Sundance Film Festival

Sundance 2021: 9 Outstanding Short Films Recommendations

The 2021 Sundance program has 50 short films divided into six programs. There are many exciting stories to be discovered, but what to watch first? In order to help you out with your selection process, we have created a list with nine outstanding shorts that you should not miss. Here, you’ll find a healthy mix of animation, comedy, drama, documentary… and maybe the next great filmmaker.

“A Concerto Is a Conversation”

Dir.: Kris Bowers & Ben Proudfoot

A Concerto is a Conversation - Sundance 2021 shorts
A Concerto is a Conversation | Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Up-and-coming composer Kris Bowers (“Green Book”) teams up with award-winning short film director Ben Proudfoot to talk about his personal history and preoccupations. As a Black composer, Bowers doesn’t feel he deserves his place of success in the world, but in “A Concerto is a Conversation”, he has an emotional chat with his grandfather Horace which allows him to understand and relate to the lineage and sacrifices of his family. Mr. Bowers grew up surrounded by racism in the South. He shares his experiences overcoming prejudices and obstacles to become a successful business and family man. It’s an inspiring tale that connects with Kris’s own story of uphill battles as a Black musician. 

The production quality is very high. The faces of Kris and Horace constantly fill the screen, as if the filmmakers wanted us to see their souls. It’s impossible not to listen to every word of the conversation. Plus, the music (obviously composed by Kris) is a majestic companion that enhances the emotiveness of the conversation.

Watch out for this one: It could end up in the soon-to-be-announced Oscars shortlist.

Available to watch in Shorts Program 2.

“The Affected”

Dir.: Rikke Gregersen

The Affected
The Affected | Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Before a plane can take off, a conflict ensues between the passengers. It involves a very loud activist who forces the pilot to take a political stand; she wants to prevent the deportation of a fellow passenger and has a smartphone and the power of social media to help out.

“The Affected” is a sharp and hilarious critique, as well as an engaging moral struggle. I saw the plane as Twitter. Every character is like a type of user you encounter there: You’ve got the attendant unaware of her vocabulary, the Instagram-loving copilot who has an opinion for everything, the uninformed passenger and even a man that doesn’t care about what’s going on but is happy to chip in when something big happens. It’s an absolutely brilliant and unique look at social conflicts and corporate morality. It has won a bunch of awards through its 14-festival run, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Sundance adds to the tally.

Available to watch in Shorts Program 2.


Dir.: Hazel McKibbin

Doublespeak | Courtesy of Sundance Institute

After reporting sexual harassment in her workplace, a woman is called to review the accusations with her bosses. You probably know what’s coming next. “Doublespeak” is not surprising, nor is it subtle, but it effectively conveys feelings of frustration, discomfort and impotence. These feelings grow with every response coming out of the HR consultant’s mouth. Unfortunately, everything that happens in this film feels quite real. It’s a reminder of how broken the system is, of how suffocating a toxic work environment can be and of the psychological struggles a victim faces after coming forward. It features a great performance by lead Angela Wong Carbone too.

Available to watch in Shorts Program 4.

“The Fourfold”

Dir.: Alisi Telengut

The Fourfold
The Fourfold | Courtesy of Sundance Institute

This is a handcrafted stop-motion animation that behaves like a moving painting that twists and transforms before your very eyes. This goes hand in hand with knowledge of Mongolian and Siberian traditions to create a delightful and experimental window into ancient Indigenous wisdom. Although not for everyone, “The Fourfold” is definitely unique and very much worth your time.

Available to watch in Animation Spotlight.


Dir.: Sara Hirner & Rosemary Vasquez Brown

GNT | Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Three friends seek fame through Instagram in this fascinating, fun and smart four-minute animated film that explores womanhood and delves into themes such as social media addiction, influencer culture and vaginal health. Hirner and Vasquez forged an uncommon and eye-popping graphic style that uses irreverent backgrounds, 2D animation and lots of pink. The voice acting is very good too. In fact, there’s a lot of potential here, and I could totally see a miniseries based on “GNT.” Watch out for the awesome dogs throughout the short.

Available to watch in Animation Spotlight.

“The Longest Dream I Remember”

Dir.: Carlos Lenin

The Longest Dream I Remember - Carlos Lenin
The Longest Dream I Remember | Courtesy of Sundance Institute

After his astonishing feature debut “The Dove and the Wolf,” Carlos Lenin once again uses the theme of violence in the North of Mexico in his short film “The Longest Dream I Remember.” In the context of Mexico’s drug war, we follow Tania, a young woman dealing with the absence of her disappeared father while trying to leave her hometown behind.

With breathtaking cinematography and a strong performance by Paloma Petra, this short gives us a glimpse of how the humanitarian crisis has affected the day-to-day life of many Mexican families. How can you live with the weight of uncertainty on your soul? What happens when you try to move forward with fear and hurtful memories all around you? This is more proof that Carlos Lenin is one of the most exciting Latin American directors out there.

Available to watch in Shorts Program 3.


Dir.: Julian Doan

Raspberry -sundance-2021-short-films
Raspberry | Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Father has died and the undertakers are here to take the body away. The family has the opportunity to say goodbye to father one last time. That’s a simple enough premise, but what does it have to do with a “raspberry”? The answer caught me completely off guard, and I really don’t want to talk more about it because it would spoil the surprise; just know that this is definitely worth your time. It’s a seven-minute hilarious short about the complexities of closure, shot with confidence and purpose by Julian Doan.

Available to watch in Shorts Program 2.


Dir.: Alex Wolf Lewis & Kaitlyn Schwalje

“Snowy” | Courtesy of Sundance Institute

In this documentary short, two filmmakers try to improve the life of a pet turtle that has been living in a basement for most of his life. Although a bit goofy, “Snowy” manages to become a philosophical exploration of the way we treat our pets and the little care most humans have for animal life. I had quite the trip watching this one, and you can find all my thoughts in this full review.

Available to watch in Documentary Shorts Program 1.

“You Wouldn’t Understand”

Dir.: Tris Harnetiaux


“You Wouldn’t Understand” is a quirky, fun and very imaginative short film that had me scratching my head while smiling ear to ear. Director Harnetiaux plays with time to create a maze of storytelling that is worth watching multiple times. You can read our full review here.

Available to watch in Shorts Program 4.

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