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Sundance enters uncharted waters in unique Oscar season

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – In normal years, the Sundance Film Festival kicks off in late January with Hollywood’s award season already in full swing.

Producers, stars and journalists meet in the spectacular Utah mountains to swap last-minute Oscar tips, and catch a first glimpse of the next year’s batch of contenders.

This year, due to the pandemic, everything has been turned upside-down.

Indie film extravaganza Sundance, beginning Thursday, will take place largely online.

And with the Oscars delayed to their latest-ever date — April 25 — several top contenders have not been released or even screened for critics yet, meaning Sundance could play an outsized role in the awards conversation.

“It certainly became apparent that ‘oh, this is new, we’re going to be in the awards window,’” Sundance festival head Tabitha Jackson told AFP.

Warner Bros has set a Sundance world premiere for its much-hyped “Judas and the Black Messiah,” with Daniel Kaluuya’s turn as the young, tragic Black Panther leader Fred Hampton hotly tipped for recognition.

Others that could contend are wilderness drama “Land” — the directorial debut from “House of Cards” star Robin Wright — and period romance “The World To Come,” produced by and co-starring Casey Affleck.

“In one sense it’s a short runway (to the Oscars), but in the other there’s still uncertainty about what 2021 is going to look like” for movie releases, said Jackson last month.

“So I’ll be interested to see how people choose to use that window.”

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