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Slamdance Continues to Challenge Indie Film Orthodoxy

Every year in late January, Pete Baxter and his team get ready for their Park City bash and 2016 looks to be another exciting year for the exuberant programmers of the 22nd Slamdance Film Festival.

Launched in the mid-’90s with a focus on emerging filmmakers equipped with low budgets, the festival has grown considerably — now regularly receiving more than 5,000 submissions per annum — with this year’s slate featuring some impressive entries.

This edition opens Jan. 22 with a special screening of Adam Rifkin and Penn Jillette’s “Director’s Cut,” with other films including the sci-fi features “Let’s Be Evil” from Martin Owen, whom program director Baxter compares to a young Christopher Nolan (who famously got his start at the fest), and Jan. 28’s closing night selection “Embers,” which was directed by Claire Carre. Notable narrative films making their debuts include “All the Colors of the Night,” “Chemical Cut,” “Honey Buddies,” “Hunky Dory,” “Last Summer,” “Mad” and “Driftwood.”

The eclectic documentary selections include “Dead Hands Dig Deep,” “Art of the Prank,” “The Million Dollar Duck” and “Myrtle Beach.” And after premiering last December in Los Angeles, the Slamdance program DIG will be running during this year’s festival for audiences to explore. Covering digital, interactive and gaming, the program is designed to become a testing ground for independent-minded artists looking to expand upon all forms of progressive digital media and art.

To hear it from Baxter himself, 2016 is loaded with highlights. “This is one of the most exciting times for Slamdance and we’re so excited to share so many new voices in independent cinema,” Baxter says. “We’re interested in filmmakers who don’t care about critics, and who are taking bold chances with their work. They know how hard it is to get their films made, and because of things like the DIY film movement, we’re getting edgier and more interesting work.”

But the name of the game is always to get the films seen, and to hopefully find them a home with a proper distributor. “It’s amazing how many of the films at Slamdance don’t have distribution,” Baxter says, suggesting that there should be more outlets for thought provoking items.

“Our special screenings at this year’s festival have a lot of strong sales potential, which is a great thing, and important for the independent film climate in general,” he says. “We’re always looking for filmmakers who are doing new things with their work. We love what we do at Slamdance. We’re all filmmakers here, so we’re very passionate about what we do. And we’ve proven to be very useful for young filmmakers, to help them get discovered, and to put them in a place for audiences to find their work. That’s our goal.”

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