SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2011 – The Best of Festival and Wrap Report

PARK CITY, Utah —- While nothing, materialized quite as powerful and strong as Winter’s Bone from SFF10, there was an unprecedented buying spree in 2011 as over 40 films were acquisitioned.  As our political climate grows darker all the time so does the tenor of a majority of the films screened.  Yet there was an optimism among indie producers and financiers which seemed as communicable as the common cold. .Casssian Elwes, executive producer of Margin Call, was quoted as saying “Sundance 2011 will go down in history as the event that pulled the independent film business out of the economic recession”.  VOD and digital rights are fueling this optimism in smaller distribution companies and the resulting ancillary markets.  As Robert Redford told the Wall Street Journal, “What’s changed this year is the growing role of technology.  Because of technology, films can be made for lower cost, which makes them attractive to buyers” What this all means is indie filmmakers have a better chance than anytime in the past 10 years to score a deal that will allow them to work in their niche, creating more heartfelt serious films for an audience weary of the studio mentality of tent pole, franchise comic book storytelling. Our FFT team saw almost 60 of the 118 films and here are the Top 10 from our vantage point.
THE FILM FESTIVAL TODAY TOP 10 OF SUNDANCE 11

Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols)
In a Better World (Susanne Bier)
Terri (Azazel Jacobs)
Incendies (Denis Villeneuve
Another Earth (Mike Cahill)
Like Crazy (Drake Deremus)
Tyrannosaur(Paddy Considine)
Crime After Crime (Yoav Potash)
The Interrupters(Steve James)
Pariah(Dee Rees)

U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
How to Die in Oregon ****out of 4

How to Die in Oregon

Director Peter D. Richardson has crafted a most disturbing and troubling examination of the Death with Dignity Act that is in effect in Washington and Oregon States.   The film follows a single woman, 54-year-old Cody Curtis, as she plans for her own death after being diagnosed with only six months left to live as a result of liver cancer. The trials and tribulations of this process are examined by her and the audience. Richardson also films another cancer patient who does not believe in Death With Dignity, especially when it appears insurance companies and the government may recommend it because it will save them the money.  This documentary won The Grand Jury Prize at Sundance11 and will air this year on HBO.
Crime after Crime ****out of 4

Crime after Crime

Director Yoav Potash has made an extraordinary examination of the battered woman syndrome with this poignant and moving film. Deborah Peagler was locked up and sentenced to 25 years to life for the murder of her boyfriend, Oliver Wilson. The two dated as teenagers for years, but when Oliver suddenly faced financial difficulties, he forced Deborah into prostitution and when she refused, she received multiple beatings that were severe and painful. . Once Deborah’s mother became aware of the situation, a plan was enacted with two local gang members to teach Oliver a lesson. That scheme resulted in Oliver’s murder and Deborah’s life was shattered forever. Meticulously constructed and heart wrenching this film should have received more recognition at Sundance 2011.  Put it on your list of films not to miss.
Buck ***1/2out of 4

Buck

Director Cindy Meehl’s entertaining documentary is about Buck “Buckshot” Brannaman, a legendary horse trainer. Buck travels around the country nine months out of the year giving four day horse training clinics. We admire his patience and finesse as he trains horses with love and dignity,  not coercion. Most moviegoers may not realize that Buck was an important part of The Horse Whisperer starring Robert Redford, and that he was a stand-in for Redford.  He also stepped in for the occasional scene, using his horse to get a certain behavior that was necessary for a scene. With its beautiful scenery from the Big Sky country and its sensitivity to animals, Buck was a crowd pleaser at Sundance 2011 and won the Audience Award for best doc. A gentle and evocative work.
Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles **1/2out of 4

Resurrect Dead

John Foy won the Best Documentary Director Award at Sundance 2011 with this most perplexing work exploring a mystery generated in Kubrick’s classic film 2001. The riddle at the heart of Foy’s debut effort into moviemaking has been written into tiles and embedded hundreds of times onto roadways in major cities from New York to St. Louis, with a few in South America for good measure. Proclaiming the message “Toynbee idea / In Kubrick’s 2001 / Resurrect Dead / On Planet Jupiter,” always in the same rounded block letters, the tiles so captivate Philadelphia resident Justin Duerr that he launches an all-out hunt to uncover the person behind the cryptic “art project”—as Duerr eventually, unconvincingly dubs the tiles—and, naturally, its meaning. Stronger in its first half than its ending the intriguing premise is never fully explained and thus leaves the viewer dangling and inconclusive.  The documentary jury saw more in this one than met the eye.
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front(ELF) **1/2out of 4
If a Tree Falls

Marshall Curry’s documentary “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front” follows ELF activist Daniel McGowan through his days under house arrest while awaiting trial for arson and other crimes committed in the name of the planet. It uses McGowan’s arrest as a jumping-off point to explore the conditions under which ELF became an organization to be reckoned with Director Curry and editor Matthew Hamachek lay out the crimes and the perpetrators clearly and efficiently, albeit without a whole lot of palpable passion or filmmaking flare. It’s simple, to the point and effective. This isn’t an emotionally sweeping film, but it will definitely make you think. The film took home the Documentary Editing Award at Sundance 2011.
The Redemption of General Butt Naked ***1/2out of 4

The Redemption of General Butt Naked

As directors Eric Strauss and Daniele Anastasion show in this poignant film, Liberian rebel leader Joshua Milton Blahyi converts from soldier to a fiery preacher wandering the country and atoning, one by one, for his sins.  Is he genuinely remorseful or is it a cover-up?   Could this be the same man who ordered the death  of tens of thousands of his countrymen during the country’s first civil war (1989-1996)?  Unfortunately yes!  Stranger things are almost impossible to find .A fascinating and unique experience that is worth your while. The film won the Excellence in Cinematography Award for documentary.
Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times ***out of 4

Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times

Director Andrew Rossi’s film explores what happens when the paper of record changes up so that it can accommodate the web-driven 24-hour news cycle. Tracking a series of breaking news and investigative stories, Rossi makes a case for the integrity of the New York Times.  Focusing on the paper’s media department (home to intelligent, cartoonish personalities like David Carr, blogger-turned-journo Brian Stelter, and editor Bruce Headlam), Rossi forces his characters to confront the paper’s embattled future. The weakness in the film stems from the intense focus on David Carr to the point where it unbalances the big picture.  All the film that’s fit for a documentary of this type was never acquisitioned. Nevertheless, an interesting fly-on-the-wall look at a great newspaper.
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey ***out of 4

Being Elmo

Directed by Constance Marks, ‘Being Elmo,’ tells the story of Kevin Clash, and his rise to stardom as one of Sesame Street’s most beloved characters, Elmo. Kevin Clash began his life living outside Baltimore. Part of a large family, and of modest beginnings, Clash was inspired by Jim Henson and his work on Sesame Street, and the Muppet show to begin developing his own puppets. The film won a Special Jury Prize in documentary. {{CR}

U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Like Crazy ***1/2 out of 4

Like Crazy

Writer-director Drake Doremus (“Douche bag” of Sundance 10) has made substantial gains in his style since Sundance 10. This film which won The Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Sundance 11 is meticulously constructed and emotionally a powerhouse. The leading actress Felicity Jones is superb  and deservedly  won a Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Acting as well.

Capturing several years in a difficult transcontinental relationship, this strained but poignant romance captures a degree of verisimilitude that rarely reaches the screen. More than anything else, however, this film is a remarkable demonstration of narrative compression — a quickly moving film that feels relaxed; replete with jump cuts, montages and decontextualized bits of dialogue.  The pic is tight, while still basking in the tenderness of young love. At times it feels like real life, making it hard to tell who should be admired for this romantic epiphany.
Circumstance ***1/2out of 4

Circumstance

Director: Maryam Keshavarz has created an engaging and delightful story based on her real life experiences. The plot revolves around the wayward behavior of two 16 year-old girls, Atafeh and Shireen, in contemporary Iranian society where women still are treated as chattel. . We follow the two girls as they experiment with alcohol, sex and other activities many in the Western society take for granted. Soon they are arrested for driving at night by the moral police and taken into custody. While held against their will, the two are belittled and humiliated by the police. Shireen finds out that Atafeh’s “reformed” brother set her up for the arrest and uses it as away of keeping her under control. As the two girls grow closer they develop a lesbian relationship depicted in some “hot”sex scenes that are tastefully done (unless you are a prude). This fictional film is a poignant examination of the Iranian culture and deserves your attention. The film won The Audience Award in the U.S. dramatic competition.
Martha Marcy May Marlene **1/2out of 4

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Director Sean Durkin’s focuses on the story of a young woman who escapes from a Manson-like cult only to find herself struggling to find routine and normality. Elizabeth Olsen, younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, delivers a pitch perfect performance as Martha.  The film juxtaposes the present and past, showing Martha’s life with sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and her husband Ted (Hugh Dancy), and the events leading up to her escape from an isolated Catskills farm community. The interplay between Lucy and Martha who haven’t spoken for several years, adds tension to the story.  My problem with the script is the back-story that explains why Martha joined the cult in the first place is never explained… The film unfolds through the eyes of its titular character. Durkin handles the actors well and was awarded the Dramatic Directing Award in the U.S. Dramatic Competition.
Another Happy Day ***1/2out of 4

Another Happy Day

Director/writer Sam Levinson wins the prestigious Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for this dysfunctional family drama that is both intricately constructed and emotionally poignant. On the eve of her estranged son’s wedding, Lynn (Ellen Barkin) is forced to confront long-suppressed family drama while visiting her parents’ home in Annapolis. With her two of her other children (Ezra Miller & Daniel Yelsky) in tow, Lynn faces off with her ex-husband (Thomas Hayden Church) and his new wife (Demi Moore) – all the while preparing for the imminent arrival of her self-mutilating daughter, Alice (Kate Bosworth). What distinguishes this film and its wonderful script is its honesty.

Barkin delivers an Oscar- worthy performance in this disturbing and worthy effort.
Pariah ***out of 4

Pariah

‘Pariah’ was written and directed by Dee Rees. It is a coming-of-age drama about a 17 year old African American lesbian and is a long-form reworking of her 2007 short film. While coming-of-age dramas about gay teenagers are common enough (especially at film festivals), they’re usually about boys, not girls and definitely not about black girls.   Your more lesbian-centric movies tend to be about adults. At least as far as American films go, anyway. (The Europeans are bigger on teenage lesbians.).The lead character is Alike (that’s ah-LEE-kay), is played by Adepero Oduye, and she is a virgin, who is seeking to pop the cherry, Her best friend, Laura (Pernell Walker), a bold and sexually active lesbian, regularly takes her to a dance club in their Brooklyn neighborhood that caters to African American ladies, in the hopes that Alike will meet someone. The film depicts the subculture of black lesbians matter-of-factly without delving too deeply or making it into a curiosity.  A bold and revealing work that won the Excellence in Cinematography Award at Sundance 2011.
Take Shelter ****out of 4

Take Shelter

Writer/director Jeff Nichols’ sophomore effort is a stunning and revelatory movie with performances from the lead actors of Oscar-worthy caliber. Michael Shannon plays Curtis LaForche, a young husband and father who lives in a small-town life with his wife (played by Jessica Chastain) and daughter. He has a home and makes a living that provides for his family’s needs. But Curtis has disturbing dreams and premontions that lead him to believe that a disaster is going to occur soon that will wipe him and his family off the face of the earth.  Worse still, he may be developing mental illness, which runs in Curtis’s family. So Curtis begins preparing a shelter from the storm of his nightmares that he just knows is going to materialize in reality and bear down upon him and his family. Of all the films at Sundance 11 that stayed in my head this one was by far the most unique and compelling.
Another Earth ***1/2 out of 4

Another Earth

Director Mike Cahill has made an accomplished low- budget sci-fi film with an intriguing premise. of the discovery of a new planet in our very own solar system. This new planet, identical to Earth, seems to be getting closer and closer with complications that are beyond those of regular daily life.  The same night of this discovery, hard-partying MIT student Rhoda (Brit Marling) gets behind the wheel of an SUV and crashes head-on into another vehicle. This sets up a whole series of events with consequences that make a compelling and engaging narrative.  This fictional film that depends on scientific reasoning won the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Award at Sundance 11.
Terri ***1/2out of 4

Terri

Director Azazel Jacobs (son of the experimental filmmaking legend Ken Jacobs) received much critical acclaim, but, little box office revenue, with his last film Momma’s Man (2008). This time, to change up the result, Azazel decided to recruit some actors that have a track record such as John C. Reilly with the resulting film an emotionally rewarding experience. The story is about Terri (Jacob Wysocki), a super- obese young man in high school who has recently decided to stop wearing pajamas to school.   Principal Fitzgerald (Reilly) decides to mentor the social outcast that Terri has become and begins meeting with him on a weekly basis.  He tries bonding with other disenfranchised students but grows apprehensive with the results. As the episodes unwind, Terri meets a girl named Heather (Olivia Crocicchia), and begins to realize that life is full of possibilities. Although no awards came its way, Terri was one of the more satisfying dramatic films at Sundance 11.

WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Hell and Back Again ***1/2out of 4

Hell and Back Again

Director Danfung Dennis, a stills war photographer, animates his canvass to embrace moving pictures in this masterfully constructed look at war at home and in the battlefield.,. At home, he’s trying to nurture his relationship with his wife while he slowly recoveries from a shattered hip— and when the healing is complete, he wants to be back in the theater.

The structure of this film captures the thinking pattern of its protagonist… Dennis uses impressionistic storytelling methods in the documentary format relaying feeling and not just facts. The sound design creates emotion of the memories that haunt him and the battle zone footage is riveting and terrifying. This film may be the closest thing you can watch that will provide you with empathy of war.  That wonderful war zone footage alluded to earlier, earned it the World Cinematography Award for Documentary at Sundance11.
Senna ****out of 4

Senna

Director Asif Kapadia’s documentary puts your heart in your mouth as you follow Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna driving like a mad man. With a remarkable sense of control Senna was extraordinary in how he could drive the car, Senna was one of the most on-the -edge race car champions. He was also the last Formula One driver to be wiped out on the track.

One usually doesn’t discuss scripts for documentaries very much but this one written by Manish Pandey deserves recognition. Weaving together archival footage and home movies, TV clips,  love interests,   highs and lows, and his tragic ending. could not be more exciting. It should come as no surprise that this one won the World Cinema Documentary Award for Documentary at Sundance 2011.
Project Nim ***1/2 out of 4

Project Nim

‘Man on Wire’ Sundance Grand Jury Documentary -winner James Marsh has made another riveting film. This time his subject is the precocious primate Nim Chimpsky who is famous for being taught to communicate via sign language back in the mid-1970s. Nim is removed from his natural mother within days of his birth and adopted by wealthy slackers, including a new mother figure, Stephanie LaFarge, who treats him like a human infant.

A provocative and heartfelt saga that ranges from upsetting to humorous as it spans more 25 years, “Nim” achieves engaging human drama. Marsh’s film- (picked up by HBO just before Sundance) has strong box office potential, raising big questions about morality, parenting strategies and what distinguishes man from animal. The film won The World Cinema Directing Award for Documentary at Sundance 11.
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975*** out of 4

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

Director/ Screenwriter Goran Hugo Olsson puts together a documentary  through the lenses of Swedish (16mm) filmmakers covering the  period(1967-1975) from the rise of the Black Power movement to the beginning of the inner-city drug wars that shattered everything. The filmmakers have brought back into the light some remarkable moments from the archives. A prison interview with Angela Davis shows the courage of the accused professor in the face of horrid surroundings; a black-and-white clip of famed activist Stokely Carmichael interviewing his own mother is moving; and a conversation with Louis Farrakhan right before he took control of the Nation of Islam shows the leader’s charisma and forcefulness. The documentary’s poignant soundtrack and images of Che help set the stage for the evocative images of an era that was remarkable in American politics. In a year when African Americans hardly were part of the Oscars this film is all the more important.  The film won the World Cinema Documentary Editing Award at Sundance 11.
Position Among The Stars ***out of 4

Position Among The Stars

Dutch-Indonesian director Leonard Retel Helmrich deploys a Steadicam for his “single- shot cinema method” of acquisitioning images for his quasi-soap-opera style documentary.

Helmrich has documented the Shamshuddin family living in a Jakarta slum for a dozen years to make his cinema verite saga. The far reaching changes that have transformed Indonesian society impact his family, of course, more than anything else. Helmrich has brought to life a family that has to adapt to changes in education, outlook, religion and even class among three generations jammed into squalid quarters. A remarkable achievement and recognized by the Sundance with a Special Jury Prize.

WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Happy,  Happy ***out of 4

Happy, Happy

First-time feature director Anne Sewitsky helms a successful comedy that is both funny and crass The story revolves around Elisabeth (Maibritt Saerens) and Sigve (Henrik Rafaelsen), who move next door to a depressed schoolteacher, Kaia (Agnes Kittelsen), and her gay husband, Eirik (Joachim Rafaelsen). The fun begins, much of it revolving around——”infidelity, moose meat, white and coal-black lies, blowjobs and cottage cheese.” The film’s title contradicts the thrust of the story.  The funniest and most politically incorrect incident is developed when the young boys play a  game of “slave” between Kaia and Eirik’s son, Theodor (Oskar Hernæs Brandsø), and Elisabeth and Sigve’s adopted Ethiopian son, Noa (Ram Shihab Ebedy), render these scenes effortlessly and makes the audience feel like we are eavesdropping. This submission won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic Film at Sundance 11.
Kinyarwanda ****out of 4

Kinyarwanda

Director/Screenwriter Alrick Brown and co writer/producer Ishmael Ntihabose make the first feature by Rwandan filmmakers to address the country’s 1994 Hutu-on-Tutsi genocide.  Distinguishing itself from Hotel Rwanda, this film tells multiple stories threaded together about that terrible summer of genocide. Shifting between the genocide period and its aftermath a decade later, pic observes the interaction between a compromised priest (Kennedy Mpazimpaka) and a Muslim mufti (Jean Mutsari) who maintains peace among his faithful. There’s also a reticent Hutu man, Emmanuel (Edouard Bamporiki, last seen in “Munyurangabo”), in a state of rehabilitation for murderers, as well as rebel soldiers in theatre. We observe The Hutu Militia hot on the trail of the priest Father Pierre (Kennedy) who they call on the radio “Father Cockroach”. (The Tutsis were referred to as cockroaches by the Hutus)  The pic won the prestigious World Cinema Audience Award at Sundance 11.  Nevertheless, the chances of pick-up for this film are remote.  {JT}
Tyrannosaur ****out of 4

Tyrannosaur

Director/actor Paddy Considine makes an impressive feature debut reworking, characters and setup from his 2008 award-winning short “Dog Altogether”.  Lead character Joseph (Peter Mullan) is addicted to booze and gambling and has a violent temper which he puts into play at the drop of a hat.  After killing his dog by brutally pummeling the animal with his shoes, breaking a store window and beating up three people in a bar, Joseph slips into the clothing racks of a thrift store owned by Christian do-gooder Hannah (Olivia Colman). As their relationship develops, the truth behind Hannah’s bad marriage inspires Joseph to change his negative trajectory and become a helper rather than a destroyer. This transformation is startling and a testament to Considine’s mastery of his actors. The film, one of the most emotionally disturbing experiences of all the films at Sundance 11 won The World Cinema Directing Award: Dramatic.
Restoration ***out of 4

Restoration

Israeli director Yossi Madmoni‘s film is a character-driven piece rather than the political allegory found so often in many films from his country. The film’s lead character is Yakov Fidelman (Sasson Gabai), a geriatric pensioner who has spent much of his career restoring, antique furniture.    Max Malamud, his business partner in the furniture store, is found dead  .on his couch., having died while having sex with a hooker  Equipped with neither social skills nor business acumen, Fidelman now has to figure out how to survive on his own.. The discovery of an 1882 Steinway piano hidden amidst the clutter of the store leads the plot into an intriguing twist. The screenplay, by Erez Kav-El, is elegant and the film won The World Cinema Screenwriting Award at Sundance 11.
All Your Dead Ones **1/2out of 4

All Your Dead Ones

Colombia director/co-writer Carlos Moreno (“Dog Eat Dog”) presents a shocking tale of corruption and bureaucracy. His directorial prowess actually makes this film a biting satire.  Salvador (Alvaro Rodriguez) is a peasant who one day wakes up as usual to work on his land but instead finds a pile of corpses in the middle of his crops. He runs to notify the authorities but it is Sunday and Election Day so the dead ones end up being a nuisance that nobody wants to deal with. The film won The World Cinema Dramatic Cinematography Award at Sundance 11.

PREMIERES
The Future ***1/2out of 4

The Future

The enigmatic director and offbeat performance artist Miranda July (“Me and You and Everyone We Know,”) returns to Sundance with another dark and idiosyncratic tale of love and life. The film deals with a Los Angeles couple who adopt a cat and the ensuing changes to their relationship brought about by that decision. July assumes the role of Sophie, a mediocre children’s dance instructor. She has been dating Jason (Hamish Linklater) for five years and they agree to bring, an injured abandoned cat named Paw Paw into their home.  The choice of having the cat narrate the film is unique and creative and in keeping with the spirit of this surreal fairy tale.  The transformative changes in the characters are profound and Ms. July makes another unique contribution to DIY American indie cinema.
My Idiot Brother *** out of 4

My Idiot Brother

Director Jesse Perentz creates an engaging and funny story of a guy who is to nice for his own good. The inciting incident that kicks it all off is when this nice guy named Ned (Paul Rudd) sells marijuana to a uniformed police officer.  Ned genuinely believes he’s helping out the police officer who was experiencing a tough week.  Rudd is pitch perfect as the titular character. After serving prison time for his naïveté. He is released early for good behavior.  Upon release he causes chaos and confusion in the lives of his three narcissistic sisters played by Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschanel and Elizabeth Banks. This movie is a gripping experience as the characters display empathy and pathos for one another that grabs your heart.  The Weinstein Company acquired this one and spent millions.  I think they made a good choice.
Red State *** out of 4

Red State

Director/screenwriter Kevin Smith’s religious thriller is claimed to be his next to last movie of his career. Smith, whose rise to fame with Clerks is legendary in indie circles, has once again challenged the beliefs of the Christian right. The story revolves around three high school students trying to procure casual sex who encounter a group of fundamentalist zealots hell-bent on torturing or killing them. It plays out violent and action packed and Pastor Cooper’s (Michaek Parks) rant at the close of the film has that special insanity that helps seal our final impressions.  Smith announced his own rebellious distribution strategy for his film at his Park City World Premiere,

SPOTLIGHT
In  A Better World ****of 4

In A Better World

Danish director Susanne Bier’s elegant drama portrays with powerful emotion the behavioural tensions that exist in humans from school bullying to tribal warfare. Bier masterfully juxtaposes rural Denmark and a Kenyan field hospital with a story that shows how difficult it is to teach good values to humans of all age categories from children to adults. .The story follows two absentee fathers as they instruct their children on how to properly interact with others. What makes the film so poignant is how Bier develops characters through actions rather than verbally. Since Sundance, this film has gone on to win the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar and is an accomplished piece of cinema.
I  Saw The Devil ***1/2 of 4

I Saw The Devil

Korean director, Kim Jee-woon, lets his audience see evil up front and close in this psychological horror genre pic which pushes the visceral carnage to new levels of graphic detail.  .The story follows a serial killer who rapes and uses a hammer to pummel to death the pregnant fiancée of a secret-service agent named Soo-hyun. After finding the body of his beloved he decides to devote his life 24/7 to hunt down this psychopath and torture him. Much like the Joker playing with Batman in the Dark Knight killing his nemesis is not enough of a penalty to satisfy him. . Soo-hyun desires to make this killer feel like a victim himself and “see the devil”.  A potential cult film that satisfies the “arousal jag” that young males seek at the theater.  A production note:  Kim has lost his fight with censors to issue the film in South Korea, but Magnet Releasing will distribute in North America.{CR}
Incendies **** out of 4

Incendies

Director Denis Villeneuve vaults to the top tier in his craft with this imaginary interpretation of Wajdi Mouawad’s play, “Incendies”. Excising the long form poetry that worked best on the stage, he carves out a cinematic version that is a brilliant piece of cinema. The methodically paced detective tale has equal parts of rape, genocide and terrorism in an unnamed country of the Middle East. The story sets up Arab-born Montreal twins Jeanne (Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Gaudette), who meet with   their mother’s notary for the reading of her will. They find out about a father who abandoned them, as well as a brother, and set out to locate them both. The pair search the former war zone: and observe Christian soldiers slaughtering a bus full of Muslims. The sound design is startling and the final revelations are intense. A masterfully assembled film and one not to miss.

NEXT
Prairie Love ***out of 4

Prairie Love

Director Dusty Bias creates an idiosyncratic, minimalist tale of a high plains drifter traversing the barren and desolate prairie of North Dakota. The vagabond (Jeremy Clark) is dressed for brutal winter  blizzard conditions as he chugs along in a station wagon dragging a trailer mile after mile. He happens upon a pick-up truck and finds its owner laying in a stupor in the center of the road.  He methodically lifts the man up, shoves him into his vehicle, and continues his journey. Once his rider begins to thaw from the cold, he shares with the Vagabond that his name is  NoDak (Garth Blomberg) and he is on his way to a prison to meet his  pen pal girlfriend (Holly Lynn Ellis), who’s about to be released from prison, even though the two have never met.  Rather than describe the eventual outcome of all these strange occurrences I will recommend you see this most unique and bizarre, low budget, look at humans dealing with the inhospitality of the frozen tundra.  ..
To.get.her **1/2 out of 4

to.get.her

British writer/director Erica Dunton (Find Love) writes about five spoiled and beautiful teenage girls who gather at a beach house to drink, dance and have “a night of no consequence.” The source of funding of this night of debauchery is a stolen credit card from a step- dad- to be. Focusing on unique plot twists and character development, the film’s weak technical credits may be overlooked by its ambitious agenda.  There is a pedophile, pregnant part girl, lesbianism, and other teen developments to keep you entertained.  The film was awarded Best of NEXT at Sundance11.
PARK CITY AT MIDNIGHT
Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel ***out of 4

Corman’s World

Director Alex Stapleton’s celebratory documentary covers the six-decades long career of the U.S. film industry’s most famous poverty row, low-budget “King of the Bs”producer. Corman pumped out scares and titillation at record speeds for drive-in specialists like American International Pictures (AIP) which catered to the rock’ n’roll generation with amusing sci-fi schlock and soapy youth- gone- wild dramas.  Corman’s most famous work was the horror comedy “Little Shop of Horrors” (1960) featuring a young Jack Nicholson shot in just two days.  Stapleton smartly analyses the bigger picture through interviews with the A-listers(Scorsese, Cameron) who got their big breaks on Corman’s low-budget quickies. A masterful and beautifully realized work that should be mandatory viewing for aspiring Indies.
The Oregonian 1/2* out of 4

The Oregonian

“The Oregonian” might be the worst film I have ever seen at Sundance and I’ve been attending for over twenty years.  There is no plot, little understandable dialogue and a sound track designed to irritate its audience.   The protagonist is a girl with no name who viewers meet as she steals a man’s wallet and takes a hit of his vodka. A few scenes later she has crashed a car alongside a deserted road.  She is bleeding from a head wound and is seen leaving the scene of the crash to find medical assistance.  We watch as a steady stream of blood drips down her arm from beneath her flannel shirt. As she walks along the road she encounters a number of characters, each stranger than the next and with no explanation of who they are or why they matter. This nonsense replete with feedback constitutes an assault on your senses and has nothing engaging or compelling about it at all.  I recommend you stay away from this thoroughly vapid exercise in cinematic stupidity. My real question is how could this film have gotten through the screening process at one of the world’s most prestigious festivals?
WITH 36 REVIEWS, THAT’S A WRAP FOR 11!

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