Every January, film buffs await the annual Sundance Film Festival, Robert Redford's long-running celebration of independent film. In 2021, the festival is held virtually, between 28th January and 3rd February. In the spirit of the festival, SundanceTV (available in the Middle East and North Africa on beIN Channel 75) has cherry-picked some of the best independent films. Viewers can tune in for festival gems as well as winners of the SundanceTV Shorts competition, held in the Midde East and North Africa for the first time in late 2020. The thought-provoking competition entries gave the opportunity for fresh voices and perspectives to be heard, whilst taking viewers on a journey through time and space.
On 18th January, viewers can follow the titular Dayveon as he spends the sweltering summer days roaming his rural Arkansas town in the wake of his older brother’s death. Drawn to the camaraderie of a local gang, he becomes entrenched in the violence of its world. Dayveon (2017) airs 21:00 MECCA/ 18:00 GMT.
On 25th January, ‘Terri’ (2011) invites viewers into the world of a misfit teen. Mercilessly teased by his peers for his quirks, and for coming to school in pajamas, Terri is resigned to his outsider status. The tough-talking vice principal, Mr. Fitzgerald takes an interest in him, and his sometimes clumsy, sometimes professionally dubious efforts help Terri through this tough time. This film will air at 21:00 MECCA/ 18:00 GMT.
Winners of the SundanceTV Shorts competition will be aired on 30th January as well. Viewers are invited to tune in between 20:00 to 21:00 pm MECCA for the debuts of groundbreaking talent from across the Middle East. Films include ‘As You Can See’ by director Ghada Fikri (Egypt), which won first-place. Told through the eyes of a daughter, the movie zooms in on the grooves, cuts and lines on a woman’s hand, which tell the story of how she single-handedly raised her five children.
In ‘The Red Mountain’ by Kamel Harb (2nd place, Lebanon), a group of boys dream of escaping their boarding school. Among the obstacles in their way: the Red Mountain.
In ‘Huit Ans – 8 Years’ by Ziad Mazraany (3rd place, Lebanon), war, childhood events, and a passion for cinema keep Najla stuck in her childhood until Ziad uses films to remind her of the moments which changed her life.
In ‘How My Grandmother Became a Chair’ by Nicolas Fattouh (4th place, Lebanon) a grandmother slowly loses her senses as her family abandons her, until she discovers a true familial bond.
‘Beit Byoot’ by Palestinian filmmaker Mayar Hamdan received an honorable mention by the judges and will also be shown during this segment. The film is set in a dystopian doll house and follows the story of young Jameela as she chooses between fitting in and making true friends.
In 2020, MENA hosted the first ever SundanceTV Shorts competition, attracting 371 submissions from the region. The jury included Golden Globe winner, Academy Award and Primetime Emmy Award nominee Uma Thurman, Palestinian filmmaker and poet Annemarie Jacir, Qatari-American writer and artist Sophia Al-Maria and television industry veteran, Harold Gronenthal, Executive Vice President, Programming and Marketing for AMC Networks International, broadcaster of SundanceTV outside of North America.
In addition to these independent favourites and outstanding short films, viewers can enjoy the 2006 film ‘Walker Payne’. Set in the late 50s, the movie follows an out of work miner in a small-town who is forced to take a heartbreaking decision to save his two daughters when his ex-wife threatens to leave town. The film will air on 22nd January at 21:00 MECCA/ 18:00 GMT.
‘I’m Still Here’ (2010) will show on 30th January, and follows Joaquin Phoenix in the fall of 2008 as he announces his retirement from a successful film career and sets off to reinvent himself as a hip hop musician. Alternately funny and shocking, and always riveting, the film is a portrait of an artist at a crossroads. It deftly explores notions of courage and creative reinvention, as well as the ramifications of a life spent in the public eye. The film will air on 30th January at 21:00 MECCA/ 18:00 GMT.