Sundance 2021: We’re All Going to the World’s Fair

Anna Cobb appears in We’re All Going to the World’s Fair by Jane Schoenbrun, an official selection of the NEXT section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Daniel Patrick Carbone.

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is a film that plays more like a midnight movie than a Sundance selection in the NEXT program.

Anna Cobb makes her feature film debut as a teenage girl, Casey, immersed in the World’s Fair Challenge.  That’s really the gist of the film.  What this requires is reciting a phrase three times, pricking a finger, and smear blood on the screen.  If you ask me, it’s a cultish behavior but to each their own.

Casey not only documents her changes but her life soon blurs between dream and reality.  There are also online videos mixed into the film’s narrative.  And then you have this strange figure who reaches out to Casey?  Who is he?

Now I’ve seen some odd films at Sundance over the years but this one is wholly original in every sense of the word.  This film certainly will not be for everyone but to each their own.  While it is a NEXT selection and fits the bill, I believe the film would also fit well in the Midnight program. I say this because of the horror aspect of the film.

While the film utilizes Skype, filmmaker Jane Schoenbrun draws on their own experiences in real life.  We all have our way of discovering our identity.  For me, it was writing trans fiction without realizing it.  For Schoenbrun, it came through writing scary stories online message boards.  In any event, Schoenbrun uses their experience in an attempt to bring the feeling of dysphoria on the big screen.  Does it work?  I’ll let you decide.  I found the film to be kind of a trippy experience to tell you the truth.  In all my short years of watching films about the transgender experience, dysphoria really isn’t a concept that’s been captured.  But at the same time, most of these stories have been told by cisgender filmmakers!

Transgender filmmakers need to be the ones telling transgender stories.  I know I sound like a broken record at this point but it is true.  A trans filmmaker can depict the transgender experience in a way that cisgender filmmakers simply can’t.  And when cisgender filmmakers do tell those stories?  They almost always get it wrong.

My thoughts on the film not withstanding, Anna Cobb is a true discovery.  We see her spending much of the film in isolation while talking to the computer screen.  At other times, the camera follows her outside of her apartment bedroom.  We’re All Going to the World’s Fair lives and dies on Anna Cobb’s performance.

CAST:  Anna Cobb, Michael J. Rogers

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair holds its world premiere during the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in the NEXT program.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.