Slamdance Film Festival has unveiled its 26th anniversary narrative and documentary feature film competition programs, as well as the lineup for its new breakouts section.
The narrative lineup includes director Heather Young’s drama “Murmur.” The movie, which won the Fipresci Discovery Prize at the Toronto International Film Festival, stars Shan MacDonald as an older woman who, while performing community service at an animal shelter, begins compulsively adopting pets to ease her loneliness.
The festival, launched in 1995 as an alternative to Sundance, has included showings of such notable titles as Oren Peli’s “Paranormal Activity.” The fest, which takes place at the Treasure Mountain Inn in Park City, Utah, from Jan. 24 to Jan. 30, will screen 23 movies including 10 world premieres, five North American premieres, and one U.S. premiere.
Slamdance alumni include Joe and Anthony Russo, Christopher Nolan, Marc Forster, Jared Hess, Lena Dunham, Benh Zeitlin, Seth Gordon, and Lynn Shelton. Titles that have debuted at Slamdance include “Mad Hot Ballroom” and Gordon’s “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.”
This year’s big winner was Nicole Brending’s “Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity in American Popular Culture,” which won the Narrative Feature Grand Jury prize and the Spirit of Slamdance award. Slamdance’s feature competition is limited to films made by first-time directors with budgets under $1 million and without U.S. distribution.
“Slamdance is above all a place of discovery,” said Slamdance co-founder and president Peter Baxter. “Every year filmmakers break out of the festival because the industry at large recognizes the need for new voices. With a record breaking 8,231 submissions this year, our artist-led organization brings a lineup full of wonderful risk taking and unique storytelling. That’s the spirit of Slamdance 2020.”
The 2020 festival will see the return of the Russo Fellowship, a $25,000 prize launched in
2018 by the Russo brothers (“Avengers: Endgame”). Breakouts are films by non-first-time-feature directors who demonstrate a determined vision of filmmaking that is instinctively becoming their own.
See the complete list of competition features below:
1986 – (Germany, Belarus) North American Premiere
Director/ Screenwriter: Lothar Herzog
While Elena repeatedly has to drive into the ‘forbidden zone’ of Chernobyl in order to make
deals for her father, her life seems more and more contaminated by a destructive force…
Cast: Daria Mureeva, Evgeni Sangadzhiev, Vitali Kotovitski, Alexei Filimonov, Helga Filippova,
A Dog’s Death – (Uruguay, France, Argentina) North American Premiere
Director: Matías Ganz
Veterinarian Mario and his wife Silvia enjoy a bourgeois life in Montevideo but two events will
disturb their tranquility. A dog surgery goes wrong for Mario and Silvia discovers retirement.
They will be dragged from paranoia to violence and from violence to nonsense.
Cast: Guillermo Arengo, Pelusa Vidal, Soledad Gilmet, Lalo Rotaveria, Ruth Sandoval, Ana
Beware of Dog – (USA, Russia, Germany) World Premiere
Director/ Screenwriter: Nadia Bedzhanova
Three young adults experience parallel struggles with mental health and identity. In Moscow a woman struggles with severe OCD, while her cousin in Berlin tries to build a romantic
relationship ignoring her own mental condition. Meanwhile in New York City, a heartbroken
boxer faces addiction and lack of self worth in the aftermath of a break-up.
Cast: Marina Vasileva, Buddy Duress, Paula Knüpling, Marina Prados, Kevin Iso, Pavel
Murmur – (Canada)
Director/ Screenwriter: Heather Young
While performing community service at an animal shelter, an older woman begins compulsively
adopting pets to ease her loneliness.
Cast: Shan MacDonald
Majnuni – (Bosnia i Herzegovina, USA) North American Premiere
Directors: Kouros Alaghband, Drew Hoffman Screenwriters: Kouros Alaghband, Drew Hoffman, Adnan Omerović
After stalking a broken family through the night in the war-torn city of Sarajevo, Adnan snaps
into an altered state of consciousness where his identity becomes entangled in the lives he is
Cast: Adnan Omerović, Dina Hebib, Barry Del Sherman, Nela Baždar, Emil Ivancic, Mel
Residue – (USA) World Premiere
Director/ Screenwriter: Merawi Gerima
A young filmmaker returns home after many years away to write a script about his childhood,
only to find his neighborhood unrecognizable and his childhood friends scattered to the wind.
Cast: Obinna Nwachukwu, Dennis Lindsey, Taline Stewart
Sanzaru – (USA) World Premiere
Director/ Screenwriter: Xia Magnus
When a mild Filipina nurse is hired by an elderly woman declining into dementia, the walls
between this world and the next crumble as she uncovers her employer’s shocking family
Cast: Aina Dumlao, Justin Arnold, Jayne Taini, Jon Viktor Corpuz
Shell and Joint – (Japan) North American Premiere
Director/ Screenwriter: Isamu Hirabayashi
A wild ride into a world of ideas, alternately profound, shallow, funny and horrific, conveyed by
outspoken characters in powerful static compositions, in and around a capsule hotel.
Cast: Mariko Tsutsui, Keisuke Horibe, Kanako Higashi, Aiko Sato, Hiromi Kitagawa, Atsuko
Sudo, Ayano Kudo, Naoto Nojima
Tahara – (USA) World Premiere
Director: Olivia Peace
At the funeral for a Hebrew school classmate who took her own life, two best friends find
themselves distracted by the teenage complications of lust, social status, and wavering faith.
Cast: Rachel Sennott, Madeline Grey DeFreece, Shlomit Azoulay, Daniel Taveras, Bernadette
Tapeworm – (Canada) US Premiere
Directors/ Screenwriters: Milos Mitrovic, Fabian Velasco
A hypochondriac, a failed comedian, a loner and two naive stoners seek an escape from their
pitiful and mundane existence.
Cast: Adam Brooks, Alex Ateah, Milos Mitrovic, Sam Singer, Stephanie Berrington, Jennifer
Mauws, Julie Simpson, Sandro Dibari
Thunderbolt in Mine Eye – (USA) World Premiere
Director: Sarah Sherman, Zachary Ray Sherman Screenwriters: Jason Loftus, Caylan Ford
A brainy fourteen year old embarks on an awkward but heartfelt first love relationship with her brother’s best friend while exploring her budding feminism and a gender double standard at their high school.
Cast: Anjini Taneja Azhar, Quinn Liebling
An Ordinary People – (South Africa, Eswatini, Namibia ) World Premiere
Director: Ernest Nkosi
Born out of crime and largely marginalized by mainstream society emerges the story of Car
Spinning in South Africa.
Ask No Questions – (Canada) World Premiere
Directors: Jason Loftus, Eric Pedicelli
A former Chinese state TV insider is held in a brainwashing camp and compelled to accept the
official narrative on a fiery public suicide, which he believes was a government plot.
Bastards’ Road – (USA)
Director: Brian Morrison
Coming home from war is just the beginning.
Big Fur – (USA)
Director: Dan Wayne
If World Champion taxidermist Ken Walker can’t find Bigfoot, he’ll make one.
Higher Love – (USA) World Premiere
Director: Hasan Oswald
A blue collar father tries to rescue his pregnant, heroin-addicted girlfriend from the dangerous streets of Camden, NJ. Once their son is born, a new journey begins for the fate of the baby and the family’s sobriety that may split them apart forever.
Jasper Mall – (USA) World Premiere
Directors: Bradford Thomason, Brett Whitcomb
A year in the life of a dying shopping mall.
Lovemobil – (Germany)
Director: Elke Margarete Lehrenkrauss
Along the country roads of rural Germany, prostitutes from foreign countries work in old
caravans when mysteriously one woman is murdered and fear begins to spread into an already dark and surreal world.
Maxima – (USA, Peru)
Director: Claudia Sparrow
A multi-billion-dollar corporation meets their match in a fearless Indigenous woman who remains uncowed after years of violent intimidation.
Queen of the Capital – (USA)
Director: Joshua Davidsburg
DC Bureaucrat by day, drag queen by night, Muffy Blake Stephyns follows her dream of leading a group of vibrant drag performers on a crusade for the community.
Close Quarters – (Mexico) North American Premiere
Director/Screenwriter: Andres Clariond
In a time in which it is essential to question gender roles, this film explores, confronts and
breaks apart man’s darkest insecurities and vices.
Cast: Paulina Gaitan, Jose Pescina, Jorge Jimenez
The Penny Black – (USA) World Premiere
Director: Joe Saunders
The estranged son of a con man fights temptation, paranoia, and his own nefarious legacy as
he searches for the rightful owner of a mysterious, million-dollar stamp collection.
The Wind. A Documentary Thriller – (Poland, Slovakia)
Director/ Screenwriter: Michal Bielawski
“The Wind” is a multi-thread story on a clash between people and the forces of nature, woven into a documentary thriller.