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8 Films By Female Directors To Watch At Sundance Film Festival: London

·4-min read

Year in, year out, Sundance Film Festival remains a steadfast celebration of independent filmmaking, platforming only the most mind-bending, eye-opening storytellers. And for 2021, it’s clear to see the festival coming on leaps and bounds for diversity and progress, with over half of the films in the lineup helmed by women and 26% directed by a woman of colour.

The global pandemic has meant that film lovers, critics and creatives are only now being reunited with their beloved big screens, which makes Sundance London Film Festival, running from 29th July to 1st August, the perfect opportunity to get stuck back in and catch the best of the annual festival from across the pond at London’s West End venue, Picturehouse Central.

From A24 porn industry dramas and creaking Scottish horrors to rousing documentaries on female journalists overcoming the odds, here are eight must-watch films by female directors at Sundance London…

<h2><em>Pleasure</em></h2> <br>"Are you here for business or pleasure?" the US customs officer quizzes 19-year-old Linnéa, who has left her small town in Sweden for the glitz of Los Angeles to become the world’s next huge porn star. An A24 offering from Swedish director Ninja Thyberg, <em>Pleasure</em> has already debuted to rave reviews. Expect leather, chains and an unflinching meditation on female gaze, gender roles and power dynamics.

Pleasure


"Are you here for business or pleasure?" the US customs officer quizzes 19-year-old Linnéa, who has left her small town in Sweden for the glitz of Los Angeles to become the world’s next huge porn star. An A24 offering from Swedish director Ninja Thyberg, Pleasure has already debuted to rave reviews. Expect leather, chains and an unflinching meditation on female gaze, gender roles and power dynamics.
<h2><em>Zola</em></h2><br>If you frequented Twitter back in 2015, chances are your timeline would have been ablaze with the <a href="https://imgur.com/a/WDwyW" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:viral 148-tweet thread by stripper Aziah Wells" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">viral 148-tweet thread by stripper Aziah Wells</a> which serves up a Florida road trip odyssey marred with kidnapping and pimps galore. Obsessed over by the likes of Missy Elliott, Solange Knowles and Ava DuVernay, <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2021/06/10554074/zola-cast-director-interview-interracial-friendship-review" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:A24 and American director Janicza Bravo" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">A24 and American director Janicza Bravo</a> have now taken the reins for a rollicking screen adaptation that stars Taylour Paige, Riley Keough and <em><a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2020/12/10219702/hbo-succession-season-3-filming-update-cast" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Succession" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Succession</a></em><a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2020/12/10219702/hbo-succession-season-3-filming-update-cast" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:’s" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">’s</a> Nicholas Braun – with a chin strap beard, nonetheless.

Zola


If you frequented Twitter back in 2015, chances are your timeline would have been ablaze with the viral 148-tweet thread by stripper Aziah Wells which serves up a Florida road trip odyssey marred with kidnapping and pimps galore. Obsessed over by the likes of Missy Elliott, Solange Knowles and Ava DuVernay, A24 and American director Janicza Bravo have now taken the reins for a rollicking screen adaptation that stars Taylour Paige, Riley Keough and Succession’s Nicholas Braun – with a chin strap beard, nonetheless.
<h2><em>CODA</em></h2> <br>An acronym that stands for <a href="https://coda-international.org/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Child of Deaf Adults" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Child of Deaf Adults</a>, <em>CODA</em> is the heart-stirring film from <em><a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2019/07/238885/characters-who-died-on-orange-is-the-new-black" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Orange Is The New Black" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Orange Is The New Black</a></em> writer Sian Heder and follows Ruby, a teenage girl who is the only hearing person in her deaf family. When the family’s fishing business is threatened, she finds herself torn between two worlds in her pursuit of her love of music. Expect tear-jerking performances, a heavenly score and razor-sharp script.

CODA


An acronym that stands for Child of Deaf Adults, CODA is the heart-stirring film from Orange Is The New Black writer Sian Heder and follows Ruby, a teenage girl who is the only hearing person in her deaf family. When the family’s fishing business is threatened, she finds herself torn between two worlds in her pursuit of her love of music. Expect tear-jerking performances, a heavenly score and razor-sharp script.
<h2><em>Censor</em></h2> <br>Back in the '80s, over 70 low-budget horrors were lambasted as 'video nasties' due to their gratuitous graphic violence, their distribution was banned and they were later condemned by the church. Welsh director Prano Bailey-Bond homes in on this hysterical era for her claustrophobic debut feature which blurs fiction and reality as Scottish film censor Enid discovers a disturbing video cassette tape that is linked to her sister’s mysterious disappearance.

Censor


Back in the '80s, over 70 low-budget horrors were lambasted as 'video nasties' due to their gratuitous graphic violence, their distribution was banned and they were later condemned by the church. Welsh director Prano Bailey-Bond homes in on this hysterical era for her claustrophobic debut feature which blurs fiction and reality as Scottish film censor Enid discovers a disturbing video cassette tape that is linked to her sister’s mysterious disappearance.
<h2><em>Writing With Fire</em> </h2><br>The brainchild of wife-and-husband directing team Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, this documentary is an inspiring tribute to female journalists. In this case, it’s Meera, Suneeta and Shyamkali, who have been running India’s only newspaper by Dalit women for 14 years, facing daily discrimination and tribulations as 'untouchables' (the lowest class in India’s caste system). It’s a rousing look at a fearless dedication to the truth.

Writing With Fire


The brainchild of wife-and-husband directing team Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, this documentary is an inspiring tribute to female journalists. In this case, it’s Meera, Suneeta and Shyamkali, who have been running India’s only newspaper by Dalit women for 14 years, facing daily discrimination and tribulations as 'untouchables' (the lowest class in India’s caste system). It’s a rousing look at a fearless dedication to the truth.
<h2><em>In The Same Breath</em></h2><br>You might remember Nanfu Wang from her powerful 2019 Sundance Grand Jury prize-winning documentary <em><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMcJVoLwyD0" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:One Child Nation" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">One Child Nation</a></em>. Now the Chinese-born American filmmaker is back with her searing indictment of the Chinese and American governments' response to the pandemic. Via genuinely jaw-dropping firsthand accounts of the crisis, find your eyes opened to cover-ups, mistakes and corruption.

In The Same Breath


You might remember Nanfu Wang from her powerful 2019 Sundance Grand Jury prize-winning documentary One Child Nation. Now the Chinese-born American filmmaker is back with her searing indictment of the Chinese and American governments' response to the pandemic. Via genuinely jaw-dropping firsthand accounts of the crisis, find your eyes opened to cover-ups, mistakes and corruption.
<h2><em>The Most Beautiful Boy in The World</em></h2><br>In 1970, shy Swedish teenager Björn Andrésen was propelled to international fame overnight when he was dubbed "the most beautiful boy in the world" by filmmaker Luchino Visconti who plucked him from obscurity for his film <em><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pxn49yWVJk" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Death in Venice" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Death in Venice</a></em>. Level of frenzy? Fans would mob him at events wielding scissors for a lock of his hair. From <em>Swedish </em>co-directors Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri, the documentary is a devastating exploration of the cost of fame, obsession and how trauma manifests later in life.

The Most Beautiful Boy in The World


In 1970, shy Swedish teenager Björn Andrésen was propelled to international fame overnight when he was dubbed "the most beautiful boy in the world" by filmmaker Luchino Visconti who plucked him from obscurity for his film Death in Venice. Level of frenzy? Fans would mob him at events wielding scissors for a lock of his hair. From Swedish co-directors Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri, the documentary is a devastating exploration of the cost of fame, obsession and how trauma manifests later in life.
<h2><em>The Blazing World</em></h2><br>Helmed by actor-turned-first-time-director Carlson Young (you might recognise her from MTV series <em>Scream</em>) and loosely based on Margaret Cavendish’s 1666 utopian book <em><a href="https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/margaret-cavendishs-blazing-world" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Blazing World" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Blazing World</a></em> – officially the first science fiction novel written by a woman – this disturbing and visually arresting fantasy-horror follows a tormented young woman who, decades after the accidental drowning of her twin sister, finds herself transported to an alternative universe where her sister might be alive.

The Blazing World


Helmed by actor-turned-first-time-director Carlson Young (you might recognise her from MTV series Scream) and loosely based on Margaret Cavendish’s 1666 utopian book The Blazing World – officially the first science fiction novel written by a woman – this disturbing and visually arresting fantasy-horror follows a tormented young woman who, decades after the accidental drowning of her twin sister, finds herself transported to an alternative universe where her sister might be alive.

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