filmmakers; the 2021 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour a 96-minute theatrical program of seven short films selected from this year’s Festival, including Wiggle Room winner of the Special Jury Prize for Acting; and the UK Short Film Programme – a selection of new shorts with diverse styles and unique stories, showcasing the vibrant talent creating short films in the UK today, including Lizard, winner of the Short Film Grand Jury Prize.

In an exclusive repertory strand, the festival will present three films connected with the programme and filmmakers.

  • Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash) chosen and introduced by Festival Director Tabitha Jackson.
  • Death in Venice (Luchino Visconti) introduced by the film’s star and subject of The Most Beautiful Boy In The World , Björn Andrésen.
  • Let’s Scare Jessica to Death chosen and introduced by Censor director Prano Bailey Bond.

Alongside the inspiring film selection, the festival will also highlight the work of industry pioneers with a series of panel discussions, providing audiences invaluable insight into the filmmaking process. Additional events to be confirmed.

  • Scare Tactics – Making Modern Horror’ panel hosted by Wendy Mitchell and featuring guests including Censor director Prano Bailey Bond.
  • Shaping The Truth: Discussing Documentary Ethics and Filmmaking’ panel hosted by Doc Society’s Shanida Scotland and featuring guests including, directors Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri (The Most Beautiful Boy In The World), and Sam Hobkinson (Misha and the Wolves).

Festivalgoers will have a special chance to catch an unannounced title with the festival’s fourth Surprise Film – the 2019 choice was Paul Briganti’s Greener Grass.

In a new first, this year’s edition will go on tour, with films showing in cinemas across the UK as part of the Sundance Film Festival London Tour – three films The Nest, Writing With Fire and Zola will screen at upwards of 30 cinemas across the festival dates 29 July – 1 August.

We are committed to offering a number of screenings and events with deaf and hard of hearing access options during the festival, more details will be published on the website. 

The full 2021 Sundance Film Festival: London programme of films and in-person events will be announced in due course. VIP and Festival Passes, and tickets for the 2021 London event will be available to purchase in early June via picturehouses.com/sundance. Government COVID restrictions lift on 21 June and Picturehouse venues will follow all relevant guidelines in place at the time. The health and safety of our patrons, guests and staff being paramount.

More information will be available at sundance.org/london and picturehouses.com/sundance. Join the conversation on social media with #SundanceLondon.

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