Sundance Spotlight: Psychological Drama ‘Master’ Stands Out In Dramatic Competition
Many incredible films have made their debut at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which began its virtual program on Jan 20 and continues for two more days until its last day Sunday, Jan 30.
The film Master was screened for the U.S. Dramatic Competition and is one of the most talked-about films at the festival. The film is the debut of writer/director Mariama Diallo, and the setting of a predominantly white New England University was informed by her experience as an undergraduate student at Yale.
Master follows Gail Bishop (Regina Hall), a professor at the fictional Ancaster College, who is promoted to “Master” of a residence hall and subsequently becomes involved in the struggles of a new black student Jasmine Moore (Zoe Renee), who is assigned a dorm room connected to the sinister racist history of the college.
In an interview with Deadline, Diallo said she was put-off when she encountered the term “Master” at Yale given the obvious connection with slavery it possesses, but that the Ivy league culture “slickly normalized” the term, and “I was able to accept that in a remarkably and disturbingly short amount of time.”
If you like the recent films that have utilized classic horror cliches to examine America’s racist history, like Get Out and Candyman, you will likely enjoy the building tension and strong performances of Master. However, some critics of the film have said that its most ambitious scenes of supernatural horror leave something to be desired.
But, for every jump scare that didn’t land, there were plenty of unnerving moments between characters just rooted in the genuine feeling of isolation and fear stemming from being one of the only black people in an environment that was once hostile, and even deadly, for them.
Master will premiere for streaming audiences on Amazon Prime Video starting March 18.