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You Can Watch the Slamdance Film Festival From Your Own Couch

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For those who haven’t decamped for Park City to check out the 2023 Slamdance Film Festival, you don’t need to panic and shell out $250 for an All Access Pass. This annual festival by filmmakers for filmmakers has a virtual component running from January 23-29, 2023. From the comfort of your home, you can become a  member of the Slamdance Channel for $7.99/month. That paid membership will give you unlimited access to more than 100 indie films showing at the 2023 festival. You get films from around the world, both feature-length and short offerings.  

If you’re lucky, catching the 2023 Slamdance offerings may give you “I saw them when” bragging rights. After all, director Christopher Nolan is a Slamdance alumnus. Brian Jordan Alvarez, who starred in the Slamdance short film “Paco,” has gone on to play Cole in the hit “M3GAN.”

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So here’s a sampler of what’s available at Slamdance 2023: 

Moby’s documentary “Punk Rock Vegan Movie” looks at the connection between the worlds of punk rock and animal rights.  Who knew this connection would be a breeding ground for vegan activists? 

Falling into the guilty pleasure category is Louis Cristello’s documentary “Space Happy: Phil Thomas Katt And The Uncharted Zone.”  Katt and his band of ragtag artists make what might be called “so bad it’s good” music and videos.  Five decades of footage shows that these Pensacola, Floridians’ lack of talent isn’t a barrier to their desire to create “art.”

In the “you’re never too old to reinvent yourself” sweepstakes, mid-50-ish Annie takes the prize.  With jail time, five broken marriages, and a 12-step program behind her, she’s determined to go from background character extra to full-fledged actress.  Sophia Peer’s episodic “Who’s Annie” follows what happens after she hooks up with young commercial director Sophia to begin realizing her dream. 

53-year-old Evelien may be spastic from birth, but she still wants intimate contact and recognition for who she is.  Elsbeth Fraanje’s “Sexual Healing” follows her quest for intimacy in a tough yet light-hearted manner.

Punk Rock Vegan Movie

Sickened by the manufactured sweetness of Hallmark Channel romantic movies?  Then you might need Jason Avezzano’s “Love Dump.”  In this romance parody, a quirky antique shop owner searching for her missing father falls for a determined dog lawyer along the way.

Alexia Colette’s episodic “Momo Local” takes viewers to Paris.  There, a schizophrenic dumpster diver meets a female artist inspired by waste.  But any ideas of a meet cute disappear when the world starts turning pink.

In Yuchi Ma’s experimental short “Red Threads,” a Chinese Parachute Kid has to live with both filial love and filial guilt.  Helping to convey this uncomfortable experience is a mix of live-action film, Sims 4 Machinima, and lots of sewing and thread.

Kimi Takesue’s documentary “Onlookers” takes viewers on a trip to Laos.  Tourism may make the Laotian economy hum.  Yet these visitors are less interested in immersing themselves in Laos’ wonders (both natural and man-made) than in finding picturesque selfie backdrops.

In Keishi Kondo’s bizarre fantasy “New Religion,” divorced Miyabi has turned to prostitution after her daughter’s death.  But a weird customer’s sessions may help bring the spirit of Miyabi’s daughter back.  Every time he photographs one of Miyabi’s body parts, the dead daughter’s spirit gets closer.  But if Miyabi’s eyes get photographed, will society fall?

New Religion

What if your ex-boyfriend decided to get revenge against your obnoxious former boss?  That’s the initial set-up for Alexandre Leblanc’s “Nut Jobs.”  Benjamin, Angie’s ex-boyfriend, announces his revenge plot against the owner of a right-wing radio station who is Angie’s ex-boss.  But Benjamin’s claimed involvement with a left-wing terrorist group, conceptual artists, and a hallucinogenic vinyl record makes Angie wonder if this is all a scam to win her back.

Law Chen’s odd documentary “Starring Jerry As Himself” concerns retired and recently divorced immigrant father Jerry Chen.  Supposedly, the Chinese government recruits him to be an undercover agent to bust an international money laundering operation.  But is this all an elaborate scam?

Here to remind you why All Cops Are Bastards is Nathan Truesdell’s documentary short “When The LAPD Blows Up Your Neighborhood.”  Take a busy street, a volatile situation, and the cops’ presence.  The news organizations and the local residents watch as 5-0 turns this situation into a literal powder keg.

Of definite local interest is Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus’ “American Pot Story: Oaksterdam.”  It’s the story of the Oakland-based band of rebellious underdogs who not only established Oaksterdam University aka America’s first cannabis college but also revolutionized cannabis public policy around the world thanks to their state ballot initiative Proposition 19.

The titular “Motel Drive” of Brendan Geraghty’s documentary refers to a stretch of badly run down 1950s era Fresno motels that have now become homes to the likes of sex workers and meth addicts.  Justin Shaw and his parents live at one such motel.  But when the California High-Speed Rail Project breaks ground on Motel Drive, they get displaced.  Geraghty follows the Shaws over the next eight years as they struggle to find a stable home.

Matt Barats’ documentary “Cash Cow” follows a struggling actor waiting for the national broadcast of his Domino’s Pizza commercial.  In the meantime, he camps and explores early Mormon historical sites. 

Would you believe Maurizius Staerkle Drux’ documentary “The Art Of Silence” is the first feature documentary ever done on legendary mime Marcel Marceau?  This look at the mime’s life and work includes the key role the Nazi murder of his Jewish father played in spurring him to join the French Resistance and eventually embrace the art of silence.

In some places, it’s already an unnecessary hassle trying to get the morning after pill.  But for the disabled female protagonist of Nathan Morris’ short “My Eyes Are Up Here,” those familiar headaches and hassles of accessing the Pill get multiplied by 10.

Motel Drive

Think plastic pollution in the oceans has nothing to do with you?  Laen Sanches’ animated short “PLSTC” will make you see otherwise.  Using AI-generated and hand composited images of underwater creatures, the film takes viewers into the underwater dystopia of PLSTC where sea creatures have unfortunate encounters with humanity’s plastic garbage.

Philipp Schaeffer’s “The Unicorn In Snow Pants Suddenly Ran Off” has one of Slamdance 2023’s best titles.  This documentary short presents three confident blind children who create a play world involving unicorns, call centers, and flying grandfathers.

What do you get when you mix gender identity discovery with unicorns?  The answer is Matt Kiel’s animated fantasy “Unicorn Boy.”  Heartbroken and down-on-their-luck artist Matty gets magically sucked into an alternate dimension populated by unicorns.  There, they must  help a unicorn friend defeat a dark force threatening the dimension.  In the course of their adventure, Matty winds up getting their own personal awakening.

Sadly, space considerations reduce discussing other Slamdance 2023 offerings to one-liners.  “Free LSD”  involves a sex shop owner, an erectile dysfunction doctor and an alternate reality. “Reality Is Not Good Enough” concerns a biracial adoptee from a TFG-loving family who’s willing to be exploited if it means she becomes a reality TV star.  With your full virtual Slamdance access, take advantage of one of the best filmgoing deals you can have.

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Peter Wong

Peter Wong

I've been reviewing films for quite a few years now, principally for the online publication Beyond Chron. My search for unique cinematic experiences and genre dips have taken me everywhere from old S.F. Chinatown movie theaters showing first-run Jackie Chan movies to the chilly slopes of Park City. Movies having cat pron instantly ping my radar.