AT SUNDANCE: “THEY MAY AS WELL SALUTE AL QAEDA…”
“They may as well salute Al Qaeda,” a guy sitting behind me at the 40 Shades of Blue press screening quite sincerely grumbled after seeing one of the “Independent” mini-trailers that precede all of the screenings here. These short films, which basically serve as cinematic headers for a credit roll of festival sponsors, occupy a strange place in the festival each year. They’re intended to be amusing but innocuous — little film tidbits to reinforce the idea that “You are at a Film Festival!” — but their sheer repetition invariably transforms them into gauche cinematic eyesores by festival’s end.
This year, the grumbles are starting a bit earlier. “Don’t you think there’s something weirdly condescending about these spots?” a journalist friend asked me at one screening today. And then there was the guy with the “Al Qaeda” comment, who prompted a whole row of journalists to burst out laughing.
What are these spots? They’re these cut-out animation pieces by team at Jib Jab in which people in various professions explain why they’re “independent,” and they end with this happy music with lyrics like, “He’s not working for the Man, he’s an independent guy!” The thing is, in the spots I’ve seen so far, “independence” usually equates to incompetence or criminally malicious behavior. The “independent road striper” paints zig-zag lines all over the highway causing cars to crash and fly off the mountain. And in the “independent demolition expert” spot, which prompted the “Al Qaeda” crack, an Afro’d blaxploitation queen demonstrates her “independence” at blowing up buildings, wrecking a suburban home and then accidentally blowing herself up. And again, the music, this time with a 70’s funk arrangement — “She’s not working for the Man, she’s independent!” — after which all the corporate logos appear. To make things perfectly clear, the spots start with letters forming the word “Independent” appearing on screen after which some fade away leaving only the letters forming “Inept.” And who said irony was dead?