Film fest alive with new visions of the world

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PARK CITY, Utah — If there was a commonality among the 20 features and 41 shorts screened at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival, it was one of highly individualistic distillations of reality.

From a serene Iowa cornfield to the bustling metropolis of a Seoul apartment complex, from a docu that sees Down’s syndrome as a misunderstood gift to an exquisitely satiric short about the discrimination faced by a race of clowns, Slamdance was alive with new visions of the world.

Now in its seventh incarnation (and having outgrown three prior venues), Slamdance 2001 nestled comfortably above the madness of Park City in a converted silver mine just outside town. Although it can rest assured of its pre-eminent position in the pantheon of Park City alterna-dances (no small feat, given that Scamdance, Digidance, No Dance, Lapdance and X-Dance were in town), the vibe inside the event co-founded by four disgruntled filmmakers remains decidedly grassroots.

Despite being besieged with a number of submissions nearly equal to Sundance, Slamdance operates just two screening rooms at its Silvermine venue, with fest honchos alternately introducing screenings, taking tickets at the door, adjusting screen maskings and dimming house lights.

A main theater that seats just over 200 was filled to capacity for most of the festival’s evening screenings, catering to those who crave boldly original cinema.

International scope

All of the Slamdance competition films are by first-time feature filmmakers working on budgets under (in most cases, well under) $1 million, and fest programmers subscribe to the philosophy that indie films are made all over the world, not just in the U.S. The lineup included two films from Korea, one from Germany and one from Sweden.

Of course, not every film at Slamdance is a winner — not by a long shot — but many featured some extraordinary element. And there were at least a few major discoveries. Bong Joon-ho’s “Barking Dogs Never Bite” and Hendrik Handloegten’s “Paul Is Dead” are two inspired crowd-pleasers — the first a mildly comic riff on Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “The Decalogue,” the second weaving an inspired adolescent fantasy from a famous bit of Beatles mythology. There’s also Larry Fessenden’s lean, brainy horror fable “Wendingo” and Monteith McCollum’s “Hybrid,” a brilliant, experimental doc that would be a standout in any film series.

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