The 19th annual Slamdance Film Festival, which runs in Park City January 18-24, boasts expanded narrative and documentary lineups and counts Christopher Nolan, Benh Zeitlin and Oren Peli as alums. So who might this year’s Slamdance heroes be? Below, five diverse titles to seek out at Slamdance 2013.
“Ghost Team One”: Referencing “The Exorcist,” “Paranormal Activity” and an infamous shot from “The Silence of the Lambs,” Scott Rutherford and Ben Peyser’s batshit skewering of the found-footage horror genre manages to be hilariously offensive and ludicrously endearing. Brad and Sergio are two horny stoners who discover an ex-prostitute poltergeist slinking around their man cave. With the help of Fernanda, a hottie with a sixth sense who may be more malevolent than meets the eye, the duo set out to document their house’s lewdly spooky goings-on. Masturbation, paranormal sex-tivity, exploding heads and oh-no-they-didn’t Asian parodies (to rival Mickey Rooney in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”) ensue.
“Bible Quiz”: 17-year-old Mikayla is one of three members on her high school’s Bible Quiz team. The group memorizes entire books from the Bible — cramming over 2,000 verses of Scripture — and competes around the country against other dedicated teenagers with the same flare for unusual extracurricular activity. Yet we discover that Mikayla, who classifies herself as “not evangelical,” isn’t solely motivated by the prospect of winning or even love for Jesus, but by a much more common desire. She has a crush on the Bible Quiz team captain — tall, handsome and staunchly moral JP. Nicole Teeny’s documentary about young love and the role religion can play in confusing budding romantic feelings is simple, unbiased and ultimately quite moving.
The Dirties”: Matthew Johnson directs, co-writes and stars in this queasy yet dead-on depiction of two high-school film nerds (Johnson and Owen Williams), who slowly hatch a plan to exact brutal — and videotaped — revenge on their tormenters, a vicious group of popular jocks they call “The Dirties.” Johnson and Williams give two of the most believable, strangely sympathetic performances in recent memory, speaking in the language of manic movie soundbites and endless references to Tarantino, Scorsese and the Coen brothers. Despite its uncomfortably topical subject material, this deceptively simple film manages to be hilarious, horrific and even meta (in the way that cine-nerds of all ages love), and will likely be one of the best films to land at Park City this January.
“Diamond on Vinyl”: Husky-voiced, sleepy-eyed Sonja Kinski (daughter of Nastassja, granddaughter of Klaus) stars alongside Brian McGuire in this kinky, unsettling portrait of sound-recording fetishists rambling around the wilds of a bright white Los Angeles. When Henry (McGuire) repels his fiancée after recording them having sex, he meets Charlie (Kinski), an aimless soul looking for “adventures,” as she puts it, and willing to indulge his peculiarities. J. R. Hughto’s film, which moves from one sparsely decorated room to another, with patches of palm tree-lined streets in between, recalls the stripped-down aesthetic of Steven Soderbergh, and plays with the nature of relationships, rehearsal and replication in alluring ways.
“Hank and Asha”: James E. Duff’s infectiously sincere love story centers on Asha (Mahira Kakkar), an Indian film student studying in Prague, and Hank (Andrew Pastides), an emerging filmmaker living in New York, paying his dues as a gofer on a reality TV shoot. When Asha contacts Hank about his ballroom-dancing film, which she saw at a Czech film festival, they strike up a friendship, sending each other creative video messages. The relationship quickly turns into something more, and the two are faced with the great “What Next” question — are some romances better left at a distance? Duff doesn’t force any answers, instead presenting a quiet, thoughtful portrait of love caught in the pull between hyper-connectivity and loneliness.