Slamdance

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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.

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kidnapped for christ pushups 1

Among the titles recently announced for the 2014 Slamdance Film Festival, Kidnapped For Christ is the one I’m most anxious to see. It’s a documentary about an Evangelical Christian school in the Dominican Republic where gay teens are sent to be reformed through behavior modification programming. That’s not anything we haven’t heard of before, and such places were even played for comedy in the ’90s indie flick But I’m a Cheerleader. The thing about that movie, though, is that it seems dated. Apparently not, at least as far as attempts to “cure” homosexuality are concerned. Kidnapped For Christ reminds me of Jesus Camp, the idea of religious brainwashing being a main theme, yet in this film the kids are older and more consciously forced against their will. The place in Jesus Camp isn’t necessarily bad (though many viewers see it that way), but the school in this new doc definitely is. That makes it all the more incredible that the makers of Kidnapped For Christ were allowed access to film inside Escuela Caribe and interview the students about why they’re there (not all are gay but just “troubled”) and what they’re being put through. Also unlike Jesus Camp, there is a clear agenda with this production and its depiction of the school as a human rights problem. The story is that director Kate Logan was herself an Evangelical missionary and hadn’t initially intended to make a film against the school and its practices. I’m told she actually meant to make […]

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Ghost Team One

If Sundance is the alternative film festival, Slamdance is the alternative to the alternative. We’re proud to be media sponsors for the festival, and to share a few filmmaking spotlights on the movies playing there this year. This second batch features some secret and educational recordings. A talk with directors Scott Rutherford and Ben Peyser shows how they crafted Ghost Team One — a paranormal comedy where two things get weird in the spirit world after two guys chase after a beautiful woman. Plus, J.R. Hughto talks about his film Diamond on Vinyl, where a man is secretly recording private moments with his fiancee. Of course, she finds out. On the educational front, Cary McClelland brings his globe-trotting expertise to the cause of illuminating what’s going on in Pakistan with the film Without Shepherds. So let’s get uncomfortably close and dig deeper to learn more about these budding filmmakers:

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To The Bone

Inspired by true events, Erin Li‘s Slamdance-premiering short, To The Bone, looks to cut precisely there. The film centers on a young family struggling to make it in America, and the unexpected consequences that arise when the family’s headstrong daughter challenges her back-breaking and bloody life as a child laborer. The film’s first trailer, which we’re pleased to debut exclusively here, is a haunting and lyrical minute that captures the ache and simmering fear of the final product. Check out the trailer for To The Bone after the break.

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In its nineteenth year, the Slamdance Film Festival appears to be pulling out all the stops, thanks to their recent announcement of a very impressive slate of Special Screenings and their all-new Slam Collective, launching at January’s fest. The list of Special Screenings includes a film that may very well be one of Slamdance’s most impressive bits of programming ever, the World Premiere of Philippe Caland‘s Vipaka,a mysterious project about karma with a cast that includes Forest Whitaker, Anthony Mackie, Mike Epps, and Sanaa Lathan. Listen up, Slamdancers, this is going to the hot ticket of the festival. We’re anxious for our tickets already! The festival has also announced the films that make up their new Slam Collective, a collaboration “between global filmmakers using innovative methods and shared experience.” This new section is “inspired by the idea that with digital technology, cameras, online distribution, like-minded filmmakers from different cultures across continents can embrace a basic concept and create several films with one unifying theme; the discovery of community.” This year’s inaugural Slam Collective features seven filmmakers from five different continents, all working to create one new documentary, comprised of their own linked documentary shorts. These titles join the festival’s already-announced Features lineup, which also appears to be packed with some gems-in-the-making. Check out the full list of Special Screenings and the Slam Collective films after the break!

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In the spirit of truly independent film, the Slamdance Film Festival has just announced their feature lineup for their upcoming 2013 outing. The festival will screen 22 feature-length competition films (12 narratives and 10 documentaries), and all films come from first-time filmmakers (in their respective programs). Despite the flux of new talent, there are plenty of recognizable names that pop up within the lineup’s ranks, including Brea Grant, Michael Urie, Jesse Eisenberg, Mamie Gummer, Ralph Macchio, Natasha Lyonne, Ben Stiller, Gavin McInnes, Zach Galifianakis, Sarah Silverman, Patton Oswalt, Sean Conroy, Paul Provenza, and Marc Maron.  The festival will present awards to competition films in the following categories: Jury Award for Feature Doc, Jury Award for Narrative Feature, Audience Award for Feature Doc, Audience Award for Feature Narrative, and Filmmaker Award for Spirit of Slamdance. Kodak will present the Kodak Vision Award for Best Cinematography. Check out the full list of Slamdance features, complete with synopses and cast lists, after the break.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

A New Orleans native, writer-director Todd Berger moved to Austin to attend The University of Texas. After graduating from UT’s Radio-Television-Film program, Berger was quickly swept away to the always sunny shores of Los Angeles. With The Scenesters (2009) and It’s a Disaster (2012), Berger has become yet another success story to come out of UT’s film program; and even though he did not spend very much time in Austin, Berger has maintained very strong ties with the Austin film community. So, when we heard that Berger was coming to Austin for the regional premiere of his latest directorial effort, It’s a Disaster, at the 2012 Austin Film Festival we thought it would be fun to get his outsider perspective on the Austin…

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Welcome to Pine Hill, the first feature film from Keith Miller, has won the Grand Jury Sparky Award for Feature Narrative at Slamdance. The film focuses on former drug dealer Shannon (Shannon Harper) who now works as a bouncer when the sun goes down and a claims adjuster when the sun comes up. In this verite-style offering, Shannon receives a bit of life-changing news that sets him on a path to confront the past and contemplate his future. As you can see in the scene above, there’s something obviously compelling about the delivery and the style. It’s enough to make nerve endings tingle and the brain start thinking about fight or flight. Simple, yes, but effective. The story behind the film is also fascinating. Director Miller and star Harper met when Miller was walking his dog in New York and an angry Harper approached him claiming that it was his dog. After a huge shouting match, they realized that it was Harper’s dog – a puppy he had previously lost. The next day they met so that Miller could pay him for the animal and could toss out the idea that they make a film together. A short was born, and so was their working relationship. They accidentally shared a dog, and now they share a victory. Here are the rest of the winners from Slamdance this year – emerging artists truly worth keeping an eye on. The Slamdance pedigree alone ensures that there’s some truly interesting work going on […]

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Sleepy old Park City, Utah is lucky enough to host not just one, but two world-class festivals come mid-January. While Sundance is the more famous of the two, just up Main Street, the Slamdance Film Festival consistently delivers exciting and innovative new works to cinephiles. This year, one of those new works promises to be Peter McLarnan‘s The Sound of Small Things. A visual artist by trade and training, Small Things is McLarnan’s first feature film. For his film, McLarnan gathered like-minded creatives to star, including Sam Hoolihan (a photographer, musician, filmmaker and professor), Cara Krippner (a dancer and choreographer), Mike and Nick Hoolihan (musicians and songwriters), and Andrea Pittel (an attorney and country singer). The homespun feel of the film looks to only add to its emotional impact, as it follows “Sam, a hobby musician and copywriter, and Cara, a survivor of a mysterious accident resulting in a loss of hearing” who “are navigating a fragile young marriage. Their nascent relationship becomes troubled, as a series of secrets and interlopers begin to blur the borders of truthful communication between them. Both struggling with their perception of the situation, innocence and culpability for the difficulties in their relationship are clouded within the space of silence between them.” The film will have is world premiere at Slamdance, and is part of the Narrative Feature Competition. Check out the film’s first (two!) posters after the break, along with screening information for the festival.

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Every year, a pack of wily filmmakers descend on sleepy Park City, Utah to show their films, carouse, and hopefully get noticed by the bigwigs. But did you also know about the Sundance Film Festival? That’s a joke, festival-lovers! Of course, everyone knows about the Sundance Film Festival, but while the bright lights and weary film writer eyes of the ‘dance shine all over Park City, just up the hill, on the top of Main St. at the Treasure Mountain Inn, the Slamdance Film Festival rages on and continues to impress. The festival lives by their own self-professed mantra: “By Filmmakers, For Filmmakers.” As they note, no other festival is fully programmed by filmmakers. Slamdance alums include Christopher Nolan, Marc Forster, Jared Hess, and Oren Peli. Today, the festival announced their in-competition titles for the feature category. The 2012 Slamdance Film Festival feature 18 feature-length competition films, including ten narratives and eight documentaries, with no less than thirteen of those films getting their World Premiere at the Slam. Though Sundance is my favorite of the year’s festivals, last year I made time to head up to the Treasure Mountain Inn for an afternoon at Slamdance, and it proved to be a welcome respite from the oversized screening rooms, long lines, and often-heavy fare of Sundance. Also, they have really great snacks. Check out the full list of Slamdance Feature Film Competition offerings after the break, one that has something for everyone (including a documentary about Master Gee and Wonder Mike). […]

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Jane Austen is a zombie hunter, Abraham Lincoln’s going after vampires. It was only a matter of time before the Bard got into the act.

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