Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | January 26th, 2022
This year’s Slamdance Film Festival, like its fellow Park City event, Sundance, is a remote-only affair, running January 27-February 6. Once again offering movies, documentary and fiction, from around the world, the full slate promises to be as interesting as in past years. Below are five choices (1 short and 4 features) for your consideration, listed in alphabetical order.
Broken Hearts (Alessandra Lichtenfeld)
This 15-minute short film may suffer from a few over-the-top performances, but its inherent sweetness and positive message about the things that matter in life ultimately win the day. Lead actress Maye Harris stars as Indigo, a teenage girl with congenital heart disease. She’s the daughter of New Age parents who are terrified that the slightest act of rebellion will raise her pulse and kill her. On a visit to the hospital, Indigo meets Sarah (Ellie Adrean), a fellow patient, and the two go on an adventure that proves more dangerous than they imagined, yet also helps free them from fear. Both Harris and Adrean shine, and director Alessandra Lichtenfeld offers some delightful production design in the form of hospital machines made from yarn and animated through stop-motion techniques.
Forget Me Not (Olivier Bernier)
What to do if your child is born with a social, learning, or intellectual disorder, such as Down’s Syndrome, and you wish to have them taught in an inclusive classroom, rather than segregated in Special Ed programs? The answer is that it depends on the school system and one’s understanding of the law and willingness to fight for it. Administrators may disagree on the research, but in Olivier Bernier’s Forget Me Not, we primarily hear from those who fully support inclusive education, as well as from the parents of affected children. Interspersed with archival material from the days of places like Letchworth Village, an institution straight out of the worst horror scenario imaginable, this documentary makes the powerful case that everyone benefits from as full integration as possible.
Imperfect (Regan Linton/Brian Malone)
This list is in alphabetical order, but if it were in order of preference then Imperfect would be at the top. An incredibly poignant look at the Phamaly Theatre Company in Denver, Colorado, as it puts on a production of the musical Chicago, this documentary celebrates the hard work and effort of everyone involved. And what makes Phamaly so exceptional? It’s a disability-affirmative ensemble (full name “Physically Handicapped Actors and Musical Artists League”), which welcomes all performers, as long as they have some kind of disability, physical or cognitive. The movie’s co-director, Regan Linton, is also a principal subject, given that she is the artistic director of the theater, herself wheelchair-bound after a spinal-cord injury in college. The talent on display inspires, and the viewing experience is more than magical.
Killing the Eunuch Khan (Abed Abest)
I have no idea what this movie is about, yet am still mesmerized. It’s gorgeous and meticulously crafted, clearly the work of a filmmaker with very precise ideas in mind, whatever they may be. Iranian director Abed Abest (Simulation ) opens Killing the Eunuch Khan with the following text: “The serial killer uses the victims to kill victims and kills the victims using the victims.” I underline that final phrase because Abest repeats it on the title card. So, expect death, the whole of it an apparent metaphorical narrative set against the 1980s backdrop of the Iran-Iraq War. The plot, such as it is, centers around a mansion in the middle of a big city where a single father lives with his two daughters. When the house is bombed, one of those girls dies, or both do … or maybe neither. Later scenes imply a passage of time where we meet them all (or some) again, much older. Abest layers the narrative in both literal stacks, the one upon the other, and through recurring sequences seen from different angles. Confusion has never seemed so engaging.
New Jack (Danny Lee/Noah Lee)
Wrestler Jerome Young, aka “New Jack,” died in May 2021 at the age of 58. He continued his career well into 2019, as we see in the eponymously titled New Jack, from directors (and brothers) Danny and Noah Lee. Young was a startling figure to behold, his forehead scarred from his patented technique of launching himself from high places onto people and objects below. In archival footage, we see some of the most devastating injuries from the early 2000s, some involving fellow wrestler Vic Grimes. A star of ECW (“Extreme Championship Wrestling”)—a now defunct league—Young entertained fans all the way up to his final days. It’s all here in this rough-and-tumble portrait, which feels like it was put together with scotch tape, much as was its subject. In this case, form follows function to perfection.
Curious how you can see some or all of these? Visit the festival website for information on tickets to virtual screenings.