This week in Film — The Sundance Film Festival

The 2020 pivot to virtual continues with the first major film festival of 2021: The Sundance Film Festival is coming to a couch near you. From Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, Sundance will present more than 70 features from 29 countries, and 40 of them are premieres. That’s a lot of good stuff to catch, including Philippe Lacôte’s Night of the Kings:

Set in a prison located deep in the jungle and ruled by an inmate, Blackbeard (Steve Tientchewu), Night of the Kings opens with the arrival of Roman (Bakary Koné), a young man who Blackbeard commands to tell a tale when the moon bleeds red. It does, and all the inmates gather in a room and bid Roman speak his story. Roman tells them of Zama, a guerrilla Roman knew on the outside, and while he orates, the prisoners act out his story through dance, pantomime and call and response. Roman is charmed, but when he gets wind of the fate that awaits once he finishes, Roman pulls a Scheherazade and begins to adorn Zama’s saga with ancient mythology, magic and scenes from a movie Roman saw 20 years ago. It’s a tense piece of work, and Lacôte maintains a firm grasp on the material until an odd choice in the third act — a wizards’ duel with bad CGI — momentarily breaks the spell.

Boulder Weekly Vol. 28, No. 22, “The Sundance Film Festival comes to Colorado