2021 Philadelphia Film Festival Preview: What To Look Out For

The 30th Annual Philadelphia Film Festival begins tonight and features a number of exciting projects that have caught my attention. Over the course of the festival, I will be sharing my thoughts on what I have seen through reviews, interviews, and other features.

To start, here are the films that I am most looking forward to in no particular order.

Note: All information, including pictures, has been provided by the Philadelphia Film Festival unless otherwise noted.

Belfast

Synopsis: A tumultuous period in Irish history is seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old boy in Kenneth Branagh’s bittersweet chronicle of a close-knit family in 1960s Belfast.

Why I’m Interested: I have heard nothing but positives from viewings of this film, written over the course of the pandemic.

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

Synopsis: In this unconventional biopic, Benedict Cumberbatch stars as English artist Louis Wain, who elevated the status of cats in Victorian England with his whimsical drawings.

Why I’m Interested: Cats. Benedict Cumberbatch. Okay.

Saloum

Synopsis: Mercenaries transporting a fugitive and stolen bounty become stranded after their plane is grounded in a remote and mystical region of Senegal, home to dark ancestral forces.

Why I’m Interested: I’ve missed this Senegal horror film multiple times and continue to be intrigued by the premise.

Drunken Birds

Synopsis: Romance and heartbreak are sown across this achingly beautiful drama, about a migrant worker whose search for his lost love brings him into collision with a farming family.

Why I’m Interested: Canada’s Oscar entry has been on my radar for a while and seems to be a layered tale.

C’mon C’mon

Synopsis: A lost radio journalist puts on a happy face when he is entrusted with the care of his estranged sister’s son and travels across the country looking for hope for the future.

Why I’m Interested: Stars on stars on stars.

Offseason

Synopsis: An eerily deserted vacation town provides the memorable setting for this classically crafted supernatural thriller from horror maestro Mickey Keating.

Why I’m Interested: A deserted town… a supernatural thriller…

Searchers

Synopsis: New Yorkers from different walks of life describe the myriad complications of finding meaningful connection online in this perceptive, charming exploration of 21st-Century dating.

Why I’m Interested: Online/virtual communication is a blessing and a curse. This film is likely to highlight the challenges from people who have seen it all firsthand.

Spencer

Synopsis: The final, tense days of Princess Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles are brought to life by a revelatory Kristen Stewart in Pablo Larraín’s searing psychological drama.

Why I’m Interested: Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana. Game, set, match.

Mayor Pete

Synopsis: Pete Buttigieg’s seemingly out-of-nowhere rise from obscurity to the forefront of American politics is tracked in this riveting behind-the-scenes campaign documentary from the makers of BOYS STATE.

Why I’m Interested: His campaign was historic and his role in this current administration is just as special, plus this is from the makers of Boys State.

Clerk

Synopsis: Filmmaker and “View Askewniverse” creator Kevin Smith gets the camera turned on him in this funny, poignant, and informative journey through his eventful life and career.

Why I’m Interested: Kevin Smith has always been a fascinating entertainer to me and this will hopefully pull back the curtain on his life.

Memoria

Synopsis: Delivering a captivating and powerful performance, Tilda Swinton stars as a botanist disturbed by mysterious noises in this enigmatic drama from Thai visionary Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Why I’m Interested: Tilda.

The French Dispatch

Synopsis: Beloved American auteur Wes Anderson has assembled one of his most impressive ensembles yet for this intricate anthology of stories from a revered 20th-Century magazine.

Why I’m Interested: Long awaited and with a stacked cast, Anderson’s film’s are always of the utmost interest.

Zalava

Synopsis: After being called to an isolated village reportedly terrorized by a demon, a military officer must measure his skepticism against the paranoia of the superstitious townspeople.

Why I’m Interested: Demons terrorizing a town? Okay.

Jockey

Synopsis: An aging jockey struggles to hold on for one last shot at reaching the winner’s circle in this award-winning festival favorite starring Clifton Collins Jr.

Why I’m Interested: I missed this at other festivals and have heard great things about the performances.

The Humans

Synopsis: An all-star cast brings Stephen Karam’s Tony Award-winning play to the screen in this richly layered drama about a family gathered for a fraught Thanksgiving dinner.

Why I’m Interested: Family drama at Thanksgiving? Yes, please!

Antlers

Synopsis: After 20 years, a troubled school teacher reunites with her estranged brother in their rural Oregon hometown, only to discover an evil spirit has awoken.

Why I’m Interested: I have been waiting for this for a while due to the intriguing premise and the absolutely solid trailer.

The End of Us

Synopsis: Breaking up is difficult enough, but for Leah and Nick it’s made infinitely more complicated when the end of their relationship coincides with the COVID-19 lockdown in this hilarious anti-romantic comedy.

Why I’m Interested: Described as an anti-romantic comedy and set during lockdown… this is sure to be intriguing.

King Richard

Synopsis: Will Smith takes the throne as the audacious and determined father of tennis’s legendary Venus and Serena Williams in this inspiring true story about achieving greatness no matter the cost.

Why I’m Interested: I’m here for Will Smith’s performance.

The Same Storm

Synopsis: Peter Hedges (BEN IS BACK, PFF27) brings together a first-rate cast to tell the interwoven stories of dozens of people facing the challenges of our modern times.

Why I’m Interested: Ben is Back is one of my favorite movies in recent years due to Hedges’ ability to tell a thoughtful, powerful tale.

The First Wave

Synopsis: Matthew Heineman’s timely documentary follows a group of New York nurses, doctors, and patients on the frontlines as they navigate the unfolding COVID-19 health crisis.

Why I’m Interested: It’s time to understand what went wrong and look at how we can prevent this in the future.

ALSO: Though I have seen and reviewed them already, Our American Family and Flee are two incredibly important documentaries that are top notch and deserve to be seen!

More to be added. Learn more about everything showing at this year’s Philadelphia Film Festival here.

What Do You Think?

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