A few more films as I wind down my coverage of Slamdance Film Festival. It has been a wonderful experience, as most film festivals are.
In Jim Bernfield’s documentary feature Me to Play, Dan Moran and Chris Jones, two actors with Parkinson’s Disease, set out to perform Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. Jones describes the project at one point as “two actors with diminishing physical abilities playing two characters with diminishing physical abilities trying to get through the last stages of their lives.” The film is built around the five weeks of rehearsal leading up to the single performance. Along the way the two actors share the ways the affliction has changed their lives. For actors, their bodies and voices are essential not only to their profession, but to their sense of who they are. This film serves well as a look into the kinds of struggles people face with debilitating diseases, and the bits of hope they can find along the way.
Race and rage are the focus of The Sleeping Negro, directed by Skinner Myers. In a frequently surreal film, a young black man is trying to get by in the world, but the rage he carries over the racist system leads him to push away the people closest to him. He argues about racism with both a black friend and his white fiancée, both of whom don’t think racism is as bad as he claims. In many ways, the rage is directed at himself. He is conflicted to be trying to find success in a world that is racially unjust and wanting nothing to do with it. The film serves as an introduction to some of the ways the African-American experience can wear on the emotional and psychological well-being of people.
After America, directed by Jake Yuzna, grew out of a project involving criminal justice de-escalation workers in Minneapolis. They used theater workshop techniques to portray their struggles with their real-life pressures. There are a series of different storylines, some of which converge briefly. The film seems to be going off in several directions at once, making it a bit chaotic. Some of the stories focus on relationships, connections, loneliness, brokenness, feelings of uselessness. Some bits have a surreal feel to them, especially when much of the film takes place in an empty shopping mall. There are other visual shots that show the emptiness that the characters feel they are living in.