Reel Dad: Sundance's virtual film festival offered cinematic 'feast'

Without flying to Utah, standing in the cold outside a theater, or leaving the comfort of the couch, I am wrapping up this extraordinary feast called the Sundance Film Festival. The first-time virtual version of the annual event - offering a consistent and accessible collection of cinema delights - reminds us what it takes to make a curated cinema experience a reel joy.

Feature the moviemakers

To personally engage viewers with each movie, the festival featured opening conversations with filmmakers talking with members of the Sundance staff. Such informal, personal introductions helped us invest in each film before pressing “play” by offering insights into the journey each piece had traveled.

Focus on today’s world

Reminding us what we can learn from film, the Sundance collection of 2021 featured substantive works addressing meaningful issues. From the realities of racial tension in “Judas and the Black Messiah” to the challenges of the hearing impaired in “CODA” to the liberation dance can provide in “Ailey,” the roster of movies felt right for what we face today.

Feel free to have fun

It wasn’t always serious at Sundance. “Street Gang” invited us to remember how good it feels to take a walk on “Sesame Street” while “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It” celebrated the highs and lows of an extraordinary show business ride. Even the disappointing “Marvelous and the Black Hole” let Rhea Perlman play a mysterious magician.

Find your voice

One joy of independent film is the chance to absorb how a filmmaker transfers purpose to the screen. During Sundance, we savored how Franz Kranz personalized senseless tragedy in “Mass,” Rebecca Hall illuminated racial temptations in “Passing” and Clint Bentley made us feel at home on the race track in “Jockey.” Their messages rang true.

Feel the joy

Of the rich collection on the Sundance smorgasbord, perhaps the most lasting is Ahmir-Khalib “Questlove” Thompson’s return to concerts in Harlem in 1969 in “Summer of Soul.” This extraordinary trip back in time showed us how good it must have felt that hot summer to escape the realities of the world and experience the best in music. It feels just as good today.

Thank you, Sundance, for bringing the magic of independent film into our homes. What a great way to start the movie year for 2021.