Sundance 2021 Reviews: Judas and the Black Messiah, Passing & more!

The 2021 Sundance Film Festival is finally here, and had the exciting opportunity to partake in the virtual replay of the classic festival and see some of the incredible films in its catalog, made by Robin Wright and Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut country and pass to the biographical drama Judas and the black messiah. Check out our reviews for the movies below!

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  • Directed by: Frieda Kempff; Written by: Emma Broström
  • With: Cecilia Milocco, Krister Kern, Albin Grenholm, Ville Virtanen, Alexander Salzberger
  • rating: 5/10

Often times, a psychological thriller with little to no explanation for the events of the depicted story is a smarter move, as some ambiguity creates intriguing debate and compelling character work for the film, but there are still occasional efforts where that lack of exposure wears off in a viewer was overwhelmed and disinterested, so it was with me Beat. The focus is on a woman who is slowly losing her mind after moving into a new apartment and hearing a mysterious knock on the walls that no other tenant hears or is willing to believe. These are the movie’s attempts to take a sharp look at the gas lights and many countries in the inability to properly help people with mental illness are certainly admirable, but if you include them in the psychological thriller genre they don’t really get effective or explored obviously enough for the audience to understand that this is part of the movie. Instead, we get a slightly tense, yet exciting story that includes a strong performance from Milocco and stylish direction from Kempff, but not much else in terms of a quick narrative or a satisfactory conclusion.


  • Script & Director:: Alex Camilleri
  • With: Jesmark Scicluna, Michela Farrugia, David Scicluna
  • rating: 8.5 / 10

The story of a young family struggling with their pride in their extended families, their traditional jobs, and the temptations to turn to crime is certainly a worn-out genre here in the US, but it doesn’t often Explored is as rich and as unique as with Alex Camilleri’s Malta set Luzzu. The film centers on the fisherman Jesmark looking for a way to care for his wife and newborn baby while dealing with a leak in his boat and an increasingly troubled industry in the area. He could follow the general formula of a slow turn to crime, however, instead of watching him wallow in it or suddenly going for the benefit of everyone around him, Camilleri Js keeps hammering down with realistic problems and moral hurdles, giving his story a nice, slow burn. In addition to the nice inversions of the gene reform, the story makes an intriguing contribution to exploring some very real problems facing the European Union, affecting the local fishing industry, rooted in family generations, as well as the stress on EU ecosystems caused by global warming, regional and local Jobs and with a reasonable minimal use of Jon Natchez’s powerful score it all culminates in a moving, gripping, and often heartbreakingly real story.

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John and the Hole

  • Directed by: Pascual Sisto; Written by: Nicolás Giacobone
  • With: Charlie Shotwell, Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Ehle and Taissa Farmiga
  • rating: 3/10

Bad children are a trope in the horror and thriller genre that has been explored in every way, from Satan’s spawns to evil beings to downright manic souls, but few were as haunting to look at as the eponymous teenager John and the Hole, but whether that works in his favor or against it is really up to the beholder’s preferences. After drugging his family and dragging them into the floor of an unfinished bunker, John casually enjoys some freedom, stealing money from an ATM with his parents’ debit card, telling lies to various adults about everyone’s whereabouts, and inviting a friend over, while bringing scraps of food, water bottles, and garbage bags full of clothes to his family. The tension and sense of fear emanating from this film are certainly handled expertly, and Sisto’s director’s eye is quite artful, but the writing and story really feel so boring and deliberately controversial that it doesn’t look like more than a bad attempt feels like starting a conversation about John’s actions. Is he a monster? Is he just strange? Is that part of an adolescent fear? No matter what the answer is, the way the film progresses and presents the character doesn’t feel like an intelligent or meaningful exploration of them, but like a slow burning experiment designed to torture and question the viewer what is the point of each one of John’s actions actually were, or if there were any.