Sundance Film Festival Opens Up with a Bang and “In The Same Breath” Shocking Documentary
(Sundance 2021 Opening Night and Q&A)
Written by: Nikoleta Morales
The Sundance Film Festival kicked off the celebrations with an opening day welcome on January 28th 2021. The re-imagined virtual experience is the new way that the festival is connecting with audiences and artists all over the world this year. Sundance Institute, CEO Keri Putman and Festival Director Tabitha Jackson, talked about what makes this year’s festival one special and re-imagined experience.
“When we realized we would be holding the 2021 festival during the pandemic, we had a choice to make, we could cancel or move the festival, we could play it safe and simply make our slate of films available online or we could take a risk and imagine a way to recreate the energy of the full festival experience digitally. Well, we chose the riskier route. Following the lead of our artists and audiences whose adventurous spirits inspire us, we decided not to let perfect be the enemy of progress, that coming together now was worth trying something we’ve never done before, even if that means there might be a few bumps along the way,” said Putnam.
This year’s Sundance showcases 71 feature films from 29 countries and 38 first-time feature filmmakers.
“This festival was conceived as a grand experience, a response to loss, the grief of a pandemic, the uncertainty of an economic crisis and the pain which elicited a global uprising in the face of racism and police brutality. But this loss brought new clarity around our relief in the necessity of the independent voice, our belief in community and our conviction that freedom of creative expression is a powerful and necessary response to repression and autocracy,” said Jackson.
Some of the films to watch out for at the festival this year are “In The Same Breath,” “CODA,” “Wild Indian,” “Passing,” “Together Together,” among other notable works.
The festival opened up with the premier of “In The Same Breath” documentary by Chinese filmmaker Nanfu Wang. In her incredible documentary, she shows the reality of the Covid-19 pandemic starting from a personal experience as she celebrates New Year’s Eve with her son in China to leaving him with her mom so she can go on a work trip in the US while facing the risk of not being able to see him again to ending with a massive, disinformed, and brutal pandemic based on a broader, much bigger subject - political propaganda and cover ups. In her film, she shows rare and never seen before footage of the start of the pandemic in Wuhang, its spread, the misinformation and deceit by the Chinese government and the cover ups that occurred as the virus progressed. She documents how two different governments handled the pandemic in the US and China - the similarities and the differences. Her raw, authentic and brave look is able to open a window to the truth of what was happening behind closed doors as people battled confusion, loss, grief and even threats for exposing the truth. Her brave documentary opens up the discussion of the gray area between why and how the pandemic started, what could have been handled better, how lives could have been saved if things were handled by showing painful realities of grief, loss, death and misinformation among the Chinese and American people. Her documentary is a must-watch.
(“In The Same Breath”)
In her film she shares the chilling message: "I have lived under authoritarianism and I have lived in a society that calls itself free; in both systems, ordinary people become casualties of their leaders' pursuit of power.”
Despite the huge risks that Wang took to collect the footage, film and deliver the deleted messages and footages that the Chinese and American governments didn’t want us to see, she shares that she was searching for the truth and took the responsibility to show it aware of the possible consequences and risks involved.
“I think there is always a risk, there are always concerns and with all of our collaborators in China we had conversations with them and understood what their comfort level is. We had people who were already experienced with sensitive topics and activism and they know the consequences. I think all of our people behind the camera, on camera and researchers are taking some sort of a risk and are willing to do that and we all knew that. That is something I am grateful for,” said Wang in her Q and A session after the premier of her film.
Wang lives in the US with her husband and son. She is an award-winning documentary filmmaker who is no stranger to the Sundance Festival where she won awards for her work in previous years. For more on In The Same Breath, stay tuned for
more upcoming details on HBO.
The Sundance Film Festival continues until February 3. For more information, visit: sundance.org.
Photos: Courtesy of Sundance Institute