Above: A still from Kibwe Tavares' beautifully shot short film Jonah.
Curious about emerging indie film directors but don’t have a few thousand dollars lying around for plane tickets and festival passes to this year’s Sundance Film Festival? Then mark your calendar, rearrange a decimal point on the admissions price, and wait for Sundance to come to you: Selected shorts from last year’s festival are screening across the country at independent theatres through January and February.
Last Tuesday night, I caught a screening in New York at the IFC Center. The polar vortex had made Manhattan feel like an arctic ghost town all week, but still the theatre was packed. Why were people braving -8 degrees temperatures on a weeknight to see a collection of short films? Because shorts are where they’ll discover their new favorite director.
From Fast Times at Ridgemont High to Dirty Dancing, you can count the number of sympathetically-depicted cinematic abortions on one hand—leaving your other hand free to page through yet another one of those think-pieces about how filmmakers aren’tscared of showing abortions in movies, it’s just that abortions aren’t much of a plot line and audiences just don’t want to see abortions depicted on film. Oh, of course! Thanks for clearing that up, Hollywood masterminds! We’ll be sure to tell everyone who’s ever had an abortion that their experience has less cinematic merit than the 149thParanormal Activity sequel.
Attractive couple, adorable child, affluent neighborhood, perfect life - it must be too good to be true. And so begins Afternoon Delight, which centers on the restless interior life of Rachel, a hipster-suburban mother and wife who goes from being a passive link in a chain of interlocking relationships to the one that yanks it violently out of its comfort zone.
The gist: Couple in a rut goes to a strip club for kicks. Wife gets a lapdance. Wife brings stripper home to live with them. Complications ensue.
The problem, though, is that the filmmakers seem to misdirect the anger. As upsetting as it is to see corporations (some of which were bailed out with federal funds) avoid their taxes, the problem is that what they're doing is legal. Most corporations aren't breaking any laws by using these tax havens—in fact, they have an obligation to their stockholders to protect their investments, and using tax havens is a highly effective way of doing that. Corporations are not going to voluntarily pay more taxes, and a high corporate tax rate that's unavoidable will likely just cause them to do business elsewhere. The problem isn't with them; the problem is in the tax code.
Finding North is a title so perfect it doesn't fully sink in until after you've finished watching the film. The documentary by filmmakers Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush doesn't allude to it at any point during its 84 minutes (except in song lyrics during the opening credits), but it provides a powerful paradigm for the rest of the film: quite simply, any country whose citizens go hungry while there is enough food has lost its direction and must get back on course.
Big news from the Sundance Film Festival this past weekend: for only the third time in the festival's 25-year history, the Sundance jury and the audience awarded their top honors to the same film. Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire (a title designed, no doubt, to distinguish the film from the sci-fi action film of the same name starring Dakota Fanning that hits theaters later this year) won the Grand Jury Prize as well as the Audience Award. Comedienne Mo'Nique also received a Special Jury Prize for Acting for her dramatic performance in the film. Push is an adaptation of author and performance poet Sapphire's powerful story about a young African-American woman who struggles to overcome incredible obstacles, including illiteracy and a harrowing history of abuse. The film's star, newcomer Gabourey Sidibe is receiving rave reviews, as well as her co-stars Mo'Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, and Lenny Kravitz. Unfortunately, all of this momentum may not translate into a chance at the box office.