Slamdance 2013: Films, Highlights and Everything in Between

Slamdance wrapped up  its 19th annual film festival last week. Here’s a recap of the festival.

Shorts: If there is any take away from the shorts program, other than the fantastic films, it’s the fantastic filmmakers.

Every one of these shorts was deserving of an award but in the end I am Tom Moody took the Jury Award for Animation, ROTKOP directed by Jan Roosens received the Jury Award for Short Film and The Birdman by Jessie Auritt took the Jury Award for Short Doc. In other exciting news two Rooftop alum received special mention for their films. Jonathan Langager received a special mention for Josephine and the Roach, and Kris Avedisian also received a special mention for Donald Cried.

Features: Out of the thousands of submissions received this year, 22 feature films were in competition – ten documentary features, and twelve narrative features.

Documentaries: This year’s narrative and documentary features included some of the most original films. In staying true to it’s name Slamdance is in fact a film festival for filmmakers by filmmakers. These are some of the most unique, and original independent films. The plots and story may be different but the constant commonality that they have is heart. By meeting the filmmakers and watching the films, there is a sense of  how much these films meant to those who made them.

Bible Quiz by director Nicole Teeny which took home the Jury Prize for Documentary Feature. It’s centered around Mikayla, a normal teenage girl with a crush. Her crush just happens to be the captain of her Bible Quiz team. Also in the documentary category is Audience Award winner for documentary My Name Is Faith. A film by Jason Baker, Jorge Torres-Torres and Tiffany Sudela-Junker tackles the harsh reality of children suffering  from PTSD and Reactive Attachment disorder. Other great documentaries to mention are Where I Am a documentary by Pamela Drynan about Gay American writer Robert Drake and his journey back to Sligo, Ireland where he was the victim of a hate crime,and Without Shepherds by Cary McClelland and Imran Babur. A documentary about six different people struggling and hoping for a better tomorrow for Pakistan.

Narrative Features: In the narrative features competition we saw some of the most unique and original films to date. Fynbos, a film by Harry Patramanis which took home the Kodak Cinematography Award, was shot in the Western Cape of South Africa in a remote glass house. The film centers around a man and his wife, as he attempts to sell the home to escape bankruptcy. Joy de V. a film written and directed by Nadia Szold. Nadia introduces us to Roman, a con-artist from New York. On the same day he learns his long con, collecting government disability is going to end, his wife Joy who is also seven months pregnant goes missing. We start from there and follow Roman as he navigates his way through New York, while he searching for his wife and attempts to prove to the government that he is in fact insane. The film received a special mention by the Grand Jury  for narrative film on awards night. Aside from the amazing dramas, there were some great comedies in this years line up.

Ghost Team One directed by Scott Rutherford and Ben Peyser. In Ghost Team One, two best friends and roommates learn that their house is haunted. It also just so happens that these two guys are wimps and want nothing to do with ghosts. Unfortunately, the woman who is the object of their affection is obsessed with ghosts. As a result, hilarity ensues as these three with some great supporting character attempt to uncover the origin of their ghost.

He’s Way More Famous Than You, stars Halley Feiffer as herself. Over the course of a day she loses her boyfriend, her agent, and her career. Halley who in addition to being an alcoholic also lives in denial. Instead of cleaning herself up and getting sober, she dives deeper into the sea of denial. She decides to move forward with the script she was writing with her boyfriend, and enlists her brother (played by co-writer Ryan Spahn) to star as her on-screen boyfriend; and his partner (played by director Michael Urie) to direct the film. Halley does all of this while trying to find a real A list star to be in her film.

Hank and Asha, which took home the audience award for best feature narrative. Is a new love story for the digital age. Asha comes across Hanks documentary film, and decides to respond to it via a video message. Hank then responds to her video and they in turn become digital age pen pals.

The Jury Award Winner for Feature Narrative was The Dirties. The film is Matt Johnson first feature, the film centers around two best friend Matt and Owen who are bullied day after day by a group they refer to as the dirties. Their only real escape is movies. They constantly watch, quote, and reenact their favorite films. When their student film premiere doesn’t go as they planned Matt decides to  approach the film in a new way, blurring the lines of fiction and reality.

Events: This year Slamdance saw a first: two locations. In addition to the Treasure Mountain Inn, Slamdance added a second location for its receptions. Slamdance added The Public House for its receptions, which turned out to be a perfect fit. The events ranged from filmmaker’s parties’, to a coffee talk with none other than Ted Hope. Mr. Hope was a perfect addition to Slamdance. His coffee talk gave both new and veteran filmmakers great insight into the world of independent filmmaking and producing.

The Public House also held some amazing parties, complete with shaving stations, a shoe shiner, and a photo booth!

If Slamdance 19th year is any indication of what’s in store for the future of Slamdance, the festival will be around for many years to come.