Slamdance 2017 Announces Narrative and Doc Competition Slate

Editor, U.S.; Los Angeles, California (@filmbenjamin)
Slamdance 2017 Announces Narrative and Doc Competition Slate

The Slamdance Film Festival is revving up for its 23rd edition in Park City, Utah, running from January 20 through 26. The first titles out of the gate for 2017 are the full lineups for both Narrative and Documentary Feature Competition.

The chill, alternative cousin to the cacophonous behemoth that we know and love as Sundance, Slamdance is touted as the festival "For Filmmaker, By Filmmakers", with competition titles limited to feature directorial debuts with budgets under $1 million. As a festival of discovery and as an earnest community of creatives, Slamdance is hard to beat, acting as the launching pad for filmmakers as eclectic as Christopher Nolan and Lena Dunham, and in more recent years The Dirties' Matt Johnson.

If you've kept up with my writing on ScreenAnarchy than you should recall my absolute enthusiasm for the Slam style, and full disclosure, this year is extra special as I had the honor of being a member of the Narrative Competition programming team. This year's lineup is as rich and diverse as ever before with 8 of the 11 Narrative titles coming from beyond the United States. Three of the films are directed by women, while two more are co-directed. So with that, let's take a minute to talk about some films I love already.

family_poster.jpgShumin Liu's The Family is a domestic epic that does a rare thing in cinema in that it captures the holiness of the everyday. Following an elderly couple as they visit their adult children across the vast and varied landscapes of 21s century China, Liu's revelatory debut is reminiscent of the works of Ozu and Kiarostami, perfectly encapsulating the changing tide of the country, its politics and its people.

Joyce Wong's Wexford Plaza is the bittersweet double portrait of Bettie, a shopping mall security guard, and Danny, the slacker bartender she pines for. Examining apathy, lust and disenfranchisement in a post-recession world, Wong paints a sometimes sad, sometimes silly and always endearing look at the life of millennials. On a similar note, Wong's fellow Canadian Adrian Murray charts the misadventures of Aaron in Withdrawn, a meticulously crafted lo-fi charmer that feels reminiscent of early Linklater. Indeed, with his gangly form, quiet disposition and long hair, Aaron feels like an extra who has stepped directly out of Dazed and Confused. 

Other titles to keep an eye on include Joji Koyama & Tujiko Noriko's beguiling Kuro (pictured above), Cheryl Nichols' somber Southwestern drama Cortez and Jheng-Neng Li's meditative urban-set Aerotropolis.

Meanwhile, on the documentary side of things, the 8 films in competition includes Michael Rubenstone's On The Sly: In Search of the Family Stone, about the infamous and reclusive funk music master. We then have The Modern Jungle, Charles Fairbanks & Saul Kak's look at shamanism in modern Mexico, Patricia Josefine Marchar's The Children Send Their Regards, which follows adult victims of abuse in the Catholic church, as well as Supergirl, a look at an 11-year old body buidler who also happens to be Orthodox Jewish.

For a full breakdown of both line-ups, keep reading, and in the coming weeks you can be sure we'll be ramping up for full coverage of the 2017 Slamdance Film Festival, happening January 20 - 26 at Treasure Mountain Inn, Park City, Utah -- And for those of you who will be attending, I hope to see you in person so we that may celebrate these exciting and fresh voices in cinema together!


(Taiwan) World Premiere
Director & Screenwriter: Jheng-Neng LI
Allen invested everything into a beautiful home to flip for profit only to have it languish on the market, turning his daily life into a haze of financial pressures and an erosion of reality.
Cast: Chia-Lun Yang, Jui-Tzu Liu, Chong-Cyuan Huang, Chin-Yu Lin, Sih-Mei Liou, Ting-Li Bao, Chieh-Wen Deng, Zaw Lin Htwe

Beat Beat Heart
(Germany) North American Premiere
Director & Screenwriter: Luise Brinkmann
Daydreaming her way out of a broken heart, Kerstin's denial as well as her days are shaken up with the arrival of her mother, dealing with her own relationship's demise.
Cast: Lana Cooper, Saskia Vester, Till Wonka, Aleksandar Radenkovic, Christin Nichols, Jörg Bundschuh
Caroline Erikson

Director: Cheryl Nichols; Screenwriter(s): Arron Shiver, Cheryl Nichols
Struggling musician Jesse tracks down his ex Anne in a small town in New Mexico, and is forced to face the decisions of his past as present day consequences set in.
Cast: Arron Shiver, Cheryl Nichols, Drago Sumonja, Judith Ivey, Jackson Shiver, Cassidy Freeman, Kristian Moore, Dylan Kenin

Dave Made a Maze
(USA) World Premiere
Director: Bill Watterson; Screenwriter(s): Steven Sears, Bill Watterson
Dave builds a fort in his living room and ends up trapped inside by fantastical pitfalls, booby traps and creatures, leaving his girlfriend Annie to head up the eccentric rescue team to go in after him.
Cast: Nick Thune, Meera Rohit Kumbhani, Adam Busch, James Urbaniak, Stephanie Allynne, Kirsten Vangsness, Scott Krinsky, John Hennigan

Dim the Fluorescents
(Canada) World Premiere
Director: Daniel Warth; Screenwriter(s): Miles Barstead, Daniel Warth  
A struggling actress and an aspiring playwright funnel their uninhibited passion into the only paying work they can find: role-playing demonstrations for corporate seminars.
Cast: Claire Armstrong, Naomi Skwarna, Andreana Callegarini-Gradzik, Brendan Hobin, Clare McConnell, Todd Graham, Hannan Younis, Thom Gill

The Family
(China, Australia) US Premiere
Director & Screenwriter: Shumin Liu
Liu and Deng are a couple in their 70s who set off to visit their adult children in three faraway cities, in an immersive exploration of family dynamics and daily life.
Cast: Shoufang Deng, Lijie Liu, Xiaomin Liu, Jiangsheng Jiang, Erya Chen, Xujun Liu, Liqin Huang, Zepeng Liao

Kate Can't Swim
(USA) World Premiere
Director: Josh Helman; Screenwriter(s): Jennifer Allcott, Josh Helman
When Kate's best friend Em returns from abroad with a surprising new lover, they embark on a reunion vacation with their partners, but the peaceful getaway quickly becomes emotionally complicated.
Cast: Celeste Arias, Grayson Dejesus, Jennifer Allcott, Josh Helman

(France, UK, Germany, Luxembourg) World Premiere
Director(s) & Screenwriter(s): Joji Koyama, Tujiko Noriko
A Japanese woman living in Paris tends to her paraplegic lover, passing time by recounting a story about the time they once spent together in Japan, rich with anecdotes, myths and an unexpected dark turn.
Cast: Tujiko Noriko, Jackie

Weather House
(Germany) World Premiere
Director(s): Frauke Havemann; Co-Director: Eric Schefter; Screenwriter: Mark Johnson Set in an unspecific time of extreme climate change, an isolated group of disoriented characters develop their own strange belief systems and engage in absurd activities to process their dilemma.
Cast: Inga Dietrich, Charles McDaniels, Erik Hansen, Sabine Hertling, Jack Rath

Wexford Plaza
(Canada) North American Premiere
Director & Screenwriter: Joyce Wong
Betty is a lonely strip mall security guard, and an unexpected moment with charming deadbeat Danny ends up setting off the unraveling of both their lives.
Cast: Reid Asselstine, Darrel Gamotin, Francis Melling, Ellie Posadas

(Canada) World Premiere
Director: Adrian Murray; Screenwriter(s): Adrian Murray, Marcus Sullivan, Dean Tardioli
Living in a basement he can't afford, Aaron spends his days doing drum solos and talking his way out of paying for utilities, until he finds a lost credit card and devises a plan to defraud its owner.
Cast: Aaron Keogh, Molly Reisman, Dean Tardioli, Adrian Murray, Greg Wasylyszn, Kelly Paoli, Hallie Burt, Earl Oliveros


Bogalusa Charm
(USA) World Premiere
Director: Stephen Richardson; Screenwriter: Jennifer Harrington
Through the lens of an anachronistic charm school that has existed for almost three decades in rural Louisiana, we explore a town confronted with contemporary issues of class and race.

The Children Send Their Regards
(Austria) World Premiere
Director: Patricia Josefine Marchart; Screenwriter(s): Jakob Purkarthofer, Sepp Rothwangl, Patricia Josefine Marchart
Adult victims of physical abuse by clergy members in Austria revisit the sites of their childhood trauma and make public their stories to shed light into one of the greatest crimes of the post-war period.
Cast: Georg Prader, Jo Auer, Inge Killmeyer, Josef Schörkmayr, Klaus Oberndorfer, Paula Neulinger, Walo Nowak, Anita Ossinger, Klaus Fluch, Sepp Rothwangl

Hotel Coolgardie
Director: Pete Gleeson
Somewhere between Australia's most isolated city and it's largest gold pit lies Coolgardie, where the arrival every three months of a new pair of foreign female backpackers to work the only bar in town is keenly anticipated by the town's hot-blooded males.

The Modern Jungle
(Mexico/USA) North American Premiere
Director(s) & Screenwriter(s): Charles Fairbanks, Saul Kak
A story of globalization filtered through the fever dream of a Mexican shaman, this is an intimate portrait of Zoque culture, commodity fetish, and the predicament of documentary cinema.
Cast: Juan Juarez Rodriguez, Carmen Echevarría Lopez

On The Sly: In Search of the Family Stone
(USA) World Premiere
Director & Screenwriter: Michael Rubenstone
Director and super-fan Michael Rubenstone sets out in search of long-time reclusive funk legend, Sly Stone. Along the way, he meets with some success, but finds countless more failures in trying to capture a man who refuses to be contained.
Cast: Michael Rubenstone, Cornel West, Bobby Womack, Clive Davis, Dick Cavett, Paul Shaffer, David Kapralik, Freddy Stone

Strad Style
(USA) World Premiere
Director: Stefan Avalos
A rural Ohio eccentric with an obsession for 'Stradivari' convinces a famous European concert violinist that he can make a copy of one of the most famous and valuable violins in the world. Fighting time, poverty, and most of all - himself - Danny Houck puts everything on the line for one shot at glory.
Cast: Daniel Houck, Razvan Stoica, David Campbell, Rodger Stearns, Mary Houck

Director: Jessie Auritt
Naomi seems like a typical 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl; watching her compete to lift almost three times her bodyweight tells a different story.

Who is Arthur Chu?
(USA) World Premiere
Director(s) & Screenwriter(s): Scott Drucker, Yu Gu
Arthur Chu, eleven time Jeopardy! winner turned internet iconoclast, battles dark forces as a blogger and cultural pundit ultimately realizing that to create positive change in the world he must first heal his own wounds.

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Adrian Murrayaerotropolischeryl nicholscortezJheng-Neng Lijoji koyamajoyce wongkuroshumin liuslamdanceslamdance film festivalthe familyTujiko Nurikowexford plazewithdrawn

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