Day two of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival was a jam-packed day. It was highlighted by a magnificent film, On the Count of Three. Here are the movies I watched on day three of the virtual film festival.
Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street
IMDB: A look at the history of the long-running children’s TV show, Sesame Street.
This documentary lays the framework for how Sesame Street became a beloved children’s television show. At this time, kids were spending hours of their day watching TV. Creators Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett and original writer, Norman Stiles, knew the shows kids were consuming at that time weren’t good for them. They decided to do something about it.
In addition to creating better content as a whole, they also knew they wanted to get this show in front of inner-city kids. They did both but the show was perceived in two very different ways by parents and children. Children loved it but parents did not. The parents were unhappy about the show’s inclusivity. They were so unhappy that they wrote Sesame Street to have it taken off the air!
In Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street, you’ll laugh, cry and bask in the creation of one of the most incredible television shows ever made.
IMDB: Two men learn to confront a traumatic secret they share involving the savage murder of a schoolmate.
We meet Makwa, a young kid who is battling a troubled upbringing. He’s an awkward kid at school, struggling to find himself and dealing with the repercussions of an abusive father. Eventually, Makwa and his friend Ted-o are playing with a gun in the woods and Makwa sets it off — shooting a kid in the distance.
Fast forward, we see the two trajectories for how these men lived with this deep, dark secret. Makwa is married and has a son but a lot of issues. Ted-o, on the other hand, has been in and out of jail. His most recent stint, though, has changed him. And although Makwa has moved on, Ted-o hasn’t forgotten. Soon, this film hits what I would call a point of no return.
In Wild Indian, we have a great setup and a very strong second act but the ending failed to make me feel something.
IMDB: Aftermath of a violent tragedy that affects the lives of two couples in different ways.
We begin by bringing the pieces together. The mystique behind what is ahead for us is well built by Fran Kranz’s direction. Two families are mourning over a shooting, both dealing with loss but in two very different ways. Unpacking the layers of the story, we feel emotionally connected. I was grasping to every word spoken.
The dialogue is heavy and won’t be for the faint of heart and my, oh my, the performances are excellent. Each of the four leads provided a punch in the gut by bringing this screenplay to life. Ann Dowd gives one of the most haunting performances I’ve ever seen. She took on this difficult role, as the parent of a school shooter and handled it with ease. We see her attempt to explain, understand and capture what happened all while showing empathy and compassion towards the family. It is nothing short of remarkable.
Overall, this movie was really good. The lackluster ending kept it from being great. It was lengthy, causing me to check out before its conclusion. Kranz started to build this beautifully emotional story but wasn’t able to finish it.
IMDB: Passing follows the unexpected reunion of two high school friends, whose renewed acquaintance ignites a mutual obsession that threatens both of their carefully constructed realities.
Rebbeca Hall has a brilliant way of telling this story, with Black and white themes in black and white. It was astounding. The problem, though, is that the film lacks authentic energy. Because it’s missing that pivotal piece, it fails to bring the viewer into the story.
Even though it failed to emotionally connect in that way, Tessa Thompson is nothing short of a delight on the screen. She’s a breath of fresh air in every scene.
Passing had a lot of promise. It’s still very much worth watching, despite the fact that it fails to connect with the audience. Hall’s first time sitting in the director’s chair shows a promising future but her best work is yet to come.