Films To Keep An Eye Out For During This Year’s Slamdance Film Festival

slamdanceframed

Lesser known than it’s big brother, Sundance, the start of 2013’s Slamdance Film Festival is just a handful of days away, and while Park City, Utah will no doubt be full of people looking to hit up as many Sundance premieres as humanly possible, the Slamdance lineup is shockingly fantastic this year.

Including a collection of films ranging from intriguing issue documentaries like Terms And Conditions to touching indie comedies like Best Friends Forever, this year’s festival is one that may not feature films that will break box office records or garner Oscar nominations, but what it does include are films that have the makings of something truly special.

We here at The CriterionCast will be bringing you a handful of reviews of films adorning the Slamdance lineup when they debut, and with an equally exciting short film program, this year’s festival is going to be something to behold. However, what should you be excited for? Here is your guide to this year’s Slamdance Film Festival:

 

 

Best Friends Forever (trailer via The Playlist)

Narrative Feature

Best Friends Forever is a clever dark comedy and heartfelt road trip buddy film wrapped in an apocalyptic disaster story, with two badass girls. Harriet, a perpetually optimistic comic-book artist, dreams of escaping her past in Los Angeles and hits the road for a new life in Austin, Texas. She drags Reba, her seemingly devil-may-care BFF, along for the ride. In the hush period following mysterious nuclear explosions, the girls are forced to ask: when faced with the end of the world – what is most important to you? Programmer Notes: On the cusp of an imminent nuclear catastrophic disaster, Best Friends Forever (à la Thelma and Louise) explores the need for connection while examining one’s fears of losing a best friend during an unforeseen event. Boldly shot on Super 16 (do you remember what film looks like?), it is refreshing to see a well-crafted film produced, written, directed and lensed by women taking on a genre normally earmarked for men and making it their own. Utilizing the vastness and beauty of the Southwestern landscape, Best Friends Forever is the ultimate apocalyptic road trip movie. – Stacey Marbrey, Programmer

Sat, Jan 19, 5:40 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Main Screening Room

Between Us

Special Screening

[vimeo 57325186 w=500 h=281]

Between Us – teaser from dmirvish on Vimeo.

In this darkly comedic drama, two couples reunite over two incendiary evenings where anything can happen. Grace and Carlo are a newly married New York couple who visit their old friends Sharyl and Joel in their huge Midwestern home. Despite their wealth, the hosts are in a bitterly destructive marriage. A few years later, the couples reunite in New York, but the tables are turned as the young couple struggles with parenthood and finances, only to discover their old friends even more successful and much happier than before.

Sun, Jan 20, 5:40 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Main Screening Room

Bible Quiz

Documentary Feature

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdRS4IHBYSE&version=3&hl=en_US]

Mikayla is just like any other normal 17-year-old girl with a crush, but unlike other girls Mikayla has over 2,000 Bible verses memorized, and the object of her affection is her Bible Quiz team captain JP. Last year JP placed third nationally, and now, in his last year, he wants his church to win. In order to succeed, the Life Center Quiz Team must compete against thousands of other teens from across the US, including their biggest rival, Cedar Park. Mikayla hopes that if she can lead the team to victory she will find what she lacks in her own dysfunctional family and win the ultimate prize: JP’s love. Programmer Notes: What is more difficult than reciting the entire book of Ephesians from memory in under ten minutes? Keeping your cool around that first high school crush. BIBLE QUIZ follows seventeen year-old Mikayla, her quiz captain JP, and the Life Center Quiz Team as they memorize and recite books of the Bible on their quest to win the National Bible Quiz Championship in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Director Nicole Teeny captures the excitement, frustration, and bashfulness that accompany young love and competition in this balanced portrait of one of the most unique summits in evangelical America. The competition is fierce but don’t expect any foul play; these rivals play by the book… of God. – Ben Hethcoat, Programmer

Fri, Jan 18, 11:00 AMTreasure Mountain Inn – Main Screening Room

Big Words

Narrative Feature

Brooklyn, 2008. On the eve of Obama’s history-making election, three friends, once members of a promising hip-hop trio, cross paths once again and discover that some things never change. Former frontman John, once known as “Big Words”, is now a struggling IT guy who raps only to himself. James is a publicist living with his boyfriend, far removed from the days when he rhymed about getting girls. DJ Malik still spins records, but he wants the old days back. Together again, the guys reckon with the past and dreams deferred. Programmer Notes: An ensemble film that manages to give all of its characters equal consideration is already ahead of the curve, but one that makes each of the deftly intertwined storylines significant, compelling and jam-packed with quotes both hilarious and thought-provoking is a movie that rocks my world. On Obama’s 2008 election night, smartly paralleling the topical rhetoric of Change, former hip-hop group members John, James and Malik’s lives twist into an unplanned reunion as they each struggle to define friendship, manhood and identity. Buoyed by emotional honesty, tight pacing and an admirable reference catalog of hip-hop callbacks (fans will also note gifted MC Jean Grae in a supporting role) this world feels thoroughly real. Their individual journeys are substantive, their touchstones are unique but relatable, and the other characters in their lives – a supportive wife, a suspicious partner, a would-be new love – shine in their authenticity. Tinged with nostalgia yet focused on the future – Big Words is enjoyable from start to finish, and left me wanting to talk it out in detail, preferably with an old friend. – Drea Clark, Programmer/Programming Team Captain

Fri, Jan 18, 4:00 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Main Screening Room

Diamond on Vinyl

Beyond

Henry’s fiancee Beth kicks him out after discovering his audio recordings of their intimate life and his confession that he may no longer love her. A chance meeting with Charlie, a headstrong young photographer, allows Henry to act out his obsession with creating the perfect interaction: spontaneous, rehearsed, both fixed and changeable. Charlie and Henry’s recordings of imagined conversations become a dangerous game where intimacy and identity may be both real and imagined. Programmer Notes: Writer-director J.R. Hughto’s idiosyncratic approach to voyeurism challenges cinema’s visual dominance with scenes shown in chronological order in a film that merges past, present and future aurally, while also using its audio to question what is authentic and what is a lie, what is real and what is playback. Henry (Brian McGuire) and Charlie (Sonja Kinski) explore this thorny philosophical terrain together as they rehearse events soon to come and listen to previous takes in a futile attempt to predict outcomes; simultaneously, they plumb the depths of their emotions without ever getting to the bottom of anything, or each other. That is because Henry and Charlie are, like most great characters and all real people, in the end unknowable. – Daniel Berube, Programmer

Fri, Jan 18, 1:30 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Main Screening Room

Domestic

Beyond

Wonderfully surreal, painfully real, this is the story of children, adults and animals who live together trying to have a better life, but sometimes death comes unexpectedly. The lives of three characters surrounded by a bunch of extraordinary, funny, absurd but quite realistic events. It is all about us, people who eat the animals that they love and the animals that love people unconditionally. Programmer Notes: All you have to do to see how obsessed people are with their pets is to log on to Facebook or You Tube. In DOMESTIC, people’s relationships to their animals become a kind of emotional currency. The small community of a set of neighbors argue, cry, eat, love and dream – and their pets are at the center of it all. This film is filled with a loving wise humor and wry observation about all the small things that loom so large in our lives. – Nicole Arbusto, Programmer

Tue, Jan 22, 10:20 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Main Screening Room

Fynbos

Narrative Feature

A real estate developer, on the brink of bankruptcy, travels with his wife to a lavish and remote glass house bordering an informal settlement on a sweeping landscape in the Western Cape of South Africa. He’s desperate to sell the property. When his wife goes inexplicably missing, stifled by a sense of looming distrust and financial pressure, he is caught in a maze of missteps and uncertainty. Programmer Notes: Set in South Africa’s starkly beautiful Western Cape, Fynbos tells the story of a troubled woman, Meryl, who goes missing during a visit to the hills surrounding her husband Richard’s austere glass home. Is he responsible? Could the wealthy, idiosyncratic English siblings that Richard is courting as potential buyers for the property be involved? Do the mysterious native cave paintings have a role in this? Director Harry Patramanis offers no easy answers to these questions in his willfully enigmatic and formally inventive, minimalist film. This is a rich and unsettling cinematic experience that counts among its virtues a pitch perfect cast, gorgeous cinematography that takes full advantage of the settings, and a remarkably assured tone. – Joel Garber, Programmer

Fri, Jan 18, 7:00 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Main Screening Room

GHOST TEAM ONE

Narrative Feature

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zk7tiOS4WzQ]

Brad and Sergio are what wimps refer to as wussies. They don’t want to see a ghost. But the girl they want to have sex with sure does. The housemates set out to film their own version of a Paranormal Activity as an excuse to be near her, but quickly find themselves much closer to a demon whore than the woman of their dreams. GHOST TEAM ONE is a charmingly racist spin on the found footage genre that delights in the dream space between a man’s heart and his balls. Programmer Notes: GHOST TEAM ONE is a raucous found footage horror-comedy that drops the world of ghost hunting on its head – giving the genre permanent, laugh-induced brain damage. When two stoner dudes co-opt a haunting in their house, turning it into a full-scale ‘hook-up’ assault on the sexy woman obsessed with raising the spirit of the dead prostitute who died there, the cowardly duo get way more then they bargained for. Especially when their testosterone-enraged, recovering drug addict roommate catches the sexually charged ghost’s eye, building to a blood-soaked, pussy-filled climax that must be seen to be believed. – Amber Benson, Programmer

Sun, Jan 20, 10:20 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Main Screening Room

Hank and Asha

Narrative Feature

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fairmZL05gk]

In this modern love story, an Indian woman studying in Prague and a young New York filmmaker begin an unconventional romance – two strangers searching for human connection in a hyper-connected world. As their relationship intensifies, they must decide whether or not to meet face-to-face. It’s a story about isolation, identity, and the irresistible appeal of entertaining life’s what-ifs. Programmer Notes: A classic tale of young love, told in the most unconventional of ways. Asha and Hank are bound by technology and separated by time zones; the mere fact they have never met face-to-face doesn’t stop their growing friendship and budding infatuation. A modern take on a love letter correspondence, this student from India and New York filmmaker must figure out their future one video response at a time. Step out of the Park City cold and warm your heart with this charming romantic comedy. – Jana WInternitz, Programmer

Sat, Jan 19, 8:10 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Main Screening Room

He’s Way More Famous Than You

Narrative Feature

When once-up-and-coming indie film starlet Halley Feiffer loses her boyfriend, her agent and her career in one fell swoop she finally realizes that something has got to change…she has to become WAY MORE FAMOUS! Armed with a stolen script and two pitchers of sangria, Halley enlists the help of her brother Ryan and his boyfriend to make a movie, starring herself (of course), and any A-list celebrity she can land. She will stop at nothing, even if it means hurting the only people who truly care about her. Programmer Notes: He’s Way More Famous Than You is not about A-listers, or non-listers hoping to become A-listers, or non-listers/D-listers who used to be A-listers and would like to some day become A-listers again. No, this is a film about the plight of the almost-celebrity, which is to say: it’s a comedy. First-rate on any list, you may recognize the heroine of this tale (Halley Feiffer, starring as an absurd caricature of herself) from her previous performance in Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale, a fact frequently noted by her character. Here is another motion picture worthy of Feiffer’s talent, showcasing her comedic chops and total lack of vanity – with lots of laughs generated by the rest of the cast as well, most of whom are also playing versions of themselves. – Daniel Berube, Programmer

Sun, Jan 20, 3:00 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Main Screening Room

The Institute

Documentary Feature

Thousands of participants in a San Francisco-based alternate reality game end up getting more than they bargained for. Told from the players’ perspectives, the film looks over the precipice at an emergent new art form where the real world and fictional narratives merge to create unforeseen and often unsettling consequences. Examining counter-culture, new religious movements and street art, this film takes the viewer on a journey into a secret underground world teeming just beneath the surface of everyday life. Programmer Notes: The journey begins in the nondescript waiting room of a high-rise office building in San Francisco’s Financial District. Only in the Bay Area could this be the beginning of an epic scavenger hunt so fantastic, simply watching the story unfold on film will leave you spinning, in a good way. As we follow participants in a real life adventure narrative/urban game, we share in their confusion as to where the story ends and real life begins. Director Spencer McCall seamlessly merges the form and subject to inject a spirit of fun and whimsy into the audience, mirroring the players experience of the indescribable happening that is The Institute. Let’s put it this way, once the Sasquatch shows up, you’ll know that sh*t just got real. Questions are answered with more questions: What is the Jejune Institute? Where is Elsewhere? Who is Eva? But it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey and it’s best to dive into the rabbit hole head first. Drink the kool-aid and enjoy the ride… – Summre Garber, Programmer

Sat, Jan 19, 7:30 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Gallery

I Want To Be An American

Special Screening

Known as the Slam Collective, seven Slamdance filmmakers from five continents come together to make I Want To Be an American, Slamdance’s first documentary feature. In the spirit of the Surrealist parlor game of chance Exquisite Corpse, each filmmaker makes a documentary short film based on imagery forwarded on by the previous filmmaker in the chain. The composite story forms a global independent filmmaking experience. I Want To Be an American by Dale Yudelman Stix a 19-year-old youth has lived on the streets of Cape Town and the suburb of Manenburg all his life. The Americans he mentions are a notorious gang on the Cape Flats but what Stix really wants is to see the world and America someday. Clown in the Crowd by Maya Newell Yani, a 29 year-old Peruvian refugee, wife and mother, leads a double life: part wife and mother, part clown. A passionate advocate of painted faces and floppy shoes, Yani’s simple desire is to make children smile. Aidee by Dylan Verrechia The story of Aidee, a stripper living in Tijuana struggling relentlessly to provide her daughter with a good education and a better life. Suzanne Takes Me Down by Q Suzanne, a transgender sex worker walks the streets of Kolkata. We spend an orange hued night with her. She spills her dreams. Listen by Monteith McCollum A story about man’s love affair with shortwave radio. All About Eve by Peter Baxter Eve, an outgoing 12 year-old girl living in Hollywood, California is preparing to meet the world and life in the 21st Century. Rosa by Daniel J. Harris Rosa is about a traditional wedding song from Cape Malay culture, sung mostly now at choral competitions.

Mon, Jan 21, 6:00 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Main Screening Room

Joy de V.

Narrative Feature

Roman is a con-artist from Long Island; his wife Joy is seven months pregnant. One morning she vanishes into thin air. The same morning she disappears, Roman discovers that his most consistent scam, government disability checks from a faked madness, will run out if he doesn’t do something soon to prove he is insane. We begin here, and from here dive into the mysterious behavior of those stricken by love and who are perhaps more certifiably crazy than they believe themselves to be. Programmer Notes: Like a sudden blast from silence, director Nadia Szold leaps onto the independent film scene with a gripping and fiercely original New York noir that channels early Scorsese by way of Faulkner. Joy De V is a gritty and deeply poetic exploration of love and loss that digs deep into the male psyche. Szold confidently rests the narrative on the shoulders of newcomer, Evan Louison, whose voice is like a beacon of light at the end of a dark tunnel, both guiding and consuming us with every step. Lush visuals and homegrown characters paint a picture of New York that is as dreamlike as it is real. This is filmmaking from the gut. – Josh Mandel, Programme

Sun, Jan 20, 7:50 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Main Screening Room

Jug Face

Special Screening

The pit has spoken. Dawai, the potter of a backwoods community, has crafted a face on a ceramic jug of the person that the pit wants sacrificed. Ada, pregnant with her brother’s child, has seen her face on the jug and hides it in the woods, determined to save the life of her unborn. If she does not sacrifice herself however, the creature from the pit will crawl out and kill everyone in the village until she does.

Wed, Jan 23, 10:00 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Main Screening Room

Kohlhaas or the Proportionality of Means

Narrative Feature

Deep in the Bavarian countryside Kleist’s historical drama Michael Kohlhaas is being shot. But instead of shooting a huge epic with impressive costumes and extraordinary props, grown-up men in suits fight with imaginary weapons. What has happened? Young director Lehman is fighting for his film, although all funds have been canceled. He’s convinced that the actor’s play and the fantasy of the audience will be sufficient. He fights for his vision as much as Kleist’s Kohlhaas fights for his rights. This film has to be finished. Whatever may come. Even if he has to go too far. Programmer Notes: As a devout crusader against spoilers, I’m not about to ruin the visceral experience of Kohlhaas by giving away too much. But this film combines fantasy and realism (along with possibly the most edge-of-your-seat pantomime I’ve ever seen) into an epic obliteration of the line between life and art. Plus there’s action. Adventure. Romance. What more could you want?! – Aaron Marshall, Programmer

Sat, Jan 19, 10:00 AMTreasure Mountain Inn – Main Screening Room

Musgo

Beyond

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLF4BcqPyTk]

Sara runs a large country house in the middle of the Pyrenees, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Her peaceful life is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of her stepmother with whom she does not get along. Her stepmother brings her father’s ashes. What at first looks like a reconciliation turns into a nightmare. Programmer Notes: Shot on a budget of 3,500 Euros in seven days on a customized Panasonic GH2, Musgo is a classic Slamdance film, making up for its limited resources with ingenuity, swagger and mastery of style. The look of Musgo (which means “moss” in Spanish), inspired by the topography of the Catalan Pyrenees, is specific and unique; Orbegoso displays a powerful ability to create atmosphere and build tension, allowing an inspired cast to go to extremes while staying true to character and credibility. Mercé Espelleta in particular, with her earthy physicality, plays a wonderfully unusual villain as the ruthless cougar Mercedes, at one point taking a break from doling out psychological and physical violence to sing a song to the moon. – Paul Sbrizzi, Programmer

Mon, Jan 21, 10:20 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Main Screening Room

My Name is Faith

Documentary Feature

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWdIegOiAbc&hl=en_US&version=3]

The bonding that takes place in the early years of a child’s life is crucial for developing the ability to express emotion and establish relationships. Faith is a 13-year-old girl who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Reactive Attachment Disorder. She attempts to heal from the trauma inflicted by her birth-mother’s lifestyle and to develop trust for her adoptive parents, but for someone so emotionally bruised it can be a seemingly impossible task, and the struggle begins to take its toll on the family. Programmer Notes: Directors Jason Banker, Jorge Torres-Torres, and Tiffany Sudela-Junker created an unflinching portrait of Faith, a young girl with Reactive Attachment Disorder. The disorder is common in children born into neglectful living situations, which often leaves them with a chilling outlook on life. The film follows Faith and examines the effect of her condition on her adoptive family. Her parents are determined to find help, which leads the family to a camp specializing in treatment of the disorder. Faith develops a self-awareness beyond her years, which leads to a powerful confrontation with her birthmother, and a stronger bond with her true family. MY NAME IS FAITH is nothing short of powerful – offering insight to an unusual condition, and exploring the ability to overcome great obstacles with love and acceptance. – M. K. West, Programmer

Sun, Jan 20, 2:30 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Gallery

Running Wild

Documentary Feature

Dayton Hyde’s destiny leads him on a dramatic journey through the West, from rodeos, conservation battles, and wild horse rescues to award-winning books, personal heartbreak and new-found love. Against a backdrop of breathtaking scenery, this is the story of a 6’5” cowboy who demonstrates the importance of defending our natural world before it’s too late, delivering the message that we can truly make a difference if we try. Through his protection of wild horses, Hyde finds personal freedom. Programmer Notes: Suzanne Mitchell paints a lively, engaging portrait of author and conservationist Dayton O. Hyde’s life and times. A true American cowboy, Hyde set about capturing the heritage of the West in both words and pictures as a young man. Now in his twilight, Hyde devotes most of his endless energy to maintaining a refuge for wild horses in the Black Hills of South Dakota. A deeply personal tale of work, family, passion and stewardship, the film also examines the larger question of what is the American West in the 21st century. And in a cynical age, celebrates and reestablishes the power of the individual.  – Ehren Parks, Documentary Programming Co-Captain

Sat, Jan 19, 1:30 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Gallery

Terms and Conditions May Apply

Beyond

Have you ever read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policies connected to every website you visit, phone call you make, or app you use? Of course you haven’t. But those agreements allow corporations to do things with your personal information you could never even imagine. This film explores the intent hidden within these ridiculous agreements, and reveals what corporations and governments are legally taking from you and the outrageous consequences that result from clicking “I accept.” Programmer Notes: A Facebook post sends a SWAT team to a New York comedian’s apartment; the AOL search results of television writer fit the profile of a serial killer. Privacy is at the heart of Cullen Hoback’s riveting documentary: how we give it away, and how it is taken from us. The “terms and conditions” of software contracts map a journey through the brave new world we have unwittingly opted in to. Wiretapping, surveillance, prosecution of thought crimes, and the data mining of our computer, GPS, and telephone records are shown to have become legally enshrined. Hoback’s deft editing takes us through an impressive collection of conversations, including Moby, Margaret Atwood, Ray Kurzweil, Mark Zuckerberg, and Anonymous hacktivist Barret Brown. Indicting governments and corporate interests for the commodification of our private lives, Terms And Conditions May Apply urges us to push back. – Robert Nichols, Programmer/Programming Team Co-captain

Tue, Jan 22, 5:20 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Main Screening Room

The Bitter Buddha

Documentary Feature

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaU5GiAm1ws]

Eddie Pepitone is a man at war with himself. And he has the scars to prove it. The Bitter Buddha takes the viewer backstage in the alternative comedy scene to reveal one of its most undervalued treasures. This portrait of a comedian looks at Pepitone’s offbeat humor and lifestyle as he battles the world around him. Stand-up comedy, original animation and interviews with Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis and others provide insight into this beloved career comedian known as ”the guitarist that all the other guitarists go to see.” Programmer Notes: Eddie Pepitone is the Willy Loman of comedy. He is also a late bloomer. Last year, at 54-years-old, he released his first live stand-up record. Eddie is the comic that makes the band laugh, that cracks up the local crew and gets even the most disconnected of hosts to break. Director Steven Feinartz takes a fearless look at chronic dissatisfaction and the neuroses needed to maintain a life in clubs. We follow Eddie as he struggles to find balance in an unstable world of his own creation. Meditating in a canyon one moment then railing against the injustice of a typo on twitter the next, Eddie is always funny, sad, and ‘on the verge’. Even with a Mount Rushmore of independent comedy ready to support him, some things might just be forever out of his reach. This is a beautiful tale of rage, compromise and comedy. Enjoy. – Adam Busch, Programmer

Sat, Jan 19, 3:10 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Main Screening Room

The Brotherhood of the Traveling Rants

Documentary Feature

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQZVPSw3oGU&hl=en_US&version=3]

When an author decides to turn his book tour into a stand-up comedy tour, he enlists his best friend from high school to come along. They haven’t seen each other in 20 years but quickly fall into their old habits of outrageous behavior. As the tour progresses however our heroes learn they’re not kids anymore and what started out as mere hijinx is now endangering their friendship, their careers, and their lives. Programmer Notes: What happens when you mix the hippest of hipsters, Gavin McInnes, his best friend, a camera, and comedy tour?  You get a road movie/documentary/comedy that keeps you laughing and wondering, “What is up with this guy?” Or in documentary speak, a complex story of friendship intersecting the real life challenges faced by a brilliant comedian as he deals with a mid-life career crisis. Or book tour- it’s about the same thing. No wait, I think it’s the latter! – Edward Stencel, Documentary Programming Co-Captain

Sat, Jan 19, 10:00 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Gallery\

The Court of Shards (Scherbengericht)

Narrative Feature

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZznxX5OmuA&hl=en_US&version=3]

The two friends Nora and Isabel, both disabled, try to lead normal lives. Strangely enough, it is their family, well-meaning friends and care workers who appear not to want normality at all. When Nora decides to marry her immigrant lover Amadou, her family does everything in its power to stop her. Amadou’s presence sets in motion a bitter deal, a forced homecoming, and a whole series of unfortunate events. And the consequences have only just begun… Programmer Notes: Director Jan Eilhardt has developed an ambitious, highly personal film language: seemingly loose and improvisational editing and camera work resolve into specific, eloquent compositions, and the use of dubbed dialog gives the narrative a dreamy, storybook quality while also conveying the characters’ harsh sense of displacement—the film has a refreshingly unsentimental view of living with disabilities. Caroline Fricke is a sunbeam of childlike sweetness as Nora, and Baba Oury Barry, as Amadou, nicely conveys the layers of conflict between his feelings for Nora and the adult realities of survival. Silvia Giehle is unforgettable as Isabel, her broken and patched-together body powerfully radiating equal parts vulnerability and strength of character. – Paul Sbrizzi, Programmer

Fri, Jan 18, 2:30 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Gallery

The Dirties

Narrative Feature

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYUkdYYy3-U&hl=en_US&version=3]

Matt and Owen are best friends who live in a world of endless movie references and hijinks. It would be perfect, if not for the cruel bullies at their high school who make their lives hell. While working on a movie for class, the lines between fiction and reality blur together in this horrifying look at high school bullying. Programmer Notes: A lot of films claim to be an authentic portrayal of the high school experience – The Breakfast Club, The Virgin Suicides, Bring It On, etc. But there’s one teenage subculture that has been woefully underrepresented throughout cinema history: teenagers interested in cinema history. You know the type – cinephile film buffs who regularly quote Being John Malkovich and make epic home movies for Spanish Class projects. The Dirties is a rare gem – a hilarious, touching, and socially relevant film about underdog AV Club geeks who would rather watch a Scorsese marathon than see a Twilight movie. Oh, and they also might be planning a horrible act of revenge. – Todd Berger, Programmer

Sat, Jan 19, 10:30 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Main Screening Room

The Last Shepherd (L’ultimo Pastore)

Documentary Feature

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcgZscfaQdE&version=3&hl=en_US]

Renato Zucchelli is the last travelling shepherd left in a metropolis. And he has a dream: to lead his sheep into the inaccessible center of the city to meet the children who have never seen someone like him, showing them that dreams and freedom will always exist, as long as there is still room to believe in a last shepherd. Who conquered the city with nothing more than his sheep and the power of imagination. Programmer Notes: Renato lives in a breathtaking pastoral setting just outside of Milan. Throughout the film, we are witness to a potential changing of the guard. Against his volition, Renato may well indeed be the last shepherd as he deals with an ever-encroaching modernity in his own unique way. However, at the heart of it all, THE LAST SHEPHERD is a warm and endearing portrait of a man, his sheep, and his family. From the opening moments, the cinematography is visually rich. Such gorgeous shots are well complemented by long takes, that thankfully allow for a rather contemplative respite. It is during these moments when one not only thinks about Renato’s place in this world, but about our own place, as well. – Fabian Euresti, Programmer

Fri, Jan 18, 5:00 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Gallery

Vipaka

Special Screening

An earnest life-coach/author, Thomas Carter, is mysteriously abducted by a deranged client, Angel Sanchez, who delves into Thomas’ teachings and uses his spiritual messages of Karma – action and reaction (Vipaka), against him to terrorize him and his family for their past sins.

Sun, Jan 20, 12:30 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Main Screening Room

Visitors (Die Besucher)

Narrative Feature

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9MZDq3LesE&hl=en_US&version=3]

During an unannounced visit to Berlin, Jakob and Hanna let their three grown up children know that they are no longer able to support them financially. Karla, Arnolt and Sonni seem to live successful city lives; but, on closer inspection, they are in the middle of different life-crises, which have a common cause: lack of independence. After a big family quarrel and a painful revelation of life-lies, every single relative is made aware of how little he or she knows about the others – though still interdependent. Programmer Notes: The concept of ‘family’ as a self-devouring wild animal is on full display here. What makes this comparative journey a high wire act to behold is the unique balance of extremes. As the icy/estranged parents desperately try to reconnect by any means possible, elsewhere the tale of their deceitfully unhinged (grown) children explodes, giving way to oddly aggressive behavior. Having grown up in an Italian family where yelling, crying and the clutching of rosary beads usually meant an aunt was refusing to reveal a coveted meatball recipe on her deathbed, it was mesmerizing to witness in contrast, this cold-stoic family of propriety, each member carefully choosing to inflict pain on the other – like selecting the precise knife from a drawer. – Craig Parish, Programmer

Sun, Jan 20, 7:30 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Gallery

What Isn’t There (Ang Nawawala)

Narrative Feature

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7mDgW9YPr8]

Gibson Bonifacio stopped speaking when he was a child. Now twenty, he is back in Manila for Christmas. While always festive in the Philippines, for his family it is tinged with sadness, marking the anniversary of his twin brother’s death. Against the backdrop of the local music scene, his childhood best friend tries to reconnect with him, while he unexpectedly finds a chance at his first romantic relationship. Gibson reconsiders and redefines his relationship with his family, with himself, even with his dead brother: the only person he talks to. Programmer Notes: At first you might not notice that What Isn’t There is a drama. You might be too busy enjoying its lushness. Like a Polaroid of the teenage Manila night scene, a dream of romance, music and parents who just don’t understand, watching is as much a visual experience as a narrative one. Bright, instant and mesmerizing, one of the beauties of this film is that, while specific and full of delicious details about its world, it is also familiar. Here is the whimsy of troubled youth. Here is the first love we all wish we had, the pumping energy of spotting the right one across the room and laughing as the records drop and scratch. But with all of that, it is also a carefully drawn drama. What Isn’t There is the story of a young man, Gibson, the endearing Dominic Roco, who chooses not to speak after witnessing the death of his brother. After years away from his family he comes home to the Philippines and discovers them as unable to let go of the past as he has been. He finds a voice in music and in longing for the love of Enid, Annicka Dolonius, a refreshing and irresistible ingénue. Eventually he makes his way to a more personal truth. Beautiful, fun and memorable, director Marie Jamora’s first film is one not to be missed. – Mo Perkins, Programmer

Sat, Jan 19, 12:30 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Main Screening Room

Where I Am

Documentary Feature

Gay American writer Robert Drake is on the road to recovery – but this is a journey with a difference. Over ten years have passed since a violent and bloody attack by two young men in Sligo, Ireland one dark night left him paralyzed. From his home in Philadelphia we follow Robert’s trip back to Sligo, where his drama began, to lay the past to rest. Full of laughter, tears and literary types, this documentary captures Robert’s spirit and intention – that of moving on positively and taking the world with him. Programmer Notes: WHERE I AM is a truly inspirational film that will stay with you long after the credits roll. This intimate documentary shares Robert Drake’s harrowing journey of forgiveness and acceptance as he struggles to regain his former life. After a difficult ten-year period of rehabilitation, he decides to return to the scene of the crime and confront the memories of what happened. Drake’s story is one that will not be forgotten. Filmmaker Pamela Drynan captures his raw emotions and weaves together an incredible narrative that will have you outraged, despondent and ultimately inspired by the will of the human spirit. This is a must see film and one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in years. It is our honor to program its world premiere. – Theodore James, Programmer

Sat, Jan 19, 11:00 AMTreasure Mountain Inn – Gallery

Without Shepherds

Documentary Feature

Six bold people struggle against Pakistan’s current crisis and try to build a different tomorrow: a cricket star starts a progressive political party, a female journalist goes behind Taliban lines, an ex-mujahid seeks redemption, a trucker crosses dangerous territory to feed his family, a supermodel pushes feminism through fashion, and a subversive Sufi rocker uses music to heal. Filmed by a team of Americans and Pakistanis over two years, Without Shepherds cuts through alarmist media depictions of the country to celebrate the bravery of its people. Programmer Notes: A profoundly bold vision, Without Shepherds has mastered the craft of documentary storytelling, taking us into the heart of Pakistan, a country scrutinized by the global community yet virtually unseen, unknown and deeply misunderstood. Although the land and people carry a long cultural history, Pakistan is just in it’s infancy as a nation, if we didn’t already know this, we have certainly forgotten. It’s 2008 and only 60 years after Pakistan has declared independence. Benazir Bhutto has just been assassinated and Musharraf’s military is in control. Pakistan is in the global spotlight as the U.S. wages its war on terror, hunts for Bin Laden and news headlines scream terrorism, extremism, sexism. Pakistan is one of the most dangerous places in the world and it’s easy to paint a shallow picture. Through 6 unique Pakistani’s at the helm of the progressive movement, we journey into a land at the crossroads of religion, politics, culture and the deep complexity of tradition struggling to keep it’s footing with modernity. With lyrical cinematic poetry our guides take us into uncharted territory, traveling from the Eastern border of India to the Western border of Afghanistan, large urban cities to rural villages, progressive politics to Taliban territory. No stone is left unturned always making us painfully aware of the fact and wondering how the filmmakers were able to capture such rawness. Tired of political pundits and talking heads, McClelland masterfully captivates us at the first frame. Beyond gorgeous and lushly visual, the interwoven stories remind us of the humanity and power of people willing to risk everything for their beliefs, communities and a better future, leaving us in turn to reflect on our own humanity and vision. – Terrie Samundra, Programmer

Sun, Jan 20, 5:00 PMTreasure Mountain Inn – Gallery

More from Joshua Brunsting

Joshua Reviews Donna Deitch’s Desert Hearts [Theatrical Review]

Now in theaters, this is one of the year's most exciting repertory...
Read More