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Sundance #4: Summertime and This is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection

Summertime by Carlos Lopez Estrada (Photo by John Schmidt courtesy Sundance Institute)

Leaving Art House Convergence, I met up with some good folks from New Orleans (where I lived for three years), who were generously sharing their condo with me. We all got dropped off at the festival headquarters in Park City on “Day One” of the festival and headed in to pick up passes, though none of us walked away with one on Thursday. Industry passes issued through the Press & Inclusion Office program couldn’t be picked up until Friday, my housemates learned, while I spent my time in the line at the press office. On-site credential applications are subject to a mandatory 24-hour wait time and the press office was already over their allotment, I was sternly warned, so I…  Read more

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Sundance 2020 Dispatch 3: Some Kind of Heaven, Black Bear, The Fight

Aubrey Plaza and Christopher Abbott appear in Black Bear (Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

The Villages—a planned retirement community approximately 130,00 strong in Florida—has, its happiest residents say, "everything": an orthopedic clinic, karate classes, a bank, etc. There's overlap here with limited American ideas about what, exactly, the Good Life might look like as cruelly/accurately imagined in Alexander Payne's Downsizing, whose community for the shrunk-down to live out the rest of their lives is a strip mall adjacent to character-less suburban sprawl. Lance Oppenheim's Some Kind of Heaven, which explores The Villages through three subjects, isn't here to either celebrate or roast a community established, as its founder explains in archival footage, to suggest a kind of eternal '50s, boomer culture perpetuating itself in endless pallid copies of a fundamental unreality: town squares, movie theaters, clean…  Read more

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“You Might Think it’s a Fun Work About Pizza, But It’s Really a Meditation on Mortality and Gentrification”: Director David Shapiro on his Sundance Premiering Doc Series, Untitled Pizza Movie

Untitled Pizza Movie

Before there was the no-budget Best Buy scam (scoring equipment by cycling through 30-day return policies) there was the Crazy Eddy scam — same deal, except that instead of the corporate anonymity of Best Buy’s Death Star big box there was a scrappy local circuit embodied by a screaming man feigning mental illness on late-night television. (“These prices are insane!!!!”) And before there was Eater, Grub Street and Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown there was Eat to Win, a kind of punk foodie travelogue in which friends David Shapiro and Leeds Atkinson tooled around New York City with their Crazy Eddie camera, visiting pizza parlors, talking to owners, and whipping out at each spot a stainless steel set of measuring tongs…  Read more

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Sundance 2020 Dispatch 2: Exil, The Earth is Blue as An Orange

The Earth Is Blue as an Orange (Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

In the very first scene of The Social Network, Rooney Mara tells Jesse Eisenberg that he may go through life thinking that girls don't like him because he's a nerd, but "that won't be true. It'll be because you're an asshole." That line rang through my head all through Visar Morina's Exil, Komplizen Films's first Sundance world premiere, and was directly echoed near its end by Sandra Hüller—star of Komplizen co-founder Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann, here the long-suffering wife of Albanian immigrant Xhafer (Misel Maticevic), who's convinced he's being discriminated by German society. "Did it ever occur to you that it's not because you're a foreigner," she asks, "but because you're an asshole?" This may seem like gaslighting. Xhafer feels like he's never allowed to forget,…  Read more

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Impact Partners Executive Director Jenny Raskin on Financing, Fellowships, and Following the Filmmakers’ Lead

On the Record (Courtesy Sundance Film Festival)

From 2018’s feature doc Oscar winner Icarus, to 2019’s Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary recipient Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, to the Sundance Grand Jury Prize nabbing Of Fathers and Sons and Dina (in 2018 and 2017, respectively), Impact Partners has been behind some of the most critically acclaimed nonfiction work of recent years. The company’s winning streak, however, actually goes back a decade, all the way to 2010’s Academy Award for Documentary Feature recipient The Cove. And Impact Partners itself goes back even further. Founded in 2007 by Dan Cogan and Geralyn Dreyfous with a mission to bring about social change through cinema (and without sacrificing artistry), Impact Partners recently raised veteran doc producer and director Jenny Raskin to…  Read more

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Art House Convergence 2020: Transparency and Crisis

małni – towards the ocean, towards the shore (courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Despite looming industry crises such as the DOJ moving to end the Paramount consent decrees, years of slumping box office sales and the ongoing proliferation of streaming giants offering consumers content in their own homes, arthouse cinemas and independent festivals appeared to be thriving—if one looked only at the surface of Art House Convergence. Now in its 15th year, the annual AHC convenes representatives from art house cinemas, film festivals, service providers and independent distributors for three and a half days in Midway, UT, right before Sundance. Most of the attendees are representatives from US-based organizations. Though they comprised a wide range from single-screen “jewel boxes” to screening series to venerable NYC institutions, AHC itself was visibly going through a…  Read more

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