10 Feature Films Selected to Pendance 2021

Five female filmmakers and films from 6 different countries headline a strong 10-feature-lineup for the 2021 Pendance Film Festival.  Apart from being held virtually for the first time,  the fourth year at Pendance marks a lot of firsts—a World Premiere feature, two documentary features, a Canadian feature, and feature films from Uruguay, Finland, Germany and Turkey. Here, we take you through each film in chronological order starting with the opening feature film at Pendance 2021— The State of Texas vs. Melissa




Friday afternoon is all about documentaries at Pendance. The second feature is The State of Texas VS. MelissaSabrina Van Tassel‘s Raindance-winning documentary about Melissa Lucio—the first Hispanic woman ever sentenced to death in the state of Texas.

Van Tassel builds a compelling case in advocating Lucio’s innocence in the film—outlining the numerous people at each stage who mishandled the case and the trial.

Sabrina Van Tassel will be joining Pendance for a live Q&A following the screening to discuss the film and Melissa’s case. Watch Trailer




Dinner in America is easily one of the best films in Pendance’s short history—The Sundance favourite follows an on-the-lam punk rocker and a young woman obsessed with his band. The two fall madly in love and go through an epic, scenic journey through America’s decaying Midwestern suburbs.

It’s both humanistic and compelling—a good probably-still-too-early bet for the Audience Award. It draws on a few inspirations but will remind some of another Sundance crowd favourite—2004’s Napoleon Dynamite.  Watch Teaser 




Friday night just became a must-watch event—following up Dinner in America is Colombian-American director Jonathan CuartasMy Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell it To. It’s one of the more unique twists on the horror genre—an absolutely haunting family drama which should earn big points from the ‘smart horror’ crowd.

Two mysterious siblings find themselves at odds whilst caring for their frail and sickly younger brother. We don’t want to spoil this film for you—just know that it’s programmed on Friday night at 9pm by design. It’s a story about loneliness and family—packing plenty of punches, twists and thoughtful surprises throughout. Watch Trailer




Saturday starts with one of the most unique films we’ve ever seen at Pendance—Uruguayan director Alex Piperno‘s  Window Boy Would Also Like to Have a Submarine.

Piperno’s mind is every bit as fascinating as his film—where aboard a cruise ship a young sailor discovers a doorway to an apartment in Montevideo. Meanwhile, a group of Asian farmers find an abandoned shed in a valley, attributing it to supernatural powers.

When discussing the process of how he came up with the idea for the story, Piperno mentioned writing things down on a piece of paper and then finding unique ways to connect them—spoken like a true artiste. Watch Trailer 





Saturday night’s first feature isn’t nearly as abstract as Piperno’s but it’s a huge crowd pleaser and a breathtaking love story—a working class story about a biker, a mermaid, and three shades of blue. To call Lorelei a masterpiece might be a stretch—few films truly are.

Jena Malone and Pablo Schreiber deliver the best performances of their careers, and it’s impossible to ignore the soft honesty which permeates throughout the film.

But film is subjective—it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that for a lot of people—this will be their favourite film of the year.  This is the type of film you watch once—and hold forever. What director Sabrina Doyle has accomplished with this marvellous fable should stand the test of time for decades. Watch Teaser





Saturday’s Pendance Midnight screening is a record-breaker for the festival—the first-ever Canadian feature. Coming to Pendance after premiering at Fantasia, Amelia MosesBleed With Me is a highly impressive feature film debut for young director.

Bleed with Me follows a self-destructive young woman—who on a winter getaway in an isolated cabin becomes convinced that her seemingly all-too-perfect friend is stealing her blood. It’s twisty, creepy, and absolutely worth staying up a bit past midnight for. Moses will be joining the Q&A after the screening from Montreal.

We first discovered Moses’ work in 2017 when her body-horror film Undress Me went to over 30 festivals—and Bleed with Me represents a massive step up. If she’s not already there, Moses is primed to become one of the true stars of the female horror genre—joining the likes of Karyn Kusama and fellow Canadian Jovanka Vuckovic. Watch Trailer  



Sunday represents a massive shift in tone and cinematic focus—and that shift starts with Sevgi Hirschhäuser‘s Toprak. Winner at Woods Hole for Best Cinematography, the film is uniquely beautiful in its depictions of rural Turkey.

A simple family deal with poverty, family traditions and religious heritage—a war of wills and ideas, and a family on the brink of falling apart. Director Sevgi Hirschhäuser—and her husband Chris Hirschhäuser—who masterfully handled the cinematography on the film—will join Pendance from their home in Germany following the screening. Watch Trailer





We travel away from Turkey and  journey west to Cherbourg for Valto Baltzar‘s Le Café de mes Souvenirs, a film which presents many firsts for Pendance—the first ever musical, first ever Finnish film, and the first ever feature to have its World Premiere at the festival.

A visually mesmerizing musical which inspires and excites the senses—song and music take lovers Emilie & Philippe from Cherbourg to Paris, where the stress of urban living and multiple jobs begins to threaten their relationship.

It’s a crowd-pleaser which features beautiful cinematography, writing, and compelling performances across the board.




Curtains close on Pendance 2021 with the final feature film of the festival—Sandra Wollner‘s The Trouble With Being Born. This is a film that’s more than certain of itself and what it’s doing.

You’ll probably respect it more than like it at first, until you find yourself thinking about it a week later. It’s a remarkable feature film which pinches at the nerve endings and challenges the viewer on a deeper subconscious level.

After world premiering at the 2020 Berlinale, the film received favourable reviews from a number of critics citing Wollner’s pitch-perfect direction and the films originality—and the praise is well earned—it’s a film that should age like fine wine.

The Trouble with Being Born follows Elli—an android programmed with memories that mean everything to her owner but nothing to her. It’s a sharp film from a director at the height of her powers. Watch Teaser Trailer

Individual tickets for features and short film blocks go on sale March 13th, 2021. To check out passes, visit Eventive here. 



Robert Misovic is a Serbian-Canadian writer and director, the founder of the Pensare Films Studio in Toronto, and the festival director for the Pendance Film Festival. If you’d like to keep up with Rob on social media, you can find him on instagram @pensare.films or reach him directly at robert.misovic@pensarefilms.com 

3 Critically Acclaimed Films Coming To Pendance This Week

Straight Up | Feb 21, 8:00pm | TIFF Bell Lightbox

Starring Katie Findlay (The Killing), Randall Park (Aquaman), Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad), James Scully (You Season 2) and the uber-talented James Sweeney, this film is a winner. It’s hilarious, and one of the best-written films we saw all year. Check out this trailer about a dramedy featuring the couple-of-the-year: Todd, a guy who may or may not be gay, and Rory, an actress who may or may not care.


Saint Frances | Feb 22 9:30pm | TIFF Bell Lightbox

This film deservedly won the Audience Award at SXSW last year, and it’s absolutely one of the best films at Pendance 2020. Some films split our team. This film was a unanimous no-brainer for everyone. It’s heading to theatres in March, so here’s a great chance to watch it before the rest of the world. Saint Frances, written by and starring the positively charming Kelly O’Sullivan follows Bridget, a woman who accepts a nanny position weeks after ending her pregnancy. It’s a coming-of-age story like we haven’t seen. It’s funny. It’s heart-warming. It’s everything we’ve ever wanted to see from a film.

The Short History of the Long Road | Feb 21, 4:00PM | TIFF Bell Lightbox

One of the biggest emerging stars in Hollywood, Sabrina Carpenter, leads a star-cast featuring Danny Trejo. Maggie Siff (Sons of Anarchy) and Steven Ogg (The Walking Dead) in a positively heart-warming story about Nola, a nomad who must confront life on the road once tragedy strikes. Writer & Director Ani Simon-Kennedy and cinematographer Cailin Yatsko in attendance. 

Announcing Pendance Doctrina

So much of what made Pendance 2019 successful was about the films. But so much of it wasn’t. Who could forget Mark Raso’s filmmaking workshop? Or Quest director Santiago Rizzo’s heart-felt skype Q&A about youth in crisis? And what would Pendance’s opening-night feature ‘Age Out’ have been without the eye-opening Q&A by OnBuzz CEO and Social Impact advocate Alan Elias?

“We’re trying to be more than a place people go to watch films. We’re trying to bring new ideas and important stories to the forefront and share them against the backdrop of Toronto winters. We want Pendance to become as synonymous with big ideas, important conversations, great music, innovation, and learning as it is with great cinema” stated festival director Robert Misovic.

Doctrina Leaders Maria Fomina (left) and Kristina Zabelin (right)


Pendance Doctrina features 5 components; social impact initiatives, documentaries, workshops, panels and conferences. Doctrina is Latin and is tied with learning, knowledge, or teaching. It is also feminine. And it’s no accident that an initiative entitled ‘Doctrina’ which aims to empower youth is led by two of Pendance’s youngest members; Kristina Zabelin & Maria Fomina leading the workshops and conferences respectively.

For Pendance Workshops, the festival has spent over a year researching how people learn. These free-to-attend workshops feature industry leaders teaching core topics in an engaging way, implementing student participation, audio-visual tools, and hands-on learning. These aren’t merely lectures or how-to instructionals.


Alan Elias speaks on the American Foster Care system at Pendance 2019


The Panels feature lively debates exploring topics from multiple angles and unique perspectives. The team has sought out the brightest and most credible minds in the industry to speak at these panels and by allowing free access to students and partnering with film schools, Pendance is hoping to ignite a deep curiosity among youngsters breaking into the film and television industry.

Pendance conferences follow the format of lectures or talks from key speakers on issues the festival feels are worth exploring. Finally, Pendance will begin to feature documentary features as a means of diversifying its narrative-heavy selections from the first two years.

“Rob Stewart was a big inspiration to me growing up, and documentaries like Sharkwater have sparked global movements. With so many conversations that are best explored through the documentary medium, we look forward to making documentaries a big part of what we’re doing at Pendance and our Doctrina arm going forward” stated festival director Robert Misovic.

Finally, social impact is a means of engaging community involvement year-round. This means youth-driven initiatives and support for charities and causes the festival holds in high regard. In 2019, the festival will be re-launching the ‘Warming the Streets’ initiative in which volunteers take a night to walk through the city with gift-wrapped coats, jackets, sweaters, socks, gift cards, and vouchers and break bread with the city’s underprivelged population.


Velvet Underground New Home for Pendance Music

There could have been no home finer than The Velvet Underground. Pendance’s new Music Director Walter Noseworthy had visited and researched every concert venue in Toronto and when it came down to where he wanted to host the opening night concert to launch the Pendance Film Festival, it came down to Velvet Underground v.s nobody.

“It’s the perfect venue. Velvet has a rich history of hosting amazing musicians, a great atmosphere for an intimate concert, and it is located so close to the festival’s film screenings and workshops” said festival director Robert Misovic.

Who is coming to Pendance Music? Well, that’s a surprise. The scouting process to find the best artists to bring to Pendance’s first official concert started in August and everyone on the team internally seems optimistic that they’ll find 3-4 of Canada’s best musicians to headline the event.

Pendance Music takes place at 8:00 PM on February 20, 2020. Velvet Underground is located at 508 Queen Street West in the downtown Toronto core. Tickets should be on sale in January.

Pendance Announces Short Film Jury for 2020

The Pendance Film Festival is proud to welcome eight wonderful additions to the Short Film Jury for 2020.

The Jury is comprised of Robyn Citizen (TIFF Short Cuts Programmer), Alexandra Mitchell (Austin Film Festival Programmer) and Pendance alums; Mauro Mueller, Myrsini Aristidou, Carlota Pereda, Marija Apcevska, Cam Be, and Clara Lezama.

Robyn Citizen is a film and media scholar on ethno-racial and national identity, and the horror and sci-fi genres. In 2018, she joined the programming teams for the Toronto International Film Festival and the Human Rights Film Festival. From 2012 to 2017 she was a lecturer in the Department of Asian Studies and the Department of Theatre and Film at the University of British Columbia. Recently, Citizen was a featured writer and panelist at the Emergence Symposium’s Black to the Future program, on the themes and cultural impact of Afrofuturism.

Mauro Mueller is an independent Swiss-Mexican narrative filmmaker and a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. He is best known for directing the short films A World for Raúl which won the Student Academy Award for 2013, Dear Chickens (which had its Canadian premiere at Pendance 2019) and producing the feature film Copenhagen, and the Mexican feature In Times of Rain. He co-founded Fidelio Films alongside Columbia University alums Mark Raso, David Figueroa García, and Mauricio Leiva-Cock in 2010.

Myrsini Aristidou is an award-winning filmmaker based between Paris and Cyprus. She graduated with an MFA in Film Directing from NYU Tisch School of the Arts in 2017, and holds a BFA in Film and History of Art from Pratt Institute in New York. Her short film Aria premiered at the the 74th Venice Film Festival, and continued to screen at Sundance. Her previous short film Semele premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015 and won the Berlinale Short Film Special Prize of the Generation Kplus International Jury.

Alexandra “Alex” Mitchell was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. After graduating from Washington University with a B.A. in Film & Media Studies, she made the trek down ‘south’ with the dream of working at Austin Film Festival. She made it! After serving as a Conference intern, Registration Director, and recently the Project Manager, Alex is honored to serve as the Shorts Programmer in the Film Department. When Alex is not watching films and reading up on the industry, she is eating brunch and playing board games.

Carlota Pereda is an award-winning Spanish director and screenwriter. She has worked on various television productions. She is known for directing Las Ninas Rubias (The Blonde Girls) in 2016 and Cerdita (Piggy) in 2018. Both films earned international acclaim, with the latter winning the Goya. Piggy won the Jury Award for Best Short Film at Pendance 2019.

Marija Apcevska is a Macedonian filmmaker. She graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Arts, Skopje. She continued her education at the New York Film Academy, LA, California with an MFA in filmmaking. Her short film Bardo premiered at Berlinale. Her short film Ambi was included in Cineuropa Shorts selection of Top Five European Shorts of 2017.


Cam Be studied at the New York Film Academy and Columbia College in Chicago. Cam has interviewed and documented iconic artists such as Maya Angelou, Lauryn Hill, Common, among others. He received an Emmy award as a producer for About Last Night in 2012. He’s best known for his feature-documentary The Exchange, and his short doc Where Flowers Bloom (2018).


Clara Lezama is a 25 year-old filmmaker from Montevideo, Uruguay. She graduated from Escuela de Cine del Uruguay in 2016 and has worked as a director, editor and AD. Her short film Emma won best short film at FIEC, the Festival Piriápolis de Película, and Pendance 2017. She participated in Cinemademare in 2017, and currently works for Cinemateca Uruguaya.