Here are more films that are playing at Slamdance Film Festival. You can see these and others at https://slamdance.com/festival.
Sweetheart Deal, directed by Elisa Levine and Gabriel Miller, is one of those documentaries that turns into something entirely different than it sets out to be. The film focuses on four sex workers in Seattle and a man who goes into Aurora Avenue area where they work to provide a safe place for them to come and rest, eat, or kick their drug habits. The women face danger in their work. They are all also involved with drugs that are often the reason for them doing this work, but also make their lives tolerable. “Eliot”, seems to be a wonderful friend. When one of the women is kidnapped and escapes, he helps her find the place she was, so she can take the information to the police. But the last third of the film has such an amazing revelation (both the to the audience and to the women) about “Eliot” that it takes the film in a new direction. The betrayal we discover just adds to the many ways that these women are abused and debased. Although it is a very dark topic, there are signs of hope in the end.
In case you think Slamdance is only about dark movies, let me tell you about Love Dump, directed by Jason Avezzano. This work was created by Leila Gorstein and Jesse Kendall, when they worked together in an improv theater. It is a parody of Hallmark romcoms. Jessica Dump runs a vintage garbage store. One day in the park, she is trampled by Todd Barkley, a lawyer who defends dogs. Sparks fly immediately, but then fifteen years pass. Through various misadventures, the two struggle to find each other again, hitting all the romcom beats you expect to find. The humor is broadly over-the-top as one might expect from its improv background.
One of the finds of the festival, from my perspective, is OKAY! (The ASD Band Film), directed by Mark Bone. Slamdance has sections of both features and shorts that they label “Unstoppable”, which focuses on overcoming the obstacles of life. OKAY! is the story of a band made up of four musicians on the autism spectrum. Autism has become a subject of entertainment in recent years. (E.g., The Big Bang Theory, Atypical, As We See It, and Extraordinary Attorney Woo.) Perhaps it is time to see those with autism in reality. A program helping people with autism learn social skills brought together these four gifted musicians. We may think that people with autism cannot connect to other people, but that is not what we see here. They are working on making their first album, and writing songs that reflect their lives, and collaborating to make each song something special. We meet their families, as well as some other people with autism who have greater struggles than these. One of the songs they perform has a line that is a wonderful statement of the thesis of the film: We’re different, but not less.