Slamdance believes competition films are the strongest in its history
Slamdance President and Co-Founder Peter Baxter is confident that the festival’s competition films will captivate audiences when they screen in Park City at the Treasure Mountain Inn the final week of January.
The nonprofit released the list of the 12 narratives and eight documentaries earlier this week. See the list titled "Slamdance competition films."
"We’re still working on the rest of the program but we’re really excited about these films," said Baxter, who, along with new festival manager Clementine Leger spoke with The Park Record. "I think the program we have for the docs and narrative is really outstanding. It’s definitely one of the strongest, if not the strongest, programs we’ve had at Slamdance."
One reason these films caught programmers’ eyes is because filmmakers are immersing themselves in modern technology to craft their stories.
"That has a lot to do with how technology has developed in the last three or four years and I think this has allowed these emerging artists to spend more time in their works," Baxter said. "So, not only have we seen a rise in standard, not only in terms of the picture in how it looks, how its been edited and colored, but also in the terms of storytelling. I think that’s a mark."
"Peter used the word ‘artist’ to describe the filmmakers and that is not only important to me, but also apparent in our lineup," she said. "Filmmakers finding their voices and telling their stories by creating their art that is very different than in the past. We are seeing distinctive voices in these films, which we haven’t seen before, because this is a new way of filmmaking and it’s very exciting and thrilling to be able to live in a time when that is happening."
Another reason the films jump out is because of the filmmakers’ attitudes.
"There is a boldness to independent filmmaking that we are seeing come through and have been submitted to Slamdance," Baxter said. "This is evident not only in the films we have selected, and that has a lot to do with the realization that as an emerging filmmaker and artist, this is the time when you can experiment and be brave with your filmmaking. You don’t have to think or to consider, follow or to copy other filmmakers and the types of films we are seeing in the (mainstream) cinema."
While there is no emerging global hotspot for these types of filmmakers, Leger said that the foreign film submissions have become stronger in quality and narrative.
"We see this because those countries, versus the U.S., provide more funding for filmmakers," she said. "In many countries there is government funding available, and there isn’t a lot here in America.
"However, I must say, we had many strong U.S. films by filmmakers who went out and were bold and brave in doing something different," Leger said. "All the festivals’ programmers have never had so many strong films to look at in deliberations. It was hard, because there was a lot of great stuff."
Baxter believes that has to do with the renegade spirit of independent filmmakers.
"In the past couple of days, I have been looking over documents that accompany the submissions and the ones that resonate with our programmers are those filmmakers who began their projects by seeking out financing from the local investors and state funding and found those investors didn’t want to get involved with the projects," he said. "The correlation is the films that we’re interested in at Slamdance are usually the ones from these filmmakers who couldn’t find the funding and worked it out on their own at the end.
"Because they did that, they didn’t have a group of advisors standing around and telling them what they should be doing," Baxter continued. "Instead, they got a team of people to work on a creative thing without any outside influences. I think that’s what we’re seeing outside of the United States."
Leger noticed a broad range of films that even pushed the envelope of the concept of independent film.
"People are moving away from the typical ‘Indiewood’ stories and tackling subjects that are out of the box," she said. "We’ve been very excited to see this, because film is art and art defines a culture and society in its time. It’s very cool to be at the forefront of that."
Leger, a Slamdance alumnus, rejoined Slamdance this year as festival manager after two seasons as programming coordinator for the Florida Film Festival in Orlando.
"Becoming festival manager for Slamdance is a total honor," she said. "I’m so happy to be here. It’s a dream to be in this position. Now that it’s happened, it’s been very surreal, incredible and humbling every day.
She replaced Anna Germanidi, the former festival director.
"Anna, worked very hard for that position and still has a role with Slamdance, and it’s been great to have Clementine back," Baxter said. "One of the features of Slamdance over the years is that, yes, we are supporting emerging artists, but also what we’re interested in doing is supporting people who want to work in the film industry who are filmmakers themselves. And we want to give them a chance to work on another side of film in the industry."
Slamdance will be held at the Treasure Mountain Inn, 255 Main St., from Jan. 22 to Jan. 28. For more information about Slamdance tickets and the festival’s competition narratives and documentaries, visit http://www.slamdance.com .
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