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Sundance Dispatch 2: Dina, Quest, My Happy Family

My Happy Family

Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles’ Dina is incredibly hard to write about without exposing my underlying biases. Shot by DP Adam Uhl in almost entirely rigorously locked-down static 1.66 (!), Dina tracks the uneasily evolving relationship between its title subject and fiance Scott in the months up to and after their wedding. (She’s the main subject, he the supporting player: the end credits cutely add his name to the title.) Both are, by their own admission and diagnosis, somewhere on the spectrum — where precisely is unclear, as it so often is — and in something like love. The major issue, which becomes increasingly squirm-inducing as the film goes on, is that Dina’s a sexually experienced lady for whom regularly expressed physical affection and…  Read more

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Sundance Notes: On Political Action in Park City

Women's March on Main, Park City Utah. (photo Loren Eiferman)

Sundance coincides with Presidential inaugurations, and I have indelible memories of twice racing to find a cozy Main Street bar in order to watch the live television broadcast of Barack Obama’s inauguration and speech. All of us in the bar, strangers but inspirited fellow citizens, were glued to every minute. Saturday, sitting in an idling car outside the Park City Marriott, I happened to catch Trump’s speech over the car radio as my partner was inside picking up our press credentials. Something about “carnage.” Ho-hum. Hyperbole and bombast may be the new normal, but this act grows old fast. Films at festivals routinely wave flags on behalf of progressive causes, but festivals themselves rarely do the same. Too many sponsors…  Read more

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Sundance Notes: The Nile Hilton Incident

Fares Fares and Hania Amar in Tarik Saleh’s The Nile Hilton Incident

Twice in a row the first film I’ve seen at Sundance is so brilliant, so accomplished that I start Sundance on a mountain high — and it’s not the thin air. I had to miss 2016 Sundance, but two years ago it was Tom Hardy in Steven Knight’s Locke, a tour de force of a one-hander that’s nonetheless a nail-biter — Hardy in close-up the entire film, speeding through the night in his car, his life crumbling in real time with each harrowing Bluetooth call. You learn a lot about concrete pours and the consequences of poor choices. But I digress. This year my Sundance virginity was taken by Tarik Saleh’s The Nile Hilton Incident in the World Cinema Dramatic…  Read more

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Sundance Dispatch 1: Trump, Person to Person

Person to Person

For a few weeks now I’ve been preemptively writing bad ledes for Sundance write-ups/reviews in my head. Such as: “In the age of Trump, do independent films matter? Yes — now perhaps more than ever.” “Can independent film lead the resistance? It can, and it must.” “The spectacle of the Sundance Film Festival sits strangely against the much more lavish pageantry of the Trump inauguration, let me frame every single write-up through this lens.” “Can documentaries make an impact in the post-truth era?” And so on and so on, quite satisfactorily, with the illusion of topicality thinly sustained. If you have Facebook friends who make films, especially documentarians, you’ve already probably been reading months of circular/self-serving rhetoric about leading the…  Read more

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These Uncomfortably Exciting Times

A VR viewer at the 2016 edition of Sundance New Frontier (Photo by Kelsey Doyle)

I’m an eye. A mechanical eye. I, the machine, show you a world the way only I can see it. I free myself for today and forever from human immobility. I approach and pull away from objects. […] I creep under them. I move alongside a running horse’s mouth. I fall and rise with the falling and rising bodies. This is I, the machine, maneuvering in the chaotic movements, recording one movement after another in the most complex combinations. Freed from the boundaries of time and space, I co-ordinate any and all points of the universe, wherever I want them to be. My way leads towards the creation of a fresh perception of the world. Thus I explain in a…  Read more

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The Sundance Question: What Specific Challenge of Communication Has Your Film Faced?

Photo: Kelsey Doyle

Each year Filmmaker asks all the incoming feature directors at Sundance one question. (To see past years’ questions and responses, click here.) This year, our question involves an issue cutting across all the political drama of the last year: communication. How do we really communicate to one another, to converse despite our differences? How do we step outside of our echo chambers so we’re not just trading slogans among our friends? On a filmmaking level, how do we make sure that problems of communication don’t cripple our visions or limit their reach? This year’s question: During its development, production or eventual distribution, what specific challenge of communication did, or will your film, face? How did you deal with it, or how are you…  Read more

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Sundance: Are Trump Think Pieces Helpful?

An Inconvenient Sequel

I write this a few hours before I’ll be hopping on a plane and heading to quaint and quiet Park City, Utah, where I’ll be covering the 2017 Sundance Film Festival for Filmmaker Magazine and surviving on a diet of tuna sandwiches I buy from 7/11 in-between screenings while, it goes without saying, hating myself. I’m lucky to not have a specific beat or set of overt marching orders for what to cover during the festivals. Sweet freedom. I don’t plan to just review films, nor do I plan to spend too much energy covering the “business of the festival” (which usually is a euphemism for aiding publicists and sales agents in their attempt to wring the maximum amount of money…  Read more

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Pink Skies and Poetic Artifacts: DP Linus Sandgren on La La Land

Early in La La Land, Emma Stone’s aspiring actress rises from a restaurant conversation about the unpleasantness of contemporary moviegoing and sprints to the Rialto Theatre to take in Rebel Without a Cause with Ryan Gosling’s intractably traditionalist jazz pianist. The burst of exuberance doesn’t last. The Rialto later closes down and as Gosling waxes poetic about jazz’s declining cultural relevance you begin to feel that for La La Land jazz is just a surrogate for the state of film itself. La La Land is an ode to the magic of movies – at a time when going to the movies has rarely felt less magical. But I’m not going to prattle on with another “Do Movies Still Matters” diatribe. I can…  Read more

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Interviews

Landline

Sundance 2017: Five Questions with Landline Director Gillian Robespierre

Everything changed for Gillian Robespierre after Sundance. In 2014 she arrived at the festival with her debut feature, Obvious Child, a personal, provocative, NYC-set comedy starring Jenny Slate. Before the festival even wrapped, she had found an enviable distributor for the film in A24. Obvious Child would…  Read more

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on Jan 19, 2017

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