Rock Steady Row - Demented chaos rules this bizarro-world college campus where the reigning gang-frats target a freshman, who dare crosses their path Photo: Trevor Stevens
The feature competition lineup of the festival, set-up as an fringe alternative to Sundance in 1995, includes 10 world premieres, two North American premieres, and four US premieres. Most titles were produced in the US, with additional features coming from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany and Netherlands. All competition films are feature length directorial debuts with budgets of less than $1 million, and without US distribution.
Although the directors are all debutantes, there are some familiar names in the cast list, including Stranger Things star David Harbour, Better Call Saul's Kerry Condon and Hadewijch star Julia Sokolowski, who will all appear in Human Affairs.
Co-founder and president Peter Baxter said: "Born out of rejection, Slamdance’s artist-led group continues to discover cutting edge talent creating work outside of convention. Our 2018 competition lineup is daring, varied, and vivid—it represents the spirit of our time and leads us into the future."
All films were selected from blind submissions by a team of Slamdance alumni and are programmed democratically. Jury and Audience Awards are presented for the Best Narrative Feature and Best Documentary Feature.
Additionally, a major new award has been launched. Alumni Anthony and Joe Russo (Welcome To Collinwood, Captain America: Civil War) have partnered with Slamdance with their inaugural Russo Fellowship award. The award winner will receive a $25,000 cash prize and mentorship from Joe and Anthony in the development of the winner’s next project at the brother’s new Los Angeles-based studio. Every participating filmmaker at the 2018 festival is eligible for this annual prize.
“The Russo brothers exemplify our 'by filmmakers for filmmakers' paradigm," added Peter Baxter. "They are joined by a great number of dedicated alumni who’ve shown when it comes to recognising talent and launching careers, Slamdance’s independent and grassroots film community really can do it themselves.”
The list of competition features is below:
- Birds Without Feathers (USA) World Premiere
Director/writer: Wendy McColm
Desperate for human interaction, six emotionally damaged individuals risk self-respect, shedding their disillusionment in a last grasp for happiness. A cruel-world comedy populated by struggling Instagram stars, Russian cowboys, Self-help gurus and more, their lives collide and crash in astounding ways.
Cast: Wendy McColm, Lenae Day Cooper Oznowicz, William Gabriel Greer, Sara Estefanos, and Alexander Stasko
- Charlie And Hannah's Grand Night Out (Belgium) World Premiere
Director/writer: Bert Scholiers
Two Girls. One Night. Magical Candy Consumed. Twenty-somethings, Charlie and Hannah, find themselves strolling through the city as events take a wildly surreal turn. Transported to a trippy galaxy, filled with cosmic wisdom and contradictions, the pair learn to realise the search for love can take many forms.
Cast: Evelien Bosmans, Daphne Wellens, Patrick Vervueren
- Fake Tattoos (Canada) US Premiere
Director/writer: Pascal Plante
Shy Theo finds himself unexpectedly kicked in the heart by a punk-rock romance on his 18th birthday as Mag bursts into his life for a rollicking encounter. Set against a backdrop of music and mayhem, this coming-of-age tale, explores the thrashing fragility of summer love as life choices and separation loom with no true answers in sight.
Cast: Anthony Therrien, Rose-Marie Perreault
- Fish Bones (USA) World Premiere
Director/writer: Joanne Mony Park
Hana, a Korean immigrant on winter break, is caught between worlds. While struggling to find peace with her conservative mother and the expectations surrounding her future, Hana finds herself falling for Nico, a tender and affectionate Latina music producer.
Cast: Joony Kim, Cris Gris
- Human Affairs (USA) World Premiere
Director/writer: Charlie Birns
This richly earnest drama follows Geneviève, a surrogate who must reckon with her ambivalence about the pregnancy and her precarious feelings for the parents-to-be.
Cast: Dominic Fumusa, Kerry Condon, David Harbour, Julie Sokolowski
- Lovers (Denmark) US Premiere
Director: Niels Holstein Kaa
Screenwriter: Magnus B. B. Lysbakken
In the streets, parks and cafes of Copenhagen, a triptych of love stories come to vivid life. Framed with a superb naturalism, these tales through the seasons tackle the ever rising tide of loneliness and self-doubt that can come in the face of new love.
Cast: Marie Mailand, Niklas Herskind, Nina Terese Rask
- M/M (Canada, Germany) World Premiere
Director/writer: Drew Lint
Wayward Canadian, Matthew, crushed by the isolation of being new to Berlin, turns his sexual desires toward Matthias that spiral into a dark fixation of assumed identity. Soon, this obsessive power struggle between the two, careens toward brutal passion and violence in a bid for dominance.
Cast: Antoine Lahaie, Nicolas Maxim Endlicher
- Rock Steady Row (USA) World Premiere
Director: Trevor Stevens
Screenwriter: Bomani Story
Demented chaos rules this bizarro-world college campus where the reigning gang-frats target a freshman, who dare crosses their path. Trapped between a blaze of twisted ‘Mad Max’ style power games, he shrewdly plays both sides, fuelling apocalyptic-sized battles that escalate to ensnare the school Dean who’s coming unglued.
Cast: Heston Horwin, Diamond White, Logan Huffman, Isaac Alisma, Allie Marie Evans, Larry Miller, Peter Gilroy
- Songs in the Sun (Denmark) US Premiere
Director: Kristian Sejrbo Lidegaard
Screenwriters: Allan Hyde, Kristian Sejrbo Lidegaard
Off the coast of Denmark, young Anna discovers she is the only lifeline to ailing childhood friend Julie and Sonja, Julie’s apathetic mother. Over the course of one momentous afternoon, Anna will learn the healing power of belief and myth-making in everyday living
Cast: Emma Sehested Høeg, Charlotte Munck, Victoria Carmen Sonne
- The Starry Sky Above Me (France) US Premiere
Director: Ilan Klipper
Screenwriters: Ilan Klipper, Raphaël Neal
Bruno is happy to live out his days luxuriating in the existential highs and lows only a brilliant literary mind can appreciate. But when his loved ones seek to intervene with the help of a psychiatrist, Bruno's bohemian lifestyle may in fact be the perfect anecdote to the colourless, PC lives they didn't know they hated.
Cast: Laurent Poitrenaux, Camille Chamoux, Marilyne Canto, Alma Jodorowsky, François Chattot, Michèle Moretti, Frank Williams
- Circus Ecuador (Ecuador, USA) World Premiere
Directors: Ashley Bishop and Jim Brassard
James and Ashley travel to the jungles of Ecuador to make a documentary about a school being built for an indigenous community only to discover that the community may or may not be involved with aliens, gold smuggling, human trafficking, and murder.
- Freedom for the Wolf (Germany, USA)
Director: Rupert Russell
From Hong Kong to Tunisia to Bollywood, people are fighting against elected leaders dismantling freedom and democracy. These seemingly disparate international stories are cohesively tied into what is happening in the US to reach some very compelling conclusions.
- Ingrid (USA) World Premiere
Director: Morrisa Maltz
An intimate look at a woman who left her life as a successful fashion designer and mother in Texas to become a reclusive hermit, immersed in nature, focused solely on creating art.
- Instant Dreams (Netherlands) North American Premiere
Director: Willem Baptist
An essayistic quest for the secret of instant film, the magic appeal of Polaroid and what that tells us about the fascinating relationship we have with the photographic image.
- Man on Fire (USA) World Premiere
Director: Joel Fendelman
Grand Saline, Texas was a sleepy, unremarkable town - until a white preacher lit himself on fire to protest the town’s racism in 2014.
- MexMan (USA) World Premiere
Director: Josh Polon
Germán is a young artist and filmmaker struggling to complete his first feature film and express his undying love to a girl, while secretly living at an airport and trying to stay sane.
- Mr. Fish: Cartooning From The Deep End (USA)
Director: Pablo Bryant
This personal documentary follows a controversial political cartoonist as he struggles to provide for his family and stay true to his creativity in a world where biting satiric humour has an ever-diminishing commercial value.
- Sunnyside (Belgium, Netherlands) North American Premiere
Director: Frederik Carbon
On a seaside mountain in Northern California two old friends (one a visionary architect and the other an influential sound artist) dream, talk, live, and create.