By Sean Boelman
The hustle and bustle in Park City is finally coming to a close as the two concurrent film festivals, Slamdance and Sundance, have wrapped up their 2020 editions. Both festivals were home to plenty of great films, some of which came out of the fest with distribution deals and many of which are still looking for homes to bring them out into the public.
Although there were also some great films to have shown at Slamdance and Sundance that had already debuted elsewhere (Pablo Larraín’s Ema is arguably the single best film to have shown in Park City), those films don’t appear on this list. Instead, this is the top four films that held their premieres at the Slamdance Film Festival or Sundance Film Festival.
4. Summer White
A Mexican coming-of-age tale written and directed by Rodrigo Ruiz Patterson, Summer White is a slow burn, but it is an effective one at that. Drawing the viewer into the world of the protagonist, Patterson is able to create a thoroughly immersive environment that allows the film to be absolutely shocking at times. Although the story is a tad predictable, the themes which Patterson explores are interesting enough to make the film stand out.
3. Acasa, My Home
A verite-style documentary following a Romanian family as they are displaced from their longtime home, Acasa, My Home may not be the most urgent documentary to play at this year’s festivals, but it is certainly one of the most affecting. Thanks to the film’s largely human-oriented approach, the film is packed with emotion. Even though some of the things that happen may not seem like they would be particularly cinematic on paper, they make for a fascinating documentary nevertheless.
Although it was met with mixed reviews by many, Jumbo earns a spot high on this list thanks to its charm and wit. While it is true that the film follows the beats of the genre to the tee, writer-director Zoé Wittock brings a unique visual style to the film that is undeniably impressive. Containing some absolutely gorgeous cinematography, and a performance from Noémie Merlant that is not to be missed, this is the type of quirky indie film that these festivals are meant to discover.
1. Jasper Mall
However surprising it may be, a documentary about a dying mall of all things was one of the best films to play at either festival, and ultimately the best film to make its premiere in Park City. Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb’s fly-on-the-wall Jasper Mall may have a simple set-up, but it uses it in an extremely interesting way to deliver commentary on the American economy. This thought-provoking documentary absolutely demands to be seen, and immediately.
The Slamdance Film Festival ran January 23-30 in Park City, UT and the Sundance Film Festival ran January 24 through February 2 in Park City, UT.
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