Sundance festival adds ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ and an Egyptian soccer documentary

Additions mean 73 feature films will play in the mostly online film festival.

(Glen Wilson | courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures) Daniel Kaluuya, top, plays Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton, while LaKeith Stanfield (in front of the podium) plays his friend-turned-informant, William O'Neal, in director Shaka King's political drama "Judas and the Black Messiah." The film has been added to the Premieres program of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

Two more movies — including one of the year’s most anticipated dramas — are being added to the lineup of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

The additions of the political drama “Judas and the Black Messiah” and the Egyptian sports movie “The Captains of Zaatari” bring the number of feature-length movies screening at Sundance to 73.

The festival runs Jan. 28-Feb. 3 — in a shortened, mostly online version of the annual event that usually draws thousands of moviegoers to Park City and venues in Salt Lake City and the Sundance resort.

“Judas and the Black Messiah” tells the true story of William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield), an FBI informant sent in the 1960s to infiltrate the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party — and, ultimately, to betray its charismatic leader, Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya).

Director Shaka King (“Newlyweeds,” SFF ’13) co-wrote the screenplay with Will Berson; they share story credit with Kenny Lucas and Keith Lucas. Filmmaker Ryan Coogler (”Black Panther,” “Creed”) is among the producers. The cast includes Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Lil Rea Howery and (in the role of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover) Martin Sheen.

King’s movie is considered an Academy Awards contender — particularly since the motion-picture academy extended its eligibility period to late February, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Judas and the Black Messiah,” playing in the festival’s Premieres section, will have its premiere screening streamed Monday, Feb. 1, at 6 p.m. Mountain time.

It also will screen at “satellite screens” in 13 cities: Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Birmingham, Ala.; Columbia, S.C.; Dallas; Houston; Iowa City, Iowa; Louisville, Ky.; Memphis; Minneapolis; Nashville; Tucson, Ariz.; Tulsa; and Wichita, Kan. (The festival’s “satellite screen” plans in Utah, at The Ray in Park City, were canceled because of concerns over the coronavirus.)

The other new title is the Egyptian documentary “Captains of Zaatari.” Directed by Ali El Arabi, the movie follows Mahmoud and Fawzi, two friends living in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, who dream of being professional soccer players — a dream that could come true when a scout from a renowned sports academy visits the camp.

“Captains of Zaatari” will screen in Sundance’s World Cinema Documentary competition. It fills the slot left last month when the Canadian documentary “Inconvenient Indian” was pulled by the National Film Board of Canada, because of the director’s unsupported claims to indigenous ancestry.

“Captains of Zaatari” will debut Sunday, Jan. 31, at 6 p.m. Mountain time, on the festival’s digital platform.

(Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute) Ani image from Egyptian filmmaker Ali El Arabi's documentary "Captains of Zaatari," an official selection of the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.