By Virginia Yapp
Welcome to the May 2021 edition of Release Rundown, where we fill you in on the latest and greatest Sundance-supported films hitting streaming sites, virtual screening rooms, TV channels, and IRL cinemas across the U.S. for the first time. (As always, at the end, we’ll also be clueing you into a classic Sundance selection available on streaming platforms.)
On Monday, May 3, PBS will air the late Jamie Redford’s final film, Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir, as part of its American Masters programming. The film — which played at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in January — offers an inside look at the life of a literary icon who broke barriers with novels like 1989’s multigenerational family drama The Joy Luck Club (which was later adapted by Wayne Wang into a critically acclaimed film that premiered at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival).
The month will also see the long-awaited release of Anthony Mandler’s debut feature Monster, which had its premiere at the 2018 Festival. Adapted from an award-winning YA book by Walter Dean Meyers, Monster stars Kelvin Harrison Jr. as a gifted high school student whose life is forever changed when he’s arrested for acting as a lookout during an armed robbery in Harlem. Netflix will begin streaming the project on Friday, May 7.
Below see the full list of Sundance-supported projects hitting theaters and streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Max, and Criterion Channel in May 2021.
MONDAY, MAY 3
Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir
Literary titan Amy Tan analyzes her life, her work, and her family—in the present and past tense—in this longitudinal biopic directed by the late James Redford. As Tan traces her childhood through The Joy Luck Club and her later compositions, she dissects issues of representation, multigenerational trauma, and the stigma and challenge of illness.
How to Watch It: See Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir when it airs May 3 on PBS.
FRIDAY, MAY 7
In Anthony Mandler’s Monster, Steve Harmon, a bright, sensitive 17-year-old, stands trial for acting as a lookout during the lethal armed robbery of a Harlem bodega. Before his arrest, he was an honors student and aspiring filmmaker taking street-level snapshots and on-the-fly footage of neighborhood life. Now, Steve is seen as just another young black criminal, assumed guilty and labeled a monster. But Steve and his lawyer declare his innocence and attempt to defy the odds in a bid to win his freedom.
How to Watch It: Start watching Monster on Netflix beginning May 7.
MONDAY, MAY 10
In the aftermath of a traumatic incident, Adrienne finds herself in a disorienting state of limbo, unstuck in time and witnessing life from a distance. Forced to confront her troubled relationship with her longtime partner, Matteo, and the future of their infant daughter, Adrienne must relive and renegotiate the events of the recent past — and solve the mystery of the accident. Stepping into the shadows with Matteo, Adrienne looks for clues about what went wrong between them. Tara Miele’s 2020 Festival feature stars Diego Luna and Sienna Miller.
How to Watch It: Wander Darkly will begin streaming on Hulu on May 10.
THURSDAY, MAY 13
Some Kind of Heaven
Inside the palm-tree-lined streets of The Villages, America’s largest and most utopian retirement community in central Florida, we meet four residents living on the margins, struggling to find happiness. Referred to as the “Disneyland for Retirees,” this preplanned community offers perfectly manicured lawns, singles mixers, bocce ball, and countless activities to re-energize the golden years of life. Sundance Ignite alum Lance Oppenheim’s film premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival as part of the NEXT program.
How to Watch It: Some Kind of Heaven begins streaming on Hulu on Thursday, May 13.
FRIDAY, MAY 14
The Killing of Two Lovers
David is trying to keep it together in Robert Machoian’s 2020 Festival drama. He and his wife, Nikki, are going through a time of transition and allowing each other space to figure out what it is they want from life and from their relationship. But there is one major issue: David doesn’t want space. He just wants things to get better, and he plays along with Nikki because he suspects it’s the only thing that may keep them and their four kids together.
How to Watch It: The Killing of Two Lovers will play select U.S. theaters beginning May 14.
The Perfect Candidate
When Maryam, a hardworking young doctor in a small-town clinic, is prevented from flying to Dubai for a conference without a male guardian’s approval, she seeks help from a politically connected cousin but inadvertently registers as a candidate for the municipal council. Maryam sees the election as a way to fix the muddy road in front of her clinic, but her campaign slowly garners broader appeal. Haifaa Al Mansour’s film played the 2020 Festival as part of the Spotlight section.
How to Watch It: The Perfect Candidate will begin streaming on Hulu on Friday, May 14.
After a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School claims 17 lives, students rally around the tragedy as an opportunity to speak out against the national gun-violence epidemic. As their adrenaline propels a dive into full-on activism, their movement catalyzes, and students impacted by gun violence nationwide join in, giving voice to a generation of traumatized but determined youth. Kim A. Snyder’s documentary carefully chronicles 18 pivotal months in the development of the March for Our Lives movement through a deeply personal lens.
How to Watch It: Us Kids will play select U.S. theaters and be available via VOD beginning May 14.
FRIDAY, MAY 21
On the cusp of the year 2000, Colombian brothers Carly and Mateo prepare to move to the U.S. for their last years of high school. Metalhead Carly has his heart set on attending the Georgia Aerospace Institute and working for NASA, while his supportive parents seize the chance to escape the political turmoil in Colombia and chase the American Dream. Esteban Arango’s blazing debut feature cracks open a sibling rivalry in an isolating time predating social media.
How to Watch It: Blast Beat will play select U.S. theaters beginning May 21.
MONDAY, MAY 31
The World to Come
In 18th-century upstate New York, Abigail is increasingly defeated by grief and the drudgery of rural life. Her deference and propriety maintain a mundane equilibrium with her husband, Dyer, but her narrated diaries offer a picture into a richer internal life. When spring brings newcomers Tallie and husband Finney to the otherwise empty landscape, the journal entries frantically anticipate an affair with Tallie. As menial machinations are interrupted and patriarchal sovereignty is questioned, both marriages buckle. Mona Fastvold’s film stars Katherine Waterston, Vanessa Kirby, Casey Affleck, and Christopher Abbott.
How to Watch It: After a limited theatrical release earlier this year, The World to Come will begin streaming on Hulu on Monday, May 31.
What Happened Was…
The recent restoration of Tom Noonan’s 1994 Sundance Film Festival film — incubated in the Institute’s 1991 Screenwriters Lab — is getting an exclusive streaming premiere on the Criterion Channel this month on Thursday, May 6. Noonan’s darkly comedic debut feature, a favorite of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman that’s been hailed “a lost ’90s masterpiece” — won the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic along with the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award in Park City.
How to Watch It: The new restoration of What Happened Was… will be on the Criterion Channel starting Thursday, May 6.