Saturday, January 19, 2013

Tales from Park City - Unlikely Lunches, Jilted Lovers, and Broken Hearts

So, there's this place, and I'm surprised to say that I'm a fan. 

I've never been to Park City except for during the Festivals, but I'd imagine that Main Street would look very different at any other time of year. There's a plethora of vendors setting up pop-up stores, companies using retail space for lounges, heck, even pop-up nightclubs. 

And perhaps the best deal in town is Morning Star's veggie burger bar. Free veggie burger! Free chips! Free beverage! Tasted pretty good. Unfortunately, after going on Thursday before the place was very well known . . . the tables have turned, and now EVERYBODY wants one. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can grab another before I have to head home.

On to today's films at Slamdance:
  • Bible Quiz: a documentary about the lives of a few kids from Tacoma Life Center in Washington that are heavily involved in competitive Bible memorization. This was one that was particularly interesting for me, having formerly been an active Christian for most of my life. Director Nicole Teeny manages to bring a perspective that's at once honest about what might seem to be very odd about these people's beliefs while remaining very respectful of a group of entirely sincere people. That's important. One of the main subjects, Mikayla, has a real star quality to her. She's alternately hilarious and wonderfully honest about her life and the people in it.
  • The Court of Shards: this one missed the mark. A German film about a group of people with varying degrees of physical and/or neurological problems that do . . . stuff. I found the whole thing pretty confusing. From what I can tell, Nora (Caroline Fricke) seems to have epilepsy, along with a host of other emotional problems, and lives with Isabel (Silvia Giehle), a paraplegic. It's tricky. One of the first credits on screen was "lip-synched" by, and that's an unfortunate thing. For the duration of the film, the dialogue seems to be entirely looped, and it's BAD looping at that. There are a multitude of cut-away shots, voice-overs, shots with other objects obscuring mouths, you name it. Anything to keep folks from seeing how out-of-sync it was.
  • Big Words: this won the day for me. It's got a wonderfully warm vitality to it that really didn't come through the synopsis that I'd seen when I was selecting my schedule. The narrative is set on the night of Barack Obama's first election, and involves three guys who used to be a part of a hip-hop group before life took them in different directions. Naturally, their day brings them together unexpectedly, but there's so much fun in the lead up to the inevitable meeting. Strong performances and a wonderful script from writer/director Neil Drumming.
  • Fynbos: a tricky one. It's a bit slow at first, but gets under your skin. The film definitely tips its cap to L'Avventura in its examination of what happens when a woman goes missing under very strange circumstances. Richard (Warrick Grier) is trying to sell his home in South Africa to keep himself afloat financially, but something is very wrong with Meryl (Jessica Haines), his wife. It's hard to figure out what's going on in that head of hers. I did find myself wishing that the filmmakers would have done more to keep things in focus, as characters often are out of focus before walking to their mark. I'm not sure what the technical term is, but I'm sure you understand. It's certainly a film that I admire, even if I'm not sure exactly how to pin it down.
The night ended at the Slamdance Opening Night Party, which was a lot of fun. Parties like that are really one of the best parts of my job, and I'm not talking about the free drinks. I really enjoy having the opportunity to talk to filmmakers/journalists/distributors, particularly at a festival like Slamdance. These people are incredibly passionate about what they do and it comes through in spades. Right before I left, I struck up the best conversation with a filmmaker with whom I had a lot in common. I think that's the biggest blessing of an environment like this. Sure, I was there for a practical purpose for my job, but I just made a new friend. 

More later,

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