Slamdance Film Festival embodies the DIY spirit of independent filmmaking and storytelling- Jan 19 to 25, 2024
Slamdance is celebrating its 30th year of operations in 2024. The LA-based organization has evolved into a multi-faceted artist-led organization that serves new and emerging artists, filmmakers, and storytellers from around the world with a series of year-round initiatives.
Known best for its renegade annual Film Festival in Park City, Utah, Slamdance was established by a subversive group of independent artists who were tired of relying on a large, opaque system to showcase their work. Rebelling against an industry increasingly dependent on algorithms, Slamdance has proven, year after year, that when it comes to discovering talent and launching careers, independent and grassroots communities can do it themselves. Notable supporters and alumni of the festival include prolific filmmakers such as Christopher Nolan, Steven Soderbergh and The Russo Brothers.
Slamdance 2024 is building on this initial success of a hybrid online/in-person presence to provide audiences with an inclusive global platform that shares the brilliance of independent film.The festival has earned a solid reputation for premiering films by first-time writers and directors working within the creative confines of limited budgets.
This year the programmers gravitated towards films that embody the true DIY spirit of guerrilla filmmaking and push the boundaries of what’s possible in storytelling. The Festival includes 32 features, 75 shorts, and five episodic titles. This year, 43% of films come from BIPOC creators, and 43% are made by female or non-binary filmmakers. Featured projects hail from a wide range of countries including Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Greece, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Norway, Palestine, Russia, the U.K., and more.
Slamdance takes place in-person at Yarrow Hotel in Park City and in Salt Lake City, Utah from Jan. 19-25, and online screenings will be offered on the Slamdance Channel from Jan. 22-28. Click on the following links for more information – schedule, film guide, and passes. Official Program can be found here.
BUZZ Picks Top 10
Alhaji (28), an aspiring actor living in Los Angeles, is visited for a weekend by his younger brother, Sheku (25), a law student. Unknown to Alhaji, Sheku has come with a specific intention: to reveal the secret that he will be dropping out of law school and moving to LA to pursue acting, just like his older brother. Over the course of the weekend the brother’s relationship is tested and tensions rise as they converse about a variety of subjects with differing views and life philosophies. Alhaji pushes back on Sheku’s newfound dream as the facade of his own life begins to show. When bad news leads Alhaji to put himself in a precarious position, Sheku, the younger brother, comes to his aid and is a hero to his normally domineering older brother. Sheku leaves for the weekend and both brothers realize their relationship has changed for the better forever.
A fictional autobiography about Taylor, a deeply insecure, socially performative, bisexual actor struggling with bulimia. Taylor searches endlessly for validation on his journey to find someone who truly loves and sees him, only to embark on an unwitting journey of self-love in the midst of his eating disorder relapse.
Roll Bus Roll casts an eye at the life and art of Jeffrey Lewis, one of the most prominent musicians associated with NYC’s anti-folk scene. The film opens with an exploration of the anti-folk, offering a glimpse into the unique movement that challenges traditional folk conventions. Then the viewer follows Jeffrey on tour, across cities and continents. Jeffrey, is a self-deprecating genius, introduced through contrasting narratives: his own modest self-assessment, and the views of fans and fellow artists such as Adam Green. The documentary reaches its emotional climax as Jeffrey opens up about a lost love, revealing his mental health struggles that impacted his relationship.
Misha Miyamoto, 29, lives alone in the house her grandmother left her, has held the same job since high school, and likes her life as is: simple. Unfortunately, her satisfaction disappoints everyone around her. Her boss can’t fathom why she won’t take a promotion, her lack of ambition dissuades potential love interests and her parents push her to sell her estate since she has no interest in starting a family. These pressures leave Misha alienated, isolated and sick of justifying her choices. So when Jake, an earnest 19-year-old, mistakes Misha for a high school student, she finds solace in his lack of expectation and starts a relationship with him. As their relationship grows, so does Misha’s reckless behavior.
Sam’s World follows the immersive subjectivity of its main character, Sam, as they grapple with a decision about their secret pregnancy, fantasize about a more supportive partner, and feel dissociated from their friend group. The film centers around a hyper-niche milieu but manages to evoke the universal themes of identity, jealousy and coming of age.
Filmed over ten years, INHERITANCE immerses audiences in a family of love, struggle, and hope as experienced through the eyes and ears of one boy, Curtis, and five generations of his extended family. Grandma and family matriarch, Cheryl, guides audiences into Curtis’ world. Leaving boyhood, but not his family, behind, Curtis moves toward an uncertain future.
Leilani’s Fortune is an intimate journey that follows the blossoming career of queer, Ethiopian-Eritrean artist, Witch Prophet. After a decade of struggling as an independent artist, she is finally getting the validation and support she needs to create the album of her prophecies. Canada boasts some of the biggest names in music including Celine Dion, Justin Bieber, Michael Bublé, and Drake. With her hypnotic harmonies and genre bending sound, she is poised to shape the next era of global Canadian artists.
A cinema-verite, participatory documentary following Seals Sr. and filmmaker Eric as they bike from St. Louis to Chicago. Bike Vessel also utilizes archival footage/photographs and animations to take viewers to Seals’ previous, unhealthy life and health complications while giving audiences an intimate look inside a Black working-class family in the Midwest. By the film’s end, viewers will understand where Seals once was in his health journey, how he fully recovered, and his everyday commitment and struggle of never returning to where he once was.
Virgil Bliss has been a fugitive for twenty years. His decision to return to the scene of his original crime and finally make amends is complicated by the sudden death of his girlfriend Amy, and the unexpected arrival of Amy’s holy-roller sister who catches Virgil up in a web of lies and deceit. At once a dark fable of persistence, perseverance and the transformative power of love, but also a searing indictment of the American carceral system and our ongoing opioid epidemic. “Bliss” is the sequel to the 2001 Indie Spirit Award nominated debut feature “Virgil Bliss” and is the second installment of the Virgil Bliss trilogy.
With unprecedented access to Taiwan’s sitting head of state, director Vanessa Hope investigates the election and tenure of Tsai Ing-wen, the first female president of Taiwan. Thorough, incisive and bristling with tension, Invisible Nation is a living account of Tsai’s tightrope walk as she balances the hopes and dreams of her nation between the colossal geopolitical forces of the U.S. and China. Hope’s restrained observational style captures Tsai at work in her country’s vibrant democracy at home, while seeking full international recognition of Taiwan’s right to exist. At a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated the ever-present threat of authoritarian aggression, Invisible Nation brings punctual focus to the struggle of Taiwan as it fights for autonomy and freedom from fear.
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.