Dear Wide World,
Four screenings on the docket today, so let’s get to ’em:
Goats: A chance to go to this Sundance screening popped up at the last minute yesterday, when a colleague offered me an extra ticket, and I grabbed it, despite it’s 9 a.m. starting time. Goats is an entertaining look at 15-year-old Ellis’ (Graham Phillips) first few months at a prep school and his eventual and inevitable coming of age. David Duchovny does his deadpan thing as the magnificently bearded “Goat Man,” Wendy (Vera Farmiga, hamming it up) and Ellis’ live-in gardener/pool man, who periodically goes out into the desert on treks with, you guessed it – goats. What I like a lot about this film is the way it turns certain conventions of the coming-of-age subgenre on their head. While characters have the chance to grow, they don’t suddenly become model citizens and abandon the personality traits we’ve come to expect. Goats isn’t high art, but it succeeds as a crowd-pleaser that I hope finds a wider audience.
Danland: A real-life look at the wild life of Dan Leal, aka “Porno Dan,” an amateur porn producer/actor. Dan feels he’s living the life that every guy dreams of, but I have to wonder about that. Sure, he gets the chance to talk about, plan and engage in a LOT of sex, but I don’t think it fulfills him much. Unfortunately, Dan’s not the most likable guy, and that puts a bit of a damper on things. Another thing I don’t understand is the writer credit attached to the film. It’s not a heavily scripted documentary in the way that, say, a Michael Moore film is, so I’m not sure why Ann Husaini & Alexandra Berger are credited as writers. The real standout from this same program was the opening short film, Tender Hooks. It’s a documentary about a man who decides to have himself hung from large hooks inserted in the skin of his back. It’s pretty intense, causing one person in my screening to actually pass out. (No, it wasn’t me.)
Made in Iran – 7 Short Premieres: Some of the best films in the world today are coming from Iranian filmmakers, so as soon as I saw this program would be playing at Slamdance, I knew I had to be there. Anahita Ghazvinizadeh’s When the Kid Was a Kid is easily the standout of the program. It’s an intricate piece that plays with age, gender and social roles. Essentially, in the film, a bunch of children play-act as adults, and one young boy dresses up as his mother. He’s so believable that, if you didn’t already know he was male, you’d never guess. Slamdance and programmer Ehsan Ghoreishi deserve a lot of credit for going to great lengths to bring these films to the festival. Other highlights include Far From Him, Towards Him and The Tree.
Wild in the Streets: I LOVE THIS FILM. Over Shrovetide, a two-day period coinciding with Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, the town of Ashbourne, England, goes absolutely nuts with the most bizarre version of football I’ve ever seen. See, depending on which side of the river you were born on, a local is either an Up’ard or a Down’ard and, believe you me, it’s a serious, serious thing. There are two goals in town, set three miles apart, and once the ball – beautifully hand-crafted and hand-painted by local artists – is tossed in the air, the two teams go NUTS trying to get it to their own goal and tap it against the goal three times. The film, made by Slamdance president and co-founder Peter Baxter, tells the story of a local tradition that’s possibly more than 2,000 years old by introducing the viewer to the people who value this game as much as anything else in their lives. This is one of the finest films I’ve seen at Slamdance 2012.
Only one more day left at the festival, beginning tomorrow with my third consecutive 9 a.m. screening. This is how we do it.