It is the time of year for a gritty film festival taking place in Park City, Utah. The big news coming out of that town currently is the Sundance Film Festival. However, running concurrently is a festival with a much different vibe—Slamdance. Slamdance has been an important step along the way for various filmmakers, including Christopher Nolan, Anthony and Joe Russo, Joon-ho Bong, and Rian Johnson. The films at Slamdance are smaller and even more independent than at Sundance. That independence means that more filmmakers find more ways to tell more stories. The festival has an online version that can be accessed beginning January 23. Go to https://slamdance.com/festival/ to see how you can watch. Here’s a sampling of some of the films showing.
Onlookers, from director Kimi Takesue, is a cultural immersive experience of travel and tourism. Takesue grew up in Hawaii, where he saw tourists and the way they did or did not interact with the local culture. Here he takes his camera to Laos, where he is a tourist. The film shows various scenes that may show the natural beauty, or local culture, or tourists doing what tourists do. The idea is to allow viewers to consider what it means to go somewhere that is foreign to us. How do we look at the local people and customs, Or are they just background to our personal experiences? I have to admit I saw myself in some of the tourists, especially in one scene in which a group of tourists come to a beautiful small temple, each pausing long enough to take a quick photo before they move on to whatever may be next. The film is presented without dialogue or explanation of what we are witnessing. We simply get a few moments to take it all in. Onlookers is playing in the Breakout section.
From Poland comes Silent Love, directed by Marek Kozakiewicz. This documentary follows Aga, who has left Germany and her partner Maja, to return to Poland to raise her teenage brother Miłosz. Through various interviews, Aga must make the case that she can care for her brother, while hiding the fact that she is in a same-sex relationship. She needs the support of Maja, but can Maja leave her world in Germany to join Aga and Miłosz in Poland? The film shows some of the struggles that Aga and Miłosz face as they develop a new relationship. It is a very awkward age for Miłosz, who is also coming to terms with his mother’s death. Silent Love is part of the documentary feature section.
Law Chen directs Starring Jerry as Himself. This is an entertaining reenactment of a senior being victimized by a telephone scam. Jerry Hsu was victimized out of his life savings of close to a million dollars. He came to the US from China in the ‘70s and worked for forty years. He didn’t spend a lot of money (but his ex-wife did), so he has a sizable amount saved. Then he received a phone call from the Shanghai police to tell him he was the target of an investigation for money laundering. To save himself, he cooperated fully with the investigation, which was really two con men who convinced him little by little to sell his investments and send them the money. The film is Jerry’s family’s way of sharingl the story as a way to show just how this can happen. While we may know all through the film that this is a scam, the believability of the con is just like what many people (especially seniors living alone) encounter. Starring Jerry as Himself is also in the documentary feature section.