Sundance enters uncharted waters in unique Oscar season

In this file photo actress Carey Mulligan attends the 2020 Sundance Film Festival Promising Young Woman Premiere at The Marc Theatre on January 25, 2020 in Park City, Utah. Carey Mulligan attended the 2020 Sundance Film Festival of “Promising Young Woman,but in 2021 the stars will be staying at home. This year, due to the pandemic, Indie film extravaganza Sundance, beginning January 28, will take place largely online.

In normal years, the Sundance Film Festival kicks off in late January with Hollywood’s award season already in full swing.

Producers, stars and journalists meet in the spectacular Utah mountains to swap last-minute Oscar tips, and catch a first glimpse of the next year’s batch of contenders.

Indie film extravaganza Sundance, beginning Thursday, will take place largely online.

And with the Oscars delayed to their latest-ever date April 25 several top contenders have not been released or even screened for critics yet, meaning Sundance could play an outsized role in the awards conversation.

“It certainly became apparent that ‘oh, this is new, we’re going to be in the awards window,’” Sundance festival head Tabitha Jackson told AFP.

Warner Bros has set a Sundance world premiere for its much-hyped “Judas and the Black Messiah,” with Daniel Kaluuya’s turn as the young, tragic Black Panther leader Fred Hampton hotly tipped for recognition.

Others that could contend are wilderness drama “Land” the directorial debut from “House of Cards” star Robin Wright and period romance “The World To Come,” produced by and co-starring Casey Affleck.

“In one sense it’s a short runway (to the Oscars), but in the other there’s still uncertainty about what 2021 is going to look like” for movie releases, said Jackson last month.

“So I’ll be interested to see how people choose to use that window.”

‘Feeling the heat’

Even beyond Sundance, indie films appear poised for a landmark year at various delayed awards including the Golden Globes which would ordinarily have taken place by now, but are yet to even announce nominations.

Presumed big-budget Oscars frontrunners including “Dune” have missed the award window, while this week’s latest pandemic domino effect saw James Bond film “No Time To Die” and Sony comic book spinoff “Morbius” push back their releases.

In fact, with several major 2020 film festivals scrapped or curtailed, bizarrely this year’s Sundance hits may end up contending with front-runners that debuted at the very same festival least year.