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Just up the hill from the buzz and hubbub of the Sundance Film Festival, a smaller film festival nestles at the top of Park City, Utah’s charming Main Street – the Slamdance Film Festival, a fest dedicated to the principle that it’s “by filmmakers, for filmmakers.” Over the years, the festival has grown exponentially, and plenty of vey recognizable filmmakers and features have emerged from it (remember a little thing called Paranormal Activity? That one worked out, to the tune of millions). Now in its twentieth season, the Slamdance slate of emerging filmmakers and talents is impressive as ever, and it’s packed with films that might be worth walking up a mountain (read: steep and sweet small town street) to check out.

This year’s Slamdance Film Festival received over 5,000 submissions, and they seem appropriately happy to show off a slate that includes 10 narrative and 8 documentary films, including 11 World Premieres, 4 North American, and 1 US Premiere. Slamdance selections come with a couple of notable caveats – the films have to have been made for less than a million bucks and without U.S. distribution – that help ensure that these things are truly independent. Want to mix up your Park City movie-going this year? We’ve got some ideas for that.

1. La Bare, Special Screenings
Director: Joe Manganiello
Yes, you read that correctly, Magic Mike star Manganiello has a film in Slamdance, and it’s just about exactly what you’d want from a buff dude who made some bones in a film about male strippers: more male strippers. In the film, Manganiello gives us “an insider’s look at the history, the lives and the culture of the greatest male strip club in the world, La Bare Dallas.” Yes.

2. DIY, Shorts
Directors: Peter Baxter, Ben Hethcoat, Eric Ekman
Not getting enough talent with your Sundance fare? Explore DIY, which chronicles “the development of the do-it-yourself indie film movement with filmmakers who have shaped it. Filmmakers include Benh Zeitlin, Chris Nolan, Rian Johnson, Marc Forster, Nina Menkes and Oren Peli.”

3. Crimes Against Humanity, Beyond
Director: Jerzy Rose, screenwriters: Halle Butler & Jerzy Rose
This might just be the strangest synopsis we’ve read this year: “A sweet and trusting young woman is repeatedly injured in bizarre accidents, but her overconfident boyfriend is far from sympathetic – he’s busy playing power games at the university where he works.” No, we don’t want to know anything else, we just want to try this one out.

4. Forever Not Alone, Beyond
Directors: Monja Art, Caroline Bobek
As a former adolescent girl (who often still feels like she’s back in middle school), Art and Bobek’s film, which promises “an astonishingly up-close and intimate look at the deep bonds of friendship amongst a group of adolescent girls, as one of them prepares to move away” sounds like the sort of must-see filmmaking any lady, young or old, needs to see.

5. I Put a Hit on You, Narrative Competition
Directors & screenwriters: Dane Clark, Linsey Stewart
“A broken-hearted woman teams up with her ex-boyfriend to try and stop the hitman she accidentally hired to kill him” sorts of sounds like a smarter, darker take on that Meg Ryan-starring rom-com Addicted to Love that I, in no way, watch whenever it’s on the television.

6. Rover, Narrative Competition
Director and screenwriter: Tony Blahd
If there is a subset of indie film that continually delivers, it’s the cult film (no, really, films about cults), and Blahd’s film, about “a dispirited cult [that] awaits the sign to off themselves when their leader fakes a prophecy instructing them to make a movie and share their story with the world,” sounds like it could fit that bill.

7. The Sublime and Beautiful, Narrative Competition
Director and screenwriter: Blake Robbins
Think on this: “David and Kelly descend into a complicated hell of grief but they take very different paths to make things right after losing their children to a drunk driver.” You wanted to cry at a film festival, right?

8. Kidnapped For Christ, Documentary Competition
Director: Kate S. Logan, screenwriters: Yada Zamora, Kate S. Logan
We’ll turn you over to our own Chris Campbell for this one.

The Slamdance Film Festival runs from January 17th to January 23rd.


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