SUNDANCE: “DOUBLESPEAK,” “RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT” and “THE TOUCH OF THE MASTER’S HAND”

It’s still hard to wrap my mind around the notion that a year ago I was walking the streets of Park City, interviewing filmmakers and catching the latest releases. This year, the festival, like nearly all others, has gone hybrid, with a very few in-person events as audiences and critics have enjoyed the offerings from their covid-safe couches.

Here are just a few Sundance ‘21 offerings to keep your eyes peeled for as the festival winds down.

“Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It”
Director: Mariem Pérez Riera

Rita Moreno is one of the select few actors to have won the coveted EGOT bingo: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony. Beyond that, the Puerto Rican-born actress has a helluva tale to tell about her nine decades on this planet—many of them in showbiz. This inspiring documentary follows Moreno from girlhood on the U.S. island territory and on through a childhood in New York, where her talents and beauty soon attracted scouts. She moved to Hollywood, where at first the roles were largely “spicy” ethnic types, but then came “West Side Story,” for which she would pick up the Academy Award in her most memorable role.

But even with that success, Moreno nonetheless found good roles still hard to come by, especially as she got older. But she persevered, with late-career roles in “Oz” and the series “One Day at a Time.”

The struggles were not only for roles but personal as well. Moreno is candid about a marriage in which she was desperately unhappily, but outwardly showed no strain. And in the most heartbreaking moment, she reveals once being raped by her agent, but then kept him in her employ for many years. It’s a horrifying look back to a pre-#MeToo era.

Inspiring and charming, this is a great look at one of Hollywood’s living legends who still has much to say and much to teach. May she continue acting.

“Doublespeak”
Director: Hazel McKibbin

The horror stories of the #MeToo era are legion, and this short narrative from Hazel McKibbin brings fresh life to the issue in less than ten harrowing minutes. Angela Wong Carbone plays an office worker sitting in a horrifyingly uncomfortable meeting with HR representatives after bringing sexual harassment allegations against a co-worker. Quickly, it becomes apparent she is not being taken seriously, and the transgressor will remain. Tautly-directed, “Doublespeak” gives a new perspective to an ongoing issue.

“The Touch of the Master’s Hand”
Director: Gregory Barnes

This short narrative from writer/producer/director Gregory Barnes sees a young Mormon missionary harboring impure thoughts. Try as he might, they won’t go away, so he goes to see the head of his mission for guidance. The president offers a simple solution to the young man’s problem, but we cannot help but feel that it is but a stopgap. An intriguing tale told in eleven minutes.

(featured image: a still from “Doublespeak”)

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