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Slamdance has history of indie finds

Buzz titles include 'Bindlestiffs,' 'Heavy Girls'

Slamdance, launched 18 years ago as a renegade alternate to Sundance, is opening Friday amid bright prospects as filmmakers take advantage of lower costs of production.

“I think that modern technology is playing a very positive role for low-budget filmmaking,” notes Slamdance prexy and co-founder Peter Baxter. “Cameras are more affordable and filmmakers can spend a lot more time in the editing room. You’ll really see it in the strength of performances in the narrative section this year.”

Baxter said the new crop of narrative films has accelerated in quality this year. “We’ve had very strong documentaries in recent years but this year we are seeing very strong directing voices in the narrative entries,” he added.

The Slamdance competition lineup has 10 narrative films and eight docs — including 13 world premieres — culled from nearly 5,000 submissions and reserved for first time feature directors working with budgets under $1 million. Slamdance will run through Thursday at Park City’s Treasure Mountain Inn.

Narrative titles already generating buzz are “Bindlestiffs,” directed by Andrew Edison; “Heavy Girls,” directed by Axel Ranisch, and “OK, Good,” directed by Daniel Martinico. Documentaries that have gained pre-festival notice include “We Are Legion: The Story of Hacktivists,” directed and written by Brian Knappenberger;”Getting Up,” directed by Caskey Ebeling; and “Kelly,” directed by James Stenson;

Breakout hits from previous fests have included “Mad Hot Ballroom” in 2005, Seth Gordon’s “The King of Kong” in 2007 and Oren Peli’s “Paranormal Activity” in 2008. Some of the filmmakers first discovered at Slamdance include Chris Nolan (“Following,” 1998), Marc Forster (“Loungers,” 1996), Jared Hess via a short version of “Napoleon Dynamite,” and Lynne Shelton (“We Go Way Back,” 2006).

Peli, who’s on a promo tour of his upcoming ABC series “The River,” told Variety that his Slamdance experience — when “Paranormal Activity” screened in January 2008 — was unforgettable.

“It was kind of overwhelming for someone with no real connections to Hollywood,” Peli noted. “To get that kind of recognition from people who are really interested in films was just so exciting. What I’d like to do sometime is just go back to Slamdance and enjoy it as a fan, which is obviously not going to happen this year.”

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