By Daniel Lima and Sean Boelman
Slamdance has long been known as the “indie-r cousin” of Sundance, as it happens at the same time as the higher-profile festival in its mountain home of Park City, Utah. However, Slamdance has made a name for itself as a platform for up-and-coming filmmakers from around the world to showcase their edgy, experimental, and — most of all — independent visions.
We at disappointment media covered the 2024 edition of Slamdance remotely. Here are a few of the films we saw in the festival lineup and our thoughts on them:
Reviews by Daniel Lima
Whoever thought there was enough here to sustain one hundred and thirty minutes of screentime should be criminally prosecuted. Anna’s Feelings is about a factory worker in a small Russian town who begins to hear aliens speaking to her, disrupting the lives of her entire family. This is a formulaic indie dramedy, predictable to the point of parody, shuffling along at such a laborious pace that one is fooled into expecting some subversion or deeper meaning. There is none. It's a shame to see Anna Mikhalkova’s great performance so wasted.
Darla in Space
There are two ways a film about a woman who discovers a kombucha mother that grants transcendental orgasms can go: absolutely bonkers in embracing a premise so strange or disappointingly milquetoast as it slowly reveals that the filmmakers only thought as far as that premise. Darla in Space, unfortunately, is the latter, content with coasting on the charms of the lead actress and the voice performance of the mother without ever actually coalescing into being actually about anything. That lack of vision is perfectly exemplified by the lazy AI-generated images meant to capture how those orgasms feel.
Hell of SE
I would be lying if I said I knew, at any point, what the hell was going on in Hell of SE. As far as I can tell, it is a meandering, opaque portrait of youthful angst and ennui. Yet it’s hard to find fault in director Sawa Kawakami’s deliberately experimental style, actively challenging not only the audience but also her own capabilities. The disaffected performances, shooting the film on formats including MiniDV and the Nintendo 3DS, it’s genuinely exciting to see a filmmaker who actively tries to make such an abrasive feature debut — even if it is impossible to decipher.
Reviews by Sean Boelman
Slamdance’s documentaries tend to be much more polished than the festival’s narrative features, and the closing night selection of the festival, Vanessa Hope’s Invisible Nation, is a very sleekly directed film. Although the documentary is primarily about the election and term of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, it uses this as a starting point to ask many big questions. In many ways, the film almost works better as an exploration of the overall merits of democratic government than a biography of this particular political figure, but Hope mostly does a great job of tying together the story with its historical background and broader implications.
The interesting thing about Petro is that there’s another documentary about the same election, from the side of another candidate, playing at the *other* Park City festival. Of course, it’s hard not to compare the two, but they’re on surprisingly equal ground. This portrait of Colombian President Gustavo Petro (spoiler alert, he was the victor) is a mostly straightforward biographical documentary. With a strong mix of archive footage, talking head interviews, and fly-on-the-wall footage — with an astounding level of access to Petro himself — the documentary offers a mostly compelling look at the political landscape of Colombia. Unfortunately, it fails to connect this to the big picture in a way that makes it feel like essential viewing.
The 2024 Slamdance Film Festival ran January 19-25 in-person in Park City, UT and online from January 22-28.
The Snake Hole
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