Slamdance 2012

As the reviews come in, we'll be making note of them here.
David Hudson
The DailyFinal Curtain

There hasn't been a whole lot of previewing in the run-up to today's opening of Slamdance 2012 but I've come across one truly terrific story in, of all places, Entertainment Weekly. On Monday, Final Curtain, a long-lost 22-minute film from 1957 that Ed Wood hoped would be the pilot episode of a TV series he wanted to call Portraits of Terror, will essentially be seeing its world premiere in Park City. Clark Collis tells the story of its rediscovery and restoration but also that of the actors involved, particularly Paul Marco. Great stuff.

Otherwise, I can point you to two previews of the lineup and, as notable reviews come in, I'll make a note of them here. IndieWIRE's Eric Kohn picks six films to keep an eye on and reminds us that Slamdance doesn't really deserve to be overlooked as much as it has been so far this year: "Last year's premiere Without went on to play festivals around the world and announced the promising talent of director Mark Jackson, while previous Slamdance breakouts have included Paranormal Activity and King of Kong."

And then there's Paul Sbrizzi's more extensive overview at Hammer to Nail; then again, he's one of the festival's programmers.

Trailers. You can watch the trailer for Peter McLarnan's The Sound of Small Things at indieWIRE, and the one for Frank Rinaldi's Sundowning at the film's site; and here's a brief one for Andrew Kavanagh's short At the Formal, via Simon de Bruyn at Twitch:

Updates, 1/24: To catch up with Slamdance, let's begin with a snippet from the diary Lucas McNelly's been keeping for Filmmaker. On this particular day, he's made it into a packed screening of BINDLESTIFFS, "a modern re-working of Catcher in the Rye (sort of), made by high school students."

But first, comes Shaun Parker's short film Hope. You Like Crap, which he describes as "7 minutes of your life you'll never get back." I guess that's technically true, but I don't really want it back. It's really the simplest short you'll ever see. Parker takes a student film he made 20 years ago and in a voiceover narration, just eviscerates it. He's just brutal, criticizing his directing, the acting, and even the extras who were "douche bags" from his dorm. It's hilarious and self-deprecating and flat-out awesome. It should be required viewing for film students everywhere.

Then comes the main event, Andrew Edison's BINDLESTIFFS (which I'm told has to be all caps, for some reason). It's one of those films that the buzz around it is pretty high, so I'm excited to see it, but let's face it, this is a film by high school students. There's a pretty good chance it'll be terrible. Interesting and enthusiastic, for sure, but terrible all the same.

But it isn't.

It's really fucking good.

Michael Rechtshaffen is covering Slamdance for the Hollywood Reporter:

  • "Had Andy Warhol been making films today, he likely wouldn't have thought twice about bringing Kelly Van Ryan into the Factory fold. An attractive transgender Hollywood hooker barely out of her teens with a crystal meth addiction and self-possessed attitude to burn, the individual born Raphael Gibson — she shares her professional name with the Denise Richards character in Wild Things — is a true character unto herself. Wisely letting his subject speak for herself, first-time filmmaker James Stenson has delivered an intimately shot, engaging documentary portrait." More on Kelly from Lucas McNelly (Filmmaker) and Paul Sbrizzi (Hammer to Nail).

  • "For Stam and Pet, the two young Thai subjects in the provocative documentary, Buffalo Girls, recreation means facing off against each other in a boxing ring in pursuit of winning the national Muay Thai championship and a life-changing cash prize…. But, as first-time longform director Todd Kellstein discovers, a practice that would understandably come across as disturbingly exploitative from a Western POV grows more complicated when taken in the harsh socioeconomic context of rural Thai life."

  • "Art and technology combine to inspirational effect in Getting Up: The TEMPT ONE Story, a stirring documentary tracing the 'comeback' of renowned Los Angeles graffiti artist, Tony 'TEMPT 1' Quan."

  • Dan Leal is "someone who, at first glance, might be considered a catch, with the catch being that he's in the business of producing and starring in gangbang videos under his professional name, Porno Dan. First-time filmmaker Alexandra Berger spent three-and-a-half years following Leal in his quest for true love, and while the resulting Danland travels an unsurprising path, it's ironically the  subject — not the raunchy subject matter — that ultimately keeps this documentary involving."

  • "Taking a minimalist approach to its study of a fragile newlywed relationship, Minnesota-based Peter McLarnan's first feature, The Sound of Small Things, adheres closely to its title — with mixed results."

  • "Compellingly blurring the boundaries between documentary and narrative forms, Welcome to Pine Hill is an atmospheric rendering of a New Yorker's journey of self-discovery. Born out of an encounter between writer-director Keith Miller and the film's star, newcomer Shannon Harper, over the rightful ownership to a puppy (leading to the 2010 short, Prince/William), the extended version tweaks fact and hones fiction to create something uniquely intimate." Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay posts a video interview with Miller.


Paul Sbrizzi for Hammer to Nail: "Edeltraut is an elderly German woman with Alzheimers, but as imagined by writer/director Axel Ranisch (and exquisitely played by charming 89-year-old Ruth Bickelhaupt) her existence is far from tragic. She lives a playful, childlike existence, imagining things that must be done or that she would like to do and getting gently reined in by her middle-aged banker son Sven (Heiko Pinkowski) and her caretaker Daniel (Peter Trabner). Shot on a simple DV camera with improvised dialog, Heavy Girls has a naturalistic look that could almost pass for documentary, yet there's a subtle cartoon quality to Edeltraut's accidentally punk-rock hair and Sven's thick, oversized eyewear, not to mention a pair of very round male bellies." More from Genevieve DeLaurier at Rooftop Films and Lucas McNelly for Filmmaker.

More from Paul Sbrizzi: "Director/writer Daniel Martinico and writer/lead actor Hugo Armstrong build OK, Good out of largely wordless, unadorned chunks of the daily existence of Paul Kaplan, a struggling Los Angeles actor. There are echoes of mid-century isolation/alienation films — the souls-stranded-in-cold-modernist-architecture tragedies of Antonioni, the visual irony of Jacques Tati — but Martinico and Armstrong bring into horrific focus the specific poverty of human existence today." More from Lucas McNelly.

Updates, 1/25: Brandon Harris posts the first page in his Critic's Notebook, rounding up impressions of six films. Also writing for Filmmaker, Lucas McNelly finds Frank Rinaldi's Sundowning "incredibly effective and mesmerizing. And then it all falls apart."

THR's Michael Rechtshaffen: "That time-honored sports tradition known as the cross-town rivalry is taken to extreme lengths — three miles in between goals to be exact — in Wild in the Streets, an energetic, intriguing documentary about a centuries-old event called Shrovetide Football."

Update, 1/26: Michael Rechtshaffen: "Arguably one of the most-strikingly shot entries at this year's Slamdance, Sundowning…, is also likely the most impenetrable."

Update, 1/27: "Keith Miller's Welcome to Pine Hill was awarded the grand jury award for feature narrative, and Jens Pfeifer's No Ashes, No Phoenix won the grand jury award for feature documentary." Jay A Fernandez has the full list of award-winners in the Hollywood Reporter, but let's go ahead and mention that Axel Ranisch's Heavy Girls wins both a Special Jury Award for Bold Originality and a Spirit of Slamdance Sparky Award. Audience awards go to BINDLESTIFFS and Caskey Ebeling's Getting Up.

In the Brooklyn Rail, Angela Wagner talks with Miller about the issues raised in Welcome to Pine Hall.

The latest review from Michael Rechtshaffen: "The true cost of owning a piece of The American Dream is frankly demonstrated in [Rudd Simmons's] The First Season, chronicling the trials and tribulations of an American family trying to make a go of it as novice dairy farmers."

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