The Slamdance Film Festival has unveiled its lineup of 25 features along with 107 shorts and episodics for the mostly virtual 27th edition of the festival — a number that equals previous editions of the festival.
The opening night film, which will screen at a drive-in in Joshua Tree on Feb. 13, is the world premiere of “No Trace” (Nulle Trace) from Canadian director and screenwriter Simon Lavoie. Taking place in a near future, the film follows a callous smuggler hardened by life who guides a pious young woman and her child across the border to safety, unaware that their destinies are inescapably linked in an inhospitable land.
The festival will close with the world premiere screening of “18th & Grand: The Olympic Auditorium Story” at a Los Angeles drive-in on Feb. 25. The feature documentary by Stephen DeBro is the story of Los Angeles told through the prism of a historic fight palace and Aileen Eaton, the woman who ran it. The film features the voices of fighters, skaters and musicians including Roddy Piper, John Doe, James Ellroy and Julio Cesar Chavez.
The festival, launched in 1995 as an alternative to the Sundance Film Festival, has included showings of such notable titles as Oren Peli’s “Paranormal Activity.” The fest usually takes place at the Treasure Mountain Inn in Park City, Utah during Sundance, but is diverging for the upcoming edition. This year, Slamdance is running from Feb. 12 to Feb. 25. Slamdance’s supporting alumni include the Russo Brothers, Steven Soderbergh, Christopher Nolan, “Parasite” filmmaker Bong Joon-ho, Sean Baker (“The Florida Project”), Jennifer Kent (“The Babadook”) and Lena Denhum (“Girls”).
Virtual festival passes are available for free until Dec. 31 with $10 per festival passes available thereafter. There will be a two-night drive-in presentation in Joshua Tree open to the public on Feb. 13 and 14 as well as the closing night screening at a Los Angeles drive-in on Feb. 25. The festival’s official theme, “Greenlight Yourself,” reflects Slamdance’s ongoing commitment to turning the many obstacles facing filmmakers into opportunities.
“Our theme this year was inspired by the incredible resilience and creativity evidenced by our community and our team over the past few unprecedented months,” said Slamdance President and Co-founder Peter Baxter. “The shared journey ahead for Slamdance’s filmmakers, alumni community and organization is to ‘Greenlight Yourself’ and triple down on not only who we are, but how we can continue expanding the many ways we support the filmmakers who are the future of independent filmmaking.”
Slamdance’s feature competition lineup has 20 premieres, with 15 world, four North American, and one U.S. debuts. Competition films in narrative and documentary categories are feature-length directorial debuts with budgets of less than $1 million and without U.S. distribution, while the Breakouts competition serves directors beyond their first films who maintain distinct visual styles and a unique cinematic voice.
The festival’s new program, Unstoppable, will feature 22 short films from up-and-coming disabled filmmakers, feature actors with disabilities, or highlight the conversation of disabilities in today’s world. “I’m honored to be part of the wonderful Unstoppable team and embrace the idea of creating a safe space for filmmakers with disabilities and take our creativity as seriously as everyone else in this industry. I feel like we are building a bridge for others to cross and I am so proud to be a part of it,“ said Unstoppable programmer Juliet Romeo.
Shorts in the narrative, documentary and animation sections are eligible for the 2020 Oscar Qualifying Shorts competition. The short film program will include, for the third year, an episodes category showcasing episodic work in any style, genre and format intended for broadcast – from comedy and drama to documentaries, social commentary and beyond.
The 2021 festival will see the return of The AGBO Fellowship, presented by AGBO Films in partnership with the festival — a $25,000 prize launched in 2018 by festival alumni Anthony and Joe Russo (“Avengers: Endgame”) to enable a deserving filmmaker the opportunity to continue their journey with mentorship from the filmmaking duo.
The 2021 lineup includes:
A Brixton Tale – (UK, Ireland) World Premiere
Directors: Darragh Carey & Bertrand Desrochers – Screenwriters: Rupert Baynham, Darragh Carey, Chi Mai – Producers: Rupert Baynham, Dennis Gyamfi, Beau Rambaut
A voyeuristic, wealthy vlogger finds herself drawn to a handsome, shy youth from the infamous Barrier Block housing project. Their relationship with each other, and with the camera, leads them down a dangerous path.
Cast: Ola Orebiyi, Lily Newmark, Craige Middleburg, Jaime Winstone, Barney Harris, Michael Maloney, Rose Kerr, Dexter Padmore.
A Family – (Ukraine/Australia) North American Premiere
Director: Jayden Stevens – Screenwriters: Thomas Swinburn, Jayden Stevens – Producers: Olga Mykhalets, Clea Frost, Thomas Swinburn, Jayden Stevens
A man living in solitary seeks emotional refuge in the organising and documenting of family moments using low-grade impersonators. When his fake sister becomes inspired to follow his method, their relationship struggles between the forged and genuine.
Cast: Pavlo Lehenkyi, Liudmyla Zamydra
Dea – (Hong Kong, Switzerland, Indonesia, France) World Premiere
Director: Alberto Gerosa – Producers: Alberto Gerosa, Jocelyne Rouch, Andrea Gerosa
Dea leaves rural Indonesia and her singing dreams to migrate to Hong Kong as a foreign domestic worker. The script is the result of a nine-months acting improv laboratory with a group of Indonesian women migrant domestic workers, who have been victims of domestic violence while working in Hong Kong. The protagonist’s story merges their real life experiences into one.
Cast: Dea Panendra, Bruno Zanin, Mas Gentur, Mas Akri, Mega, Mawar, Vincent, Abe and Icy Tsui
Hurrah, we are still alive! – (Poland) North American Premiere
Director / Screenwriter: Agnieszka Polska – Producer: Anna Gawlita
An artistic commune of filmmakers awaits the return of the Director, who disappeared without a trace. Despite his absence, the Director seems to control all of the troupe’s actions.
Cast: Piotr Polak, Sonia Roszczuk, Marta Ojrzyńska, Arkadiusz Brykalski, Jacek Beler, Joanna Drozda, Marcin Czarnik, Bartosz Bielenia
Isaac – (Lithuania)
Director: Jurgis Matulevičius – Screenwriters: Saulė Bliuvaitė, Jurgis Matulevičius, Nerijus Milerius – Producer: Stasys Baltakis
A Soviet style film noir about the murder of a Jew that changed the world.
Cast: Aleksas Kazanavičius, Dainius Gavenonis, Severija Janušauskaitė, Martynas Nedzinskas
Taipei Suicide Story – (Taiwan) North American Premiere
Director / Screenwriter: KEFF – Producer: Amy Ma
A receptionist at a suicide hotel in Taipei forms a fleeting friendship over the course of one night with a guest who can’t decide if she wants to live or die.
Cast: Yuhua Sung (宋芸樺), Tender Huang (黃騰浩）
The Sleeping Negro – (USA) World Premiere
Director / Screenwriter: Skinner Myers – Producers: Skinner Myers, Matt Palmieri, John Campbell, Alex McCarthy, Dan Funes
Confronted with a series of racially charged incidents, a young black man must overcome rage, alienation, and hopelessness in order to find his own humanity.
Cast: Rae Dawn Chong, Tunde Adebimpe, Nican Robinson, David Fumero, Julie McNiven, Skinner Myers
Teenage Emotions – (USA) World Premiere
Director / Screenwriter: Frederic Da – Producer: Frederic Da, Roxane Mesquida
What happens within the walls of an American High School?
Cast: Jaya Harper, Jayden Capers, Silas Mitchell, Ava Cooper
Man Under Table – (USA)
Director / Screenwriter/ Producer: Noel David Taylor
In an anachronistic dystopian landscape, a beleaguered young man attempts to navigate his way through the indie film scene in LA.
Cast: Noel David Taylor, Ben Babbit, Danny Lane, Katy Fullen, John Edmund Parcher, Robert Manion, Alisa Torres, Frank Hinterberger
A Tiny Ripple of Hope – (USA) World Premiere
Director: Jason Polevoi – Producers: Jason Polevoi, Nick Jenkins
A charismatic activist works to build a better Chicago for the teens in his neglected community even if it comes at the cost of his home, his family, and his safety.
Cast: Jahmal Cole, Dimetriana Chambers, Dominetrius Chambers, Deontae Lewis
Anatomy of Wings – (USA)
Directors / Producers: Nikiea Redmond & Kirsten D’Andrea Hollander
Black and white, young and old, a group of women risk their personal identities to build a second family while creating a documentary-film across the inequities of their Baltimore City neighborhoods.
Cast: Brittany Backmon, Teshavionna “Tazz” Mitchell, Sheila Butler, Marquise Weems, Brienna Brown, Danisha Harris, Cami McCrief, Tywana Reid, Quandra Jones, Quanisha Carmichael
Bleeding Audio – (USA)
Director: Chelsea Christer – Producers: Erin Persley, Jannette Bivona, Chelsea Christer
From inspiring triumphs to heartbreaking setbacks, Bleeding Audio relives the explosive career of the Matches and what it means to succeed in the digital age of music.
Cast: Shawn Harris, Justin San Souci, Jon Devoto, Matt Whalen, Mark Hoppus, Nick Hexum, Cassadee Pope, Justin Pierre
CODE NAME: Nagasaki – (Norway) World Premiere
Director: Fredrik S. Hana – Screenwriters: Fredrik S. Hana, Marius K. Lunde – Producer: Gunhild Oddsen
“CODE NAME: Nagasaki” tells the story of Marius and Fredrik, two young men who forged their friendship through filmmaking and decided to put their skills to a unique challenge: finding Marius’ long lost Japanese mother.
Cast: Marius K. Lunde, Fredrik S. Hana
Everyone wants to be the next Weismann – (Spain) North American Premiere
Director: Alberto Triano – Screenwriters: Alberto Triano and David Cantolla – Producer: David Cantolla
In the art world, there are those who take risks and then, there’s Martín Solo.
Holy Frit – (United States) World Premiere
Director: Justin Monroe – Producers: Justin Monroe, Chris Saito
Tim, a talented, yet unknown LA artist, bluffs his way into winning the commission to create the world’s largest stained-glass window of its kind, even though he has no idea how to make it…but he stumbles across someone who might, the famous glass maestro, Narcissus Quagliata.
Cast: Tim Carey, Narcissus Quagliata, David Judson, Adam Hamilton
Me To Play – (USA) World Premiere
Director / Screenwriter / Producer: Jim Bernfield
As their bodies give way to Parkinson’s disease, two New York actors put their hearts into one final Off-Broadway production of Beckett’s “Endgame,” the play that posits, “there’s nothing funnier than unhappiness.
Cast: Dan Moran, John Christopher Jones, Joe Grifasi, Ruth Kreshka, Marybeth Coudal, Carolyn McCormick, Byron Jennings
Workhorse Queen – (USA, Australia) World Premiere
Director / Screenwriter/ Producer: Angela Washko
After an unlikely casting onto a reality television show, 47-year old suburban telemarketer Ed Popil leaves his job to pursue a full-time entertainment industry career as his drag queen alter ego, 1960’s era housewife Mrs. Kasha Davis.
Cast: Ed Popil (Mrs. Kasha Davis), Greg Meyer (Darienne Lake), Tom Smalley (Aggy Dune), Christopher Steckel (Ambrosia Salad), Michael Steck (Pandora Boxx), Steven Levins, Roy Haylock (Bianca Del Rio), Joey Santolini (Tatianna)
While Slamdance’s main competition remains exclusive to first-time directors, the BREAKOUTS program serves directors beyond their first films who maintain distinct visual styles and a unique cinematic voice.
A Black Rift Begins to Yawn – (USA) World Premiere
Director / Screenwriter: Matthew Wade – Producers: Matthew Wade, Sara Lynch As two former classmates dig into their deceased professor’s set of cassette tapes, which possibly contain recordings of strange signals from beyond the stars, they begin to feel memories, the chronology of time, and their identities slip into obscurity. Cast: Sara Lynch, Saratops McDonald, Luke Massengill
After America – (USA) World Premiere
Director / Screenwriter / Producer: Jake Yuzna
In 2019 a group of criminal justice de-escalation workers in Minneapolis embarked on a collaborative film project that used radical theater workshop techniques to explore their real-life struggles to escape the pressures of the American dream. The result, finished days before the murder of George Floyd, captures a city searching for what lies after America.
Cast: Yvonne Freese, Theresa McConnon, Daniel Nies, Ahmed Yusuf, Dan Fox, Eli Anthony, Robert Dante
Bad Attitude: The Art of Spain Rodriguez – (USA) World Premiere
Director / Screenwriter / Producer: Susan Stern
“Working-class Latino hood, crossed with crazy artist, crossed with left-wing radical,” so the legendary underground cartoonist Spain Rodriguez is described in this intimate portrait by his wife, Emmy-nominated filmmaker Susan Stern.
Cast: Spain Rodriguez, R. Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Aline Kominsky Crumb, Ed Piskor, Ishmael Reed, Trina Robbins, Susie Bright
End of the Line: The Women of Standing Rock – (USA, Finland) World Premiere
Director / Screenwriter: Shannon Kring – Producers: Shannon Kring, Pearl Daniel-Means, Sophia Ehrnrooth
Featuring shocking, never-before-seen law enforcement video surrendered by a disgraced officer, End of the Line: The Women of Standing Rock is the incredible story of the indigenous women who establish a peaceful camp in protest of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline construction that desecrated ancient burial and prayer sites and threatens their land, water, and very existence.
Cast: Phyllis Young, Wašté Win Young, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Sky Roosevelt-Morris, Linda Black Elk
Mia Misses Her Revenge (Mia isi rateaza razbunarea) – (Romania) US Premiere
Director / Screenwriter: Bogdan Theodor Olteanu – Producers: Anamaria Antoci, Anda Ionescu
After a violent breakup, Mia is struggling to get revenge on her ex. As her plan kicks off, she finds herself surrounded by a group of friends that give female togetherness a new definition.
Cast: Ioana Bugarin, Maria Popistașu, Ana Maria Guran, Carol Ionescu, Adrian Nicolae, Alexandru Ion, Mădălina Stoica, Ștefania Cîrcu
No Trace (Nulle Trace) – (Canada) World Premiere – Opening Film
Director / Screenwriter: Simon Lavoie – Producer: Marcel Giroux In a near future, a callous smuggler hardened by life guides a pious young woman and her child across the border to safety, unaware that their destinies are inescapably linked in this inhospitable land.
Cast: Monique Gosselin, Nathalie Doummar, Martin Desgagnés, Victor Andrés Trelles Turgeon
18th & Grand: The Olympic Auditorium Story – (USA) World Premiere – Closing Film
Director / Screenwriter: Stephen DeBro – Producers: Stephen DeBro, Robert Benavides, Mayre McAnulty, Tony Peck
A raucous, visceral Los Angeles tale—seen through the story of a 20th Century fight palace and the remarkable woman who ran it-—reveals battles over race, gender and identity that still roil America.
Cast: Roddy Piper, Carlos Palomino, John Doe, Julio César Chávez, James Ellroy, Mamie Van Doren, Gene LeBell, The Destroyer
Kenny Scharf: When Worlds Collide – (USA, Brazil)
Directors / Screenwriters: Malia Scharf, Max Basch – Producers: David Koh, Malia Scharf, Max Basch
Along with friends Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf grew from a graffiti artist into a major force in the 1980s NYC art scene. Obsessed with garbage, cartoons, and plastic, this playful Peter Pan’s roller coaster career flourished despite the decimation of the AIDS crisis and the fickle tastes of the art world and continues to create colorful, complex work that puts him at the forefront of where popular culture meets fine art.