2021 Festival LineUp Release

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Robust program boasts 20 feature film premieres while highlighting diverse voices,
accessibility, and encouraging filmmakers to “greenlight themselves” 

Festival launches Unstoppable, a showcase for creators with disabilities

**Update: Due to the ongoing severity of the Covid-19 situation in Southern California, the Slamdance 2021 retreat and drive-in screenings originally planned for Joshua Tree are now cancelled. We will continue to monitor the situation and look forward to the possibility of safer events in Joshua Tree later in the year. 

November 30, 2020 (Los Angeles, CA) – The Slamdance Film Festival announced today its full lineup of 25 features along with 107 shorts and episodics for the 27th edition of the festival, a number that equals previous editions of the festival. This includes a new program titled Unstoppable, a showcase for creators with disabilities. Running February 12-25, 2021, this will also be Slamdance’s most accessible festival ever, with all films, Q&A’s and panels available on Slamdance.com, AppleTV, Roku, Firestick, and YouTube. Virtual festival passes for early adopters are available for free until December 31st and $10 per festival pass thereafter until the end of the festival. In addition to a vibrant virtual experience, there will be a two-night drive-in presentation in Joshua Tree open to the public on February 13th and 14th as well as the closing night screening at a Los Angeles drive-in on February 25.

Deepening its mission to be the premiere festival “by filmmakers, for filmmakers,” Slamdance is introducing a number of unique new programs and initiatives this year, including an invite-only Joshua Tree retreat focused on safely bringing the Slamdance community together timed to the opening festival dates and the public drive-in screenings (still subject to ongoing Covid safety protocols and quarantine) as well as providing a screening fee of $350 for each feature filmmaking team.

The festival’s official theme, “Greenlight Yourself,” reflects Slamdance’s ongoing commitment to turning the many obstacles facing filmmakers into opportunities.  “Our theme this year was inspired by the incredible resilience and creativity evidenced by our community and our team over the past few unprecedented months,” said Slamdance President and Co-founder Peter Baxter.  “The shared journey ahead for Slamdance’s filmmakers, alumni community and organization is to ‘Greenlight Yourself’ and triple down on not only who we are, but how we can continue expanding the many ways we support the filmmakers who are the future of independent filmmaking.” 

Slamdance’s wide ranging selection of films this year includes a feature competition lineup boasting 20 premieres, with 15 World, 4 North American, and 1 U.S. debuts. In addition to the United States, films come to Slamdance from countries around the globe, including Australia, Finland, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Lithuania, Romania, United Kingdom and Taiwan. Competition films in Narrative and Documentary categories are feature-length directorial debuts with budgets of less than $1 million USD, and without US distribution, while the Breakouts competition serves directors beyond their first films who maintain distinct visual styles and a unique cinematic voice.  Films were selected by a team of Slamdance alumni via a blind submission process and are programmed democratically. Films in both categories are also eligible for the Audience Award and Spirit of Slamdance Award, the latter of which is voted upon by filmmakers at the festival.

The opening night film, which will screen at a drive-in in Joshua Tree on February 13, is the world premiere of No Trace (Nulle Trace) from Canadian director and screenwriter Simon Lavoie. Taking place in a near future, the film follows a callous smuggler hardened by life who guides a pious young woman and her child across the border to safety, unaware that their destinies are inescapably linked in an inhospitable land.

The festival will close with the world premiere screening of 18th & Grand: The Olympic Auditorium Story at a Los Angeles drive-in on February 25. The feature documentary by Stephen DeBro is the story of L.A. told through the prism of a historic fight palace and Aileen Eaton, the woman who ran it. Featuring the voices of fighters, skaters, and musicians including Roddy Piper, John Doe, James Ellroy and Julio Cesar Chavez, 18th & Grand is a hard-hitting yet bittersweet tale of the conflicts and characters that shaped a city. 

The festival’s new program, Unstoppable, will feature 22 short films from up and coming disabled filmmakers, feature actors with disabilities, or highlight the conversation of disabilities in today’s world. Unstoppable is entirely programmed by disabled artists and the program’s mission is to amplify the contributions of the disabled community and advocate for their rightful inclusion in our industry. As an organization known for giving voice to talented creators whose stories otherwise might not be discovered, it’s in Slamdance’s DNA to undertake this new purpose.

“I’m honored to be part of the wonderful Unstoppable team and embrace the idea of creating a safe space for filmmakers with disabilities and take our creativity as seriously as everyone else in this industry. I feel like we are building a bridge for others to cross and I am so proud to be a part of it,“ said Unstoppable programmer Juliet Romeo.

The 2021 shorts lineup will showcase 107 short films in eight categories from 29 countries around the world. The lineup includes 27 World, 13 North American and 8 US Premieres. Shorts in the Narrative, Documentary and Animation sections are eligible for the 2020 Oscar® Qualifying Shorts competition. The short film program will include, for the third year, an Episodes category showcasing episodic work in any style, genre and format intended for broadcast – from comedy and drama to documentaries, social commentary and beyond.

The 2021 festival will see the return of The AGBO Fellowship, presented by AGBO Films in partnership with the festival — a $25,000 prize launched in 2018 by celebrated festival alumni Anthony and Joe Russo (Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War) to enable a deserving filmmaker the opportunity to continue their journey with mentorship from the filmmaking duo. 

Despite the pandemic, Slamdance has experienced tremendous growth and reinforced its role as an important filmmaker incubator over the past year. Key projects include: the film Day Shift, a project born at and optioned by Slamdance and comprised of alums, starring Jamie Foxx, and currently in pre-production with Netflix; Andrew Patterson’s The Vast of Night, which premiered at Slamdance in 2019, was released by Amazon in 2020, and has been nominated for numerous awards this season; and Merawi Gerema’s critically acclaimed film Residue, which premiered at Slamdance this year and was picked up by Ava Duvernay’s ARRAY for release on Netflix. 

Slamdance’s incredible supporting alumni, including the Russo Brothers, Steven Soderbergh, Christopher Nolan, Bong Joon-ho (Parasite, Okja), Sean Baker (​The Florida Project​), Jennifer Kent (The Babadook), Lena Denhum (Girls, Tiny Furniture) and many others, are all key to the organization’s mission of supporting a diverse community of emerging creators.

Learn more about our 2021 program here.