Not to be completely over-shadowed by its Park City counterpart, the Sundance Film Festival, the Slamdance Film Festival, celebrating its 15th year, has unveiled its lineup for its narrative and documentary competitions.
Unlike its competitor, the Slamdance competition is open only to films with budgets of under $1 million, from first-time filmmakers. Other programs this year include script and short film competitions, a new music video showcase and "Fireside Chats."
Slamdance will unspool January 15-23, right around the same time as the Sundance film festival, which runs from the 15th to the 25th of January.
None of the films on the list are immediately familiar to me - but that's a good thing. So, I'm going to have to do some research on each one, to determine which I should be paying the most attention to, and I'll report on my findings shortly.
Here's the lineup:
NARRATIVE FEATURE COMPETITION
"The Ante," Max Perrier (Director), Danek S. Kaus, James Chancellor & Simon Perrier (Writers) West Coast Premiere, Black Comedy/Thriller, 2006, CANADA, 82 minutes An innocent man becomes the killer everyone wants him to be when he gambles with his freedom in order to save it.
"A Quiet Little Marriage," Mo Perkins (Director/Writer) Utah Premiere, Drama, 2008, USA, 83 minutes. Cast: Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Cy Carter, Jimmi Simpson. A loving young couple square off against each other in a covert, domestic battleground of their own making.
"City Rats," Steve M. Kelly (Director), Simon Fantauzzo (Writer) World Premiere, Drama, 2008, UK, 96 minutes. Cast: Susan Lynch, Kenny Doughty, Tamer Hassan. A modern day Dickensian tale of eight haunted people who meet and fall apart while searching for redemption in each other.
"I Sell the Dead," Glenn McQuaid (Director/Writer) US Premiere, Horror/Black Comedy, 2008, USA, 85 minutes. Cast: Dominic Monaghan, Ron Perlman, Angus Scrimm, Larry Fessenden. Set in the late 1800's, a duo of bumbling graverobbers begin to unearth peculiar corpses. (Opening Night Film)
"Mississippi Damned," Tina Mabry (Director/Writer) World Premiere, Drama, 2009, USA, 120 minutes. Cast: DB Woodside, Malcolm David Kelly, Malcolm Goodwin, Tessa Thompson, Michael Hyatt. Three poor Black kids in rural Mississippi reap the consequences of their family's cycle of abuse, addiction, and violence.
"Only," Ingrid Veninger & Simon Reynolds (Directors/Writers) US Premiere, Coming of Age Drama, 2008, CANADA, 74 minutes One day shared between a young boy and girl, whose story unfolds as a luminous and lyrical study of pre-teen ennui and loneliness.
"Punching the Clown," Gregori Viens (Director), Henry Phillips & Gregori Viens (Writers) World Premiere, Comedy, 2008, USA, 90 minutes. Cast: Henry Phillips A satirical songwriter comes to LA and puts his life's work in jeopardy.
"Son of the Sunshine," Ryan Ward (Director/Writer) World Premiere, Drama, 2008, CANADA, 95 minutes. Cast: Ryan Ward After an experimental surgery seems to curb the symptoms of his Tourette's Syndrome, a young man (played by writer/director Ryan Ward) must confront the complexities of his life head on.
"Spooner," Drake Doremus (Director), Lindsay Stidham (Writer) World Premiere, Comedy, 2008, USA, 83 minutes. Cast: Matthew Lillard, Nora Zehetner, Shea Whigham, Christopher MacDonald. Facing eviction from his parent's home on his 30th birthday, a thoroughly average guy meets the girl of his dreams and creates his own rules for growing up.
"You Might As Well Live," Simon Ennis (Director), Simon Ennis & Josh Peace (Writers) World Premiere, Comedy, 2008, CANADA, 82 minutes. Cast: Michael Madsen, Stephen McHattie, Joshua Peace. Robert R. Mutt, town loser, sets out to attain the three keys to success - money, a girl, and a championship ring.
"At Any Second," Jan Fehse (Director), Jan Fehse & Christian Lyra (Writers) International Premiere, Drama, 2008, GERMANY, 99 minutes. Cast: Sebastian Koch, Mina Tander, Wotan Wilke Mohring. A handful of relationship-scarred individuals zigzag to a new beginning, but the danger of skidding off track is greatest in the home stretch.
"Drool," Nancy Kissam (Director/Writer) World Premiere, Drama, 2008, USA, 88 minutes. Cast: Laura Harring, Jill Marie Jones, Oded Fehr. An abused wife's plan to escape her husband goes awry when she accidentally kills him, causing her to split on a cross-country drive with her best friend and his corpse in tow.
"Finding Bliss," Julie Davis (Director/Writer) World Premiere, Comedy, 2008, USA, 104 minutes. Cast: Leelee Sobieski, Matthew Davis, Denise Richards, Kristen Johnson, Jamie Kennedy. A cutting edge romantic comedy that explores the adult film industry through the eyes of an idealistic 25 year-old award winning film school grad.
"Not Forgotten," Dror Soref (Director), Dror Soref & Tomas Romero (Writers) World Premiere, Thriller, 2009, USA, 91 minutes. Cast: Simon Baker, Paz Vega In a Tex-Mex border town, a man and his wife must face their tortured pasts in order to save their kidnapped daughter.
"Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Undead," Jordan Galland (Director/Writer) World Premiere, Comedy, 2008, USA, 89 minutes. Cast: Jake Hoffman, Devon Aoki, John Ventimiglia, Jeremy Sisto, Ralph Macchio. Music: Sean Lennon. A theatre director takes a job directing a play that uncovers a two thousand year conspiracy involving vampires, Shakespeare, and the holy grail.
"The Slammin' Salmon," Kevin Heffernan (Director), Broken Lizard (Writers) World Premiere, Comedy, 2008, USA, 92 minutes. Cast: Cobie Smulders, Michael Clarke Duncan, April Bowlby, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Paul Soter, Steve Lemme, Erik Stolhanske The owner of a Miami restaurant indebted to the mob institutes a contest to see what waiter can earn the most money in one night.
"Weather Girl," Blayne Weaver (Director/Writer) World Premiere, Comedy, 2008, USA, 90 minutes. Cast: Tricia O'Kelley, Mark Harmon, Jane Lynch, Kaitlin Olson, Jon Cryer, Patrick J. Adams, Ryan Devlin A Seattle weather girl freaks out on-air over her cheating boyfriend, the morning show anchor, and moves in with her little brother.
"The Conjurer," Clint Hutchison (Director), David Yarbrough & Clint Hutchison (Writers) Utah Premiere, Thriller, 2008, USA, 88 minutes. Cast: Andrew Bowen, Maxine Bahns, John Schneider. A grieving young couple relocates to a rural farm, and encounters disturbing occurrences surrounding an old cabin with a dark history.
"Mum and Dad," Steven Shiel (Director/Writer) North American Premiere, Horror, 2008, UK, 86 minutes A murderous and perverse family imprison a young woman in their suburban house of horrors where she discovers she has to become part of the family--and join them in their insanity--or die.
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE COMPETITION
"Graphic Sexual Horror," Barbara Bell & Anna Lorentzon (Directors/Writers) World Premiere, 2009, USA, 85 minutes A look behind the terrifying facade of insex.com, the most notorious of the 'violent porn' websites, while exploring the dark mind of its artistic creator and asking hard questions about personal responsibility.
"Hard To Be An Indian," Beth Toni Kruvant (Director), Jonah Kruvant (Writer) World Premiere, 2007, USA, 84 minutes The trials and tribulations of an inner city school and the principal, Jewish alumni and gang members who return it to safety and restore its former glory.
"Lost Sparrow," Chris Billing (Director/Writer) World Premiere, 2009, USA, 78 minutes Filmmaker Chris Billing probes at his family history while investigating the tragic 1978 deaths of his adopted Crow Indian brothers.
"Oh My God, It's Harrod Blank," David Silverberg (Director/Writer) World Premiere, 2008, USA, 75 minutes A portrait of the eccentric art-car artist Harrod Blank, following him from his youth in the woods to his current multi-faceted career as creator and head of a nationwide art- car movement. With appearances by his father, filmmaker Les Blank.
"The Road to Fallujah," Mark Manning (Director/Writer) World Premiere, 2009, USA, 85 minutes Exploring Mark Manning's unique access as the only westerner to live with the people of Fallujah immediately following the November 2004 battle that destroyed their ancient and holy city, offering an in-depth and humanizing look at current issues in Iraq.
"Second Sight," Alison McAlpine (Director/Writer) US Premiere, 2008, SCOTLAND/CANADA, 51 minutes A cinematic, non-fiction ghost story featuring the last generation of Gaelic storytellers on Scotland's Isle of Skye.
"Smile Til It Hurts," Lee Storey (Director/Writer) North American Premiere, 2009, USA, 81 minutes The amazing true story of Up With People, the singing group that represented an establishment-friendly alternative to the counter-culture.
"Strongman," Zachary Levy (Director/Writer) World Premiere, 2008, USA, 113 minutes A man strong enough to bend a penny with just his fingers, Stanless Steel reaches middle age, career disappointments and difficult personal relationships that begin to test his strengths and force him to struggle with the weaknesses around him--including his own.
"Unwanted Witness," Juan Jose Lozano (Director/Writer) US Premiere, 2008, SWITZERLAND/FRANCE, 87 minutes In the middle of Colombia's humanitarian tragedy, a journalist fights to report and disclose the barbarity of the conflict.
"Zombie Girl," Justin Johnson, Aaron Marshall, Erik Mauck (Directors/Writers) Utah Premiere, 2008, USA, 91 minutes An inside look at the two years that it took 12-year-old Emily Hagins to write and direct her feature-length zombie movie, Pathogen.