More from Slamdance, the film festival “By Filmmakers, For Filmmakers” currently taking place in Park City, Utah, down the street from the more well known Sundance Film Festival.
Is Falun Gong a peaceful religion or a dangerous cult? The Chinese government would like us to believe the latter. Ask No Questions, from Jason Loftus and Eric Pedicelli, is a documentary that looks at a 2001 event of self-immolation by Falun Gong members in Tiananmen Square. The Chinese government used that event to crack down the group, and to show the world that they were not persecuting religion, but stopping a dangerous cult. However, Jason Loftus, himself a Falun Gong practitioner who has protested Chinese oppression of the group, has made this film to question what really happened that day. The result is a believable conspiracy theory that it was staged by the government. The film includes interviews with a CNN journalist who was there that day; a Chinese TV producer who was arrested for being involved in Falun Gong, sent to reeducation facilities and labor camp; and others who question what happened and how well it played into the government’s agenda. Now, years after the event, some are again questioning China’s opposition to the group. But perhaps the damage has already been done.
Tahara, directed by Olivia Peace, is a story to teen angst. Following the suicide of a Hebrew school classmate, a group of teens are at synagogue to talk about it. They are all rather out of their depth, but especially Hannah, who is shallow and self-absorbed. Her main focus is her lust for Tristan. Hannah’s best friend, Carrie, is quiet and uncomfortable. But when in the women’s lounge Hannah wants to know if she’s a good kisser, the two girls share a kiss. It means far more to Carrie than it does to Hannah. In and out of the group grief session, the two girls struggle with real and imagined feelings that may tear them apart.
Ennui seems to be the driving force for the characters in Tapeworm. Set in Winnipeg, it follows a group of loosely connected people as they suffer through their meaningless lives. There is a hypochondriac, a pathetic stand up comedian, a video game player who lives with his mother, a pair of stoners. None of them are at all interesting or call to us to empathize. Promotional comments about the film refer to it as a “cringe comedy” or an “anti-comedy”. You might think that this is an opportunity for an exploration of pathos. Nope.