So these first few months of 2021 have just been covering film festival after (but your girl is not complaining!!!) and I definitely didn’t want to miss the opportunity to give my recap of my first ever Slamdance Film Festival (the quirky, more indie cousin of Sundance) — I’ve been swamped with other festival coverage (currently in the middle of the Pan African Film Festival and the Athena Film Festival and finishing up my Berlinale coverage) so don’t hold it against me 😬.
But lets jump right in…the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival, which ran from February 12 – 25th, was completely virtual this year, but still strove to give attendees access to an excellent lineup of groundbreaking new films while still giving them a front-row seat to witnessing the powerful artist community that Slamdance fosters — and although I didn’t get to check out as much as I wanted to, what I did see showed that they really stuck to their mission!
So here are the highlights/works that really stuck out to me:
From the “Department of Anarchy” block of films/shorts, I made sure to check out “ASMR for White Liberals” — I mean, you had me at the title…and it was less than 10 minutes, but boy was it spot on and funny?!
The Ultimate (by Lou Fescano) by Daniel Jaffe was a darkly comical movie within a movie (which I am a fan of) that had great cast chemistry and a solid screenplay. I really enjoyed the quirkiness of this one.
Each Other by Oskar Weimar was an Australian short about self-discovery. It was a dark modern-day fable that incorporated dance elements…it was creepily good. There was great cinematography from Bernard Winter and the actor, Jack Riley, was amazing. This one was an odd duck, but a very interesting watch and a really good example of why I love short films.
I caught a couple of the other ones, but these are the two that really made an impression.
The very first film I caught at the festival was A Brixton Tale by Darragh Carey, Bertrand Desrochers. This film really gave me a more modern-day “A Bronx Tale” and “Get Out” vibes to start. The film touched on voyerurism, exoticism, misogyny, revenge porn, exploitation and the “media” chasing what story to tell and not really telling the “reality” which is very timely. This one also had a “movie within a movie” which I like. The side story with the best friend was really tragic (but the actor who played Archie, Craige Middleburg, was definitely a scene stealer). As a Black woman, I knew from jump how this story was going to play out. I watched the talk with the filmmaking team after viewing it and I thought the co-direction with a white writer/director and Black executive producer was an interesting dynamic. Overall, even though it wasn’t a new story, it was a solid film nonetheless.
A Family by Jayden Stevens was weird and unsettling, but the unknown/confusing relationship between the characters kinda drew you in and made you want to stay to figure out what the hell was going on. The film was uncomfortable at times and kinda creepy and off-putting and I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be funny. It gave me real “Rent-a-Pal” vibes. 50 minutes in and I was still trying to figure out what was going on and it was so monotone which didn’t really help…but the actor who played the “father” was definitely the highlight for me.
The Sleeping Negro by Skinner Myers was very timely…and a little trippy and a little too on-the-nose at times, but I got the point. The film dealt with race (during the Trump era in particular), what it means to be Black and interracial relationships and it was quite the interesting watch.
Teenage Emotions by Frederic Da was an intimate look at the lives of teenagers and high school life in LA. Its quite the emotional rollercoaster and definitely stirs up a little nostalgia. And the fact that it was shot and felt like a documentary just made it all the more impactful.
My favorite Narrative Feature was Taipei Suicide Story by KEFF. This is the story of a receptionist at a suicide hotel in Taipei who forms a fleeting friendship over the course of one night with a guest who can’t decide if she wants to live or die. It had an interesting concept and I liked the visual/cinematography/editing choices that they made. They definitely didn’t ease you into the subject matter, but I appreciated that. We’re all just lost, lonely people looking for connection…even if temporary. At times quiet and unnerving, this film really challenges you and pulls you into this world and connects you with such relatable and universal characters.
And I can’t forget to mention “Feeling Through,” which is actually on the Oscar Shorts shortlist 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽 — hands down my absolute favorite of the festival. Be sure to check out my review here. You can check out all the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival winners here. I was throughly impressed with the quality, caliber and creativity of the works that I saw (I hate that I didn’t get to check out any of the panels and discussion 😢. But I’m definitely looking forward to next year’s festival and hopefully it’ll be in person. 😉
Did you catch any of this year’s Slamdance Film Festival??? If so, what was your favorite?