Film festivals such as Sundance, Tribeca, Toronto
and Telluride and the films they exhibit offer an escape
into a world where movies can take chances, contradict themselves and ignore cinema ratings.
Irrespective of quality, some of the films shown at these festivals remind us that movies can surprise you, even if they are not big box office hits, providing an often nice contrast to mainstream moviegoing options. As we approach award season, let’s look at a few festival favorites that excite, inspire, frighten and dazzle. You may have to search to find these flicks, but it will be worth the effort.
SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL
Favorites from last year’s Sundance Film Festival are Manchester by the Sea and Sing Street, which are now in the running for awards along side mainstream films.
The Birth of a Nation
Directed by Nate Parker | Award: US Grand Jury Prize Drama 2016
Nat Turner is an enslaved Baptist preacher, who lives on a Virginia plantation owned by Samuel Turner. With rumors of insurrection in the air, a cleric convinces Samuel that Nate should sermonize to other slaves, thereby quelling any notions of an uprising. As Nate witnesses the horrific treatment of his fellow man, he realizes that he can no longer just stand by and preach.
At 2017 Sundance look for these anticipated entries: The Polka King (Jack Black, Jason Schwartzman), Beatriz at Dinner (Salma Hayek, John Lithgow), Before I Fall, Marjorie Prime (Geena Davis, Tim Robbins) and The Incredible Jessica James.
TELLURIDE FILM FESTIVAL
Directed by Michael Collins | Award: Moving Mountains Prize 2016
A remarkable number of veterans return from America’s interventions shattered, committing suicide at a rate of almost one per hour. Almost Sunrise looks at this epidemic through the lens of two men who fought together in Iraq. After returning to the U.S., Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson struggled for years before deciding to walk across the country to help heal themselves. What they find is that these steps are only the beginning of the longest journey of their lives.
This documentary tells a tale of physical and mental challenges and much more. It introduces the term “moral injury” (the psychological damage service members face when experiences on the battlefield challenge their moral beliefs) and asks what we take forever from the young men and women who sacrifice so much for their country. This film shows what it requires to reclaim and reorient your life when you’ve been to hell and back. It’s not an easy path, but it’s one worth taking.
SKATEBOARDING at PINE RIDGE Directed by Greg Hunt
The Oglala Lakota of South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation believe the seventh generation of youth will lead a new awakening—through skateboarding. Skateboarding in Pine Ridge chronicles the lives of skater and suicide prevention counselor Brian Sherman. A skate park built in 2011 is now a second home and safe haven for 100 kids, and tribal elders hope another newly opened park in neighboring Manderson will be equally successful. For young Pine Ridge residents, skateboarding represents a way to break the reservation’s cycle of poverty, drug and alcohol abuse and reaffirm ties to their ancestry.
Toronto Film Festival
THOSE WHO MAKE REVOLUTION HALFWAY ONLY DIG THEIR OWN GRAVES
Directed by Mathieu Denis & Simon Lavoie | Award: Best Canadian Feature Film 2016
Some disaffected young people in Quebec escalate from vandalism to terrorism, creating chaos in Montreal, as they plan to overthrow the government.
TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL
DEAN Directed By Demetri Martin | Award: Founders Award 2016
An Illustrator falls hard for a woman while trying to prevent his father from setting fire to the family home in the wake of his mother’s death. This is a comedy about loss, grief and love.
Sources: www.indiewire.com, www.sundance.org, www.telluridefilmfestival.org, www.variety.com, www.dancefilms.org, www.filmsite.org