Lizzie and I had the chance to see the excellent Mississippi Damned at the Slamdance Film Festival, and while waiting in line we met the director and the editor of the film. We were both impressed by the story, cinematography, and the editing - the film immediately gives a strong impression of place, and the mood of the film alternates between a poetic and recollective style and an intense immediacy. The performances throughout the film were quite strong and the characters were utterly convincing.
Posts Tagged ‘slamdance’
You Might As Well Live is honestly one of the worst films I have seen since Jackass. I remember coming back to the house here in Park City after watching this and feeling like I had wasted my money, and more importantly my brain cells, just by watching this film. It begins where this man named Robert R Mutt is attempting to committ suicide by jumping off a bridge over no more than a few feet of river. He doesn’t succeed and gets taken to an insane asylum where they are permitted to participate in several activities such as air hockey and eating contests.
When a new doctor comes along, and challenges him to an air hockey competition, Robert wins, and video tape later confirms that the air hockey game he played helped to pull him out of depression. Because he was no longer depressed, he was released from the psych ward and told to go home. (more…)
At Sundance we all willingly pay a jacked up priced to sit in the theater and watch innovative new cinema, but what about the sixth finger, the extra nipple, if you will, that comes along with the film we paid for? Ah yes, you know what I’m referring too, the short film preceding the feature that often leaves me saying, “um…ok, now play the movie.” I have seen more short films in the past seven days then ever in my life, so I now feel I have some sort of reference point when it comes to judging what I mostly consider little nuggets of uselessness.
Ok, so that may be harsh, I have in fact seen some shorts that I liked as much as a feature, or in one case even more then the main film that came after, but there does seem to be a theme of the shorts being more personal then relatable to the audience. I was constantly frustrated by watching shorts programs because, for most films, I felt empty and slightly peeved after they ended, and for the ones I really enjoyed I just wanted them to continue. I wanted the characters to be developed instead of just revealing a glimpse and then rolling credits. For instance in shorts program five I was very intrigued by the little boy who was obsessed with rabbits in Netherland Dwarf, but I still felt slightly uneasy when the film ended because my time with the character was cut short.
Many shorts I saw felt completely indulgent on the part of the creatures. For instance Horsefinger3: Starfucker, the short before Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead, was ten or so minutes of stupidity where an actor gets turned on by a girl wearing huge horse hooves on her arms. She dresses him in a porky-pine outfit was they have sex and then finds that he has fur under his skin. In my opinion a silly little film such as this just wastes time. But there are always those who think it is absolute brilliance so its objective I guess. (more…)
“Coming out of Sundance is probably one of the greatest films ever,” a common line you hear often enough. But rare is a film heard of picked up out of Slamdance. In this case, I am recommending that any film company that wants a great film should be checking out Mississippi Damned. Based on director Tina Mabry’s young life story, the family and friends followed have difficulties, including deaths and murders, rapes, and general fights as well as parties. The film also explores sexual differences including connecting with a young lesbian couple, and adultery, as well as boyfriends and girlfriends, and wives and their husbands. (more…)
The originality of the shorts I have seen is astounding! They are true examples of independent thinking in film. A whole universe unfolds before me in fifteen minutes or less and the creativity is evident in every precious second.
I have experienced shorts from both Sundance and Slamdance. At both festivals, they are screened in blocks of five or six at a time. Though Sundance would save the Q and A session with all the directors for the end, Slamdance chose to try letting each director speak right after his or her film, which I enjoyed more. The Sundance approach made it harder to remember all the way back to the first films in the block.
A few that really stood out to me, though they were all fantastic, were Captain Coulier (space explorer), Sparks, and Next Floor at Sundance, and The Covenant of Mr. Kasch and I Don’t Sleep I Dream at Slamdance.
Captain Coulier is a throwback to fifties science fiction movies but the captain is just so bored! His saucer-like space craft calmly drifts along hoping to stumble upon something more interesting than the vacuum of space and his four man crew tries desperately to go above cruising speed every time he leaves the room. He clings to the hope that one day his lackluster explorations will all be worth it. I was particularly keen on seeing this one because the Canadian director and various cast and crew were on our flight from Denver to Salt Lake City! (more…)
Like short stories in literature, short films take on a life of their own in comparison to feature length films. When you’re limited to telling a story within the span of 5-15 minutes, every frame, every piece of dialogue, and every moment becomes painstakingly important and laced with meaning. After getting a chance to see the Short Film Program V at Sundance, and the Animation Shorts at Slamdance, I have to say how impressive it is to see talent cropping up all over the globe in these small projects. The two programs combined yielded a total of over 20 films so I’m going to break it up and just mention some of the personal highlights.
Short Program V
Surrounded by a festival often filled with dark subject matter and people taking themselves too seriously Captain Coulier shines through as a perfectly funny spoof on cult 50’s sci-fi classics such as Lost in Space. While this as a concept is funny in its own right, this film would be nothing without the brilliant writing, and well timed comedic performances by the entire cast. (more…)
Yet another sleepless night. Is it just the usual insomnia? It could be, but different kinds of thoughts fill my mind. I am tired. I could sleep at any time, but when I lay down countless thoughts race through my mind and keep me up. Each thought is a sheep, but not a peaceful sheep that helps me relax, they are annoying, loud sheep that keep me up. My mind continuously drifts to the upcoming trip that is in only three days. It is not the excitement for the trip that keeps me up. Though I am certainly excited for it, it is the anxiety that is keeping me up. I am going to Sundance for a second time, but this time it is to make a film, not to just watch them. I want to pursue film after I get out of school. It is funny that I word it “pursue” as if I am trying to catch it, yet it is running away from me.
To make film a career I need to try to “get into the business” once I’m done with my education. The most important thing that allows you to do this is making connections; networking. Now this program that I am in, Real Ideas Studio in which I make a documentary, is a great place to learn a lot about the actual art, but an added bonus is that I will meet people who provide networking opportunities. Those opportunities are what scares me so much. When will another opportunity like this come along in my life? (more…)
I will never be the same person again. Sundance marked a transition in my life, and there is no turning back. I cannot escape the vortex which I have fallen into. That vortex, being, of course, film. I have always liked movies (I rarely ever saw one I did not like) but never realized that they would be my life’s ambition. And that is how Sundance changed my life: it opened my eyes.
I did not try to go star gazing. I did not try to make it into any fashionable parties. I threw away all the bull that goes along with Sundance and got to its essence. I completely immersed myself into each film I saw. So much so that I do not know if I could remember all the films I saw. Some stuck in my mind: a gay zombie movie [Otto, or up with Dead People], a great baseball flick [Sugar], and a documentary outlining the country’s economic collapse [IOUSA] (”hate to say I told you so” comes to mind), but the entire experience changed me. I thought, “wow, not only is this the greatest thing that has come into my life, but I can do it too.” And so it began, my rocky but enthused trip into trying to make films. How will it all turn out? We will see.
The next turning point may be this year. I am enrolled in a documentary filmmaking program that works through Slamdance (the smaller, but not small festival in the same place). The things I learn, the experiences I gain, and the networking that will be established will hopefully be the crux of the next and biggest chapter of my life. I am taking the first step towards recovery: I am addicted to movies. And I am making the final step: I am never coming down off this high.
[Editor: Matt Went was part of the Sundance Winter Term trip in 2008; he is returning to the festival this year as part of a documentary filmmaking program run by Real Ideas Studio.]
Slamdance was established in 1995, several years after Sundance had been established as the hotspot for American independent film. Started by a group of filmmakers who, for whatever reason, couldn’t get their films into the increasingly competitive bigger name fest, it has now become extremely competitive in its own right. One of the unique things about the festival is that in the competition screenings they show only films without prior theatrical distribution and with budgets under $1 million, from first-time feature directors. Sundance claims to emphasize indie-fare, but many of the films — even in competition — turn out to be vehicles for major stars to get their “indie-cred” and come to the festivals with indirect studio backing. Slamdance ensures that its films — at least those in competition — are on an even playing field.
Every year, in addition to a lineup of sincere fictional and documentary films, they tend to have a decent list of tongue-in-cheek and scary horror flicks. Last year my whole group went to see the low-budget but extremely effective “Paranormal Activity” and were all creeped out — apparently the rights to a bigger budget bigger names version have been purchased by Dream Works.
This year Slamdance is opening with I Sell the Dead, a film that has already generated a huge amount of buzz on the internet and from horror afficionados and stars Dominic Managhan (Merry from Lord of the Rings), Ron Perlman (you know, Hellboy), and Larry Fessenden (longtime veteran and creator of indie horror, director of The Last Winter that we showed at Eckerd’s Environmental Film Festival in 2008). It’s also showing Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Undead, and Zombie Girl, and several other scary flicks. For my money, the horror films at Slamdance tend to be every bit as exciting as the “Midnight” screenings at Sundance. (more…)