By Bears Fonte
I always try to hit a few Slamdance movies while I’m Park City and usually come away with a gem. Whereas many Sundance films get snatched up by distributors and are never heard of again until their eventual theatrical release, Slamdance films tend to tour the country playing the best of the mid-tier festivals, giving these (usually) first time filmmakers the experience and networking opportunities to make their second film. It is a great platform. Some of my favorite indies of the last few years (RATTER, EMBERS, ASTRAEA) all played Slamdance.
This year the festival will host several World, North American and US premieres with no ‘stars’ in sight… except maybe James Franco, but he’s always around, right? Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE James Franco, I love that he’s willing to do almost anything and always seems to be putting his best effort into it.
Here’s five films I can’t wait to see at Slamdance.
Dave Made A Maze
SECTION: Competition Narrative Features
Director: Bill Watterson
Screenwriters: Steven Sears, Bill Watterson
Synopsis: Dave builds a fort in his living room and ends up trapped inside by fantastical pitfalls, booby traps and creatures, leaving his girlfriend Annie to head up the eccentric rescue team to go in after him.
Bears’ Initial Thought: In the age of pointless hipster pursuits, this plot takes the cake, and the production design looks brilliant: puppetry, stop-motion animation, in-camera optical illusions with more than 30,000 square feet of donated/scrap cardboard used.
SECTION: Competition Narrative Features
Director: Frauke Havemann
Co-Director: Eric Schefter
Screenwriter: Mark Johnson
Synopsis: Set in an unspecific time of extreme climate change, an isolated group of disoriented characters develop their own strange belief systems and engage in absurd activities to process their dilemma.
Bears’ Initial Thought: I love descriptions like this where I am not quite sure if it is post-apocalyptic or everyone is just crazy. With Sundance down the street devoting an entire section to climate change, Havemann’s film should serve as Slamdance’s contribution, in their particularly independent spirit. The title is borrowed from the Germanic folk art tradition of building humidity meters in the form of small, handcrafted houses, with figures that emerge according to specific weather conditions, with the film presenting a life-sized version of that idea.
SECTION: Special Screenings
Writer/Director: Stephen Elliott
Synopsis: In 2010 James Franco optioned the rights to my memoir, The Adderall Diaries. In 2015 The Adderall Diaries starring James Franco and Ed Harris premiered at the TriBeca Film Festival. This is a movie about James Franco making a movie about me.
Bears’ Initial Thought: I’ll be honest, I’ve never gone into a film with more of a negative opinion about a filmmaker after Elliott used his own web literary website to publish his own article about how all the film festivals in the world were basically ‘rigged’ because they didn’t accept his film. Entitled “The Great Film Festival Swindle” (you can look it up, I won’t link to it), Elliot drew absurd conclusions to prove his preconceptions based on small sample groups (just read the comments). My guess is the film didn’t get into all that many festivals because — by the synopsis — it sounds a wee bit self-indulgent. Still, I applaud Slamdance dance for not giving a fuck and programming whatever they want as their closing night film.
Writer/Director: Jamie Greenberg
Synopsis: 1938 screwball comedy set in the far-off future year of 2018. It’s a comedy that both celebrates and examines the past techniques of cinema, and is a comical look at what films with future themes (i.e. BACK TO THE FUTURE, THE RUNNING MAN) get right or wrong about the future world.
Bears’ Initial Thought: I love the idea of having a time machine in 1938, where the ‘go back and kill Hitler’ ethical ‘what if’ is off limits. Instead, let’s go forward and see how we won World War 2…And of course, I just love time travel movies.
SECTION: Competition Documentary Features
Director: Pete Gleeson
Synopsis: Somewhere between Australia’s most isolated city and it’s largest gold pit lies Coolgardie, where the arrival every three months of a new pair of foreign female backpackers to work the only bar in town is keenly anticipated by the town’s hot-blooded males.
Bears’ Initial Thought: If you’ve even been on vacation and run into a crew of drunken Australians, you know they are a) hilarious and b) a handful. This feels like the kind of documentary that I don’t mind being a fly on the wall for.
Slamdance Film Festival runs January 20-26. I will be covering it start to finish so watch AMFM Magazine and my twitter (@bearsfonte) for updates.