Slamdance Film Festival Unveils Competition Lineup (EXCLUSIVE)

Dave McNary
Variety

The Slamdance Film Festival has unveiled its 23rd annual narrative and documentary feature film competition lineup, Variety has learned.

The festival, launched in 1995 as an alternative to Sundance, has included showings of such notable titles as Oren Peli’s “Paranormal Activity.” The fest, which takes place at the Treasure Mountain Inn in Park City, Utah, from Jan. 20 to Jan. 26, will screen 19 movies: 12 world premieres, three North American debuts, and one U.S. launch.

The narrative competition has 11 titles, while the documentary category boasts eight. Notable titles include “Dave Made a Maze,” starring Nick Thune and directed by Bill Watterson from his own script; the Sly Stone documentary “On the Sly: In Search of the Family Stone”; Shumin Liu’s “The Family,” a Chinese-Australian production in which a couple in their 70s sets off to visit their adult children in three faraway cities; and the documentary “Who Is Arthur Chu?” about the 11-time “Jeopardy!” winner.

Other Slamdance alumni include Christopher Nolan, Marc Forster, Jared Hess, Lena Dunham, Benh Zeitlin, Seth Gordon, and Lynn Shelton. Significant titles that debuted at Slamdance include “Mad Hot Ballroom” and Gordon’s “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.”

The Slamdance feature competition is limited to films made by first-time directors with budgets under $1 million. It will also include a DIG (digital, interactive, and gaming) showcase with eight works by emerging artists.

“As filmmakers themselves, the Slamdance programmers and staff share the same creative spirit as the festival artists,” said Slamdance President Peter Baxter. “Our stories are different but our divergent attitude is the same. Together, we give a voice to DIY filmmaking. Empowering emerging artists is what we do, and you are about to see a great group at Slamdance 2017.”

Brian Golden Davis’ “The Million Dollar Duck” won the jury award and audience award for documentary feature at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival. Alex Simmons’ “Honey Buddies” nabbed the audience award for narrative feature.

“Slamdance gives a platform to artists working outside of the system — we pride ourselves on supporting filmmakers who create challenging work,” said Festival Manager Clementine Leger.

NARRATIVE FEATURES PROGRAM:

“Aerotropolis” (Taiwan) World Premiere

Director & Screenwriter: Jheng-Neng LI

Allen invested everything into a beautiful home to flip for profit only to have it languish on the market, turning his daily life into a haze of financial pressures and an erosion of reality.

Cast: Chia-Lun Yang, Jui-Tzu Liu, Chong-Cyuan Huang, Chin-Yu Lin, Sih-Mei Liou, Ting-Li Bao, Chieh-Wen Deng, Zaw Lin Htwe
“Beat Beat Heart” (Germany) North American Premiere

Director & Screenwriter: Luise Brinkmann

Daydreaming her way out of a broken heart, Kerstin’s denial as well as her days are shaken up with the arrival of her mother, dealing with her own relationship’s demise.

Cast: Lana Cooper, Saskia Vester, Till Wonka, Aleksandar Radenkovic, Christin Nichols, Jörg Bundschuh
Caroline Erikson
“Cortez” (USA)

Director: Cheryl Nichols; Screenwriter(s): Arron Shiver, Cheryl Nichols

Struggling musician Jesse tracks down his ex Anne in a small town in New Mexico, and is forced to face the decisions of his past as present day consequences set in.

Cast: Arron Shiver, Cheryl Nichols, Drago Sumonja, Judith Ivey, Jackson Shiver, Cassidy Freeman, Kristian Moore, Dylan Kenin
“Dave Made a Maze” (USA) World Premiere

Director: Bill Watterson; Screenwriter(s): Steven Sears, Bill Watterson

Dave builds a fort in his living room and ends up trapped inside by fantastical pitfalls, booby traps and creatures, leaving his girlfriend Annie to head up the eccentric rescue team to go in after him.

Cast: Nick Thune, Meera Rohit Kumbhani, Adam Busch, James Urbaniak, Stephanie Allynne, Kirsten Vangsness, Scott Krinsky, John Hennigan
“Dim the Fluorescents” (Canada) World Premiere

Director: Daniel Warth; Screenwriter(s): Miles Barstead, Daniel Warth

A struggling actress and an aspiring playwright funnel their uninhibited passion into the only paying work they can find: role-playing demonstrations for corporate seminars.

Cast: Claire Armstrong, Naomi Skwarna, Andreana Callegarini-Gradzik, Brendan Hobin, Clare McConnell, Todd Graham, Hannan Younis, Thom Gill

 

“The Family” (China, Australia) U.S. Premiere

Director & Screenwriter: Shumin Liu

Liu and Deng are a couple in their 70s who set off to visit their adult children in three faraway cities, in an immersive exploration of family dynamics and daily life.

Cast: Shoufang Deng, Lijie Liu, Xiaomin Liu, Jiangsheng Jiang, Erya Chen, Xujun Liu, Liqin Huang, Zepeng Liao

 

“Kate Can’t Swim” (USA) World Premiere

Director: Josh Helman; Screenwriter(s): Jennifer Allcott, Josh Helman

When Kate’s best friend Em returns from abroad with a surprising new lover, they embark on a reunion vacation with their partners, but the peaceful getaway quickly becomes emotionally complicated.

Cast: Celeste Arias, Grayson Dejesus, Jennifer Allcott, Josh Helman

 

“Kuro” (France, U.K., Germany, Luxembourg) World Premiere

Director(s) & Screenwriter(s): Joji Koyama, Tujiko Noriko

A Japanese woman living in Paris tends to her paraplegic lover, passing time by recounting a story about the time they once spent together in Japan, rich with anecdotes, myths and an unexpected dark turn.

Cast: Tujiko Noriko, Jackie

 

“Weather House” (Germany) World Premiere

Director(s): Frauke Havemann; Co-Director: Eric Schefter; Screenwriter: Mark Johnson Set in an unspecific time of extreme climate change, an isolated group of disoriented characters develop their own strange belief systems and engage in absurd activities to process their dilemma.

Cast: Inga Dietrich, Charles McDaniels, Erik Hansen, Sabine Hertling, Jack Rath

 

“Wexford Plaza” (Canada) North American Premiere

Director & Screenwriter: Joyce Wong

Betty is a lonely strip mall security guard, and an unexpected moment with charming deadbeat Danny ends up setting off the unraveling of both their lives.

Cast: Reid Asselstine, Darrel Gamotin, Francis Melling, Ellie Posadas

 

“Withdrawn” (Canada) World Premiere

Director: Adrian Murray; Screenwriter(s): Adrian Murray, Marcus Sullivan, Dean Tardioli

Living in a basement he can’t afford, Aaron spends his days doing drum solos and talking his way out of paying for utilities, until he finds a lost credit card and devises a plan to defraud its owner.

Cast: Aaron Keogh, Molly Reisman, Dean Tardioli, Adrian Murray, Greg Wasylyszn, Kelly Paoli, Hallie Burt, Earl Oliveros

 

DOCUMENTARY FEATURES PROGRAM:

“Bogalusa Charm” (USA) World Premiere

Director: Stephen Richardson; Screenwriter: Jennifer Harrington

Through the lens of an anachronistic charm school that has existed for almost three decades in rural Louisiana, we explore a town confronted with contemporary issues of class and race.

 

“The Children Send Their Regards” (Austria) World Premiere

Director: Patricia Josefine Marchart; Screenwriter(s): Jakob Purkarthofer, Sepp Rothwangl, Patricia Josefine Marchart

Adult victims of physical abuse by clergy members in Austria revisit the sites of their childhood trauma and make public their stories to shed light into one of the greatest crimes of the post-war period.

Cast: Georg Prader, Jo Auer, Inge Killmeyer, Josef Schörkmayr, Klaus Oberndorfer, Paula Neulinger, Walo Nowak, Anita Ossinger, Klaus Fluch, Sepp Rothwangl

 

“Hotel Coolgardie” (Australia)

Director: Pete Gleeson

Somewhere between Australia’s most isolated city and it’s largest gold pit lies Coolgardie, where the arrival every three months of a new pair of foreign female backpackers to work the only bar in town is keenly anticipated by the town’s hot-blooded males.

 

“The Modern Jungle” (Mexico/USA) North American Premiere

Director(s) & Screenwriter(s): Charles Fairbanks, Saul Kak

A story of globalization filtered through the fever dream of a Mexican shaman, this is an intimate portrait of Zoque culture, commodity fetish, and the predicament of documentary cinema.

Cast: Juan Juarez Rodriguez, Carmen Echevarría Lopez

 

“On the Sly: In Search of the Family Stone” (USA) World Premiere

Director & Screenwriter: Michael Rubenstone

Director and super-fan Michael Rubenstone sets out in search of long-time reclusive funk legend, Sly Stone. Along the way, he meets with some success, but finds countless more failures in trying to capture a man who refuses to be contained.

Cast: Michael Rubenstone, Cornel West, Bobby Womack, Clive Davis, Dick Cavett, Paul Shaffer, David Kapralik, Freddy Stone

 

“Strad Style” (USA) World Premiere

Director: Stefan Avalos

A rural Ohio eccentric with an obsession for ‘Stradivari’ convinces a famous European concert violinist that he can make a copy of one of the most famous and valuable violins in the world. Fighting time, poverty, and most of all – himself – Danny Houck puts everything on the line for one shot at glory.

Cast: Daniel Houck, Razvan Stoica, David Campbell, Rodger Stearns, Mary Houck

 

“Supergirl” (USA)

Director: Jessie Auritt

Naomi seems like a typical 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl; watching her compete to lift almost three times her bodyweight tells a different story.

 

“Who Is Arthur Chu?” (USA) World Premiere

Director(s) & Screenwriter(s): Scott Drucker, Yu Gu

Arthur Chu, eleven time Jeopardy! winner turned internet iconoclast, battles dark forces as a blogger and cultural pundit ultimately realizing that to create positive change in the world he must first heal his own wounds.

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