Slamdance Narrative Shorts Block 1 [Slamdance Film Festival 2019]

Autumn Waltz (2018)
Ognjen Petkovic’s short thriller is a tense look at a couple trying to escape a war zone and make it out of enemy lines without becoming one of the many victims of the ensuing battles. Set in the 1990’s amidst a landscape of rubble, and torn down deluxe flats, a man and woman attempt to make it outside of Yugoslavia. When they’re faced with a barricade of ruthless armed soldiers, they make up a story that allows them free passage. But as the soldiers interrogate them their reasons for leaving their home land begin to fall apart. At the last minute they’re saved by the most unlikely source and it’s a testament to how the past can affect the present, and vice versa. It’s a well shot and tense short with some fine photography and I quite liked it.

Chicken Wraps and Condoms (2018)
Jacob Gregor’s “Chicken Wraps and Condoms” is a jarring and often unpleasant satire of the Youtube generation. Sparing absolutely no time, “Chicken Wraps and Condoms” fits in just about everything you’ll find on an obnoxious youtube video, from a goofy song, wasteful stunts, unnecessary apologies, weird comedy, and signs on the screen insisting we “Smash that Like Button.” It’s a weird look at how Youtube has a hold on our culture, and how it’s almost inescapable, especially if your livelihood is the platform. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but I appreciate the message it was trying to get across.

Hands and Wings (2018)
Sung bin Byun short drama is a brutally disturbing and somewhat confusing film that never quite manages to involve the audience very much. I just had a tough time based mainly on the very small subtitles that were almost impossible to read. That aside, “Hands and Wings” brings with it a humongous cringe factor, exploring the lengths family will go to to ease one another’s pain. Centered on a mentally disabled young man, he’s held in his room by his mother who cares for him on hand and foot. When he begins to long for another man he was, presumably, in love with, he is able to escape his confines for a moment. “Hands and Wings” isn’t good, but the big reveal in the finale is shocking, it goes without saying. I wish there was much more exposition, as well as explanation about the events unfolding including the baffling final scene.

Norteños (2018)
The bizarre dark comedy from the Grandmas. team is a twisted romance very much in the vein of the Coen Bros. It’s a weird character piece that shows how bonded two former lovers are. After agreeing to meet in a restaurant, Barry expresses how much he misses his ex Linda. He was reminded of her after murdering his grandmother and chopping her up in to bits. While sharing a can of raw beans, the pair rekindles their love, and Linda shows Barry just how much she loves him, by explaining how far she’s willing to go to help him with the chopped up remains of his grandmother. “Norteños” is played so dead pan that the absurdity of it all ends up being charming after a while. I’d love to see what the Grandmas. team can do with a feature film down the road.

Piu Piu (2018)
Naima Ramos-Chapman’s drama is an experimental tale about empowerment and the culture of rape and female violence. It’s a bit too bizarre at times, but the general message comes across in the end with a powerful performance by star Natalie Paul. Paul plays a woman who ventures out in to New York City for the day alone. When she accidentally crosses paths with a customer from her store who frequently harasses her, she looks for any and every method to evade and hide from him. The feeling of powerlessness eventually consumes her, prompting a surprising action from her. Naima Ramos-Chapman gets a bit too esoteric for my taste, but her message comes through loud and clear with a compelling tension that mounts to the surprising climax. She also conveys the overtones of victimhood and lack of voice very well, accentuated by the main character’s reliance on a hearing aide. In the #MeToo generation, it’s an insightful drama with some fascinating imagery.

Ready for Love (2018)
Lauren McCune and Dylan Pasture’s “Ready for Love” is a gut wrenching and absolutely heartbreaking mockumentary about a woman who craves love, and hopes to find it in an idealized version of it on television. Lauren McCune is incredible as Amber Lynn Weatherbee, an idealistic and optimistic young girl who is filming an audition tape for “The Bachelor.” What begins as a fairly silly look at a girl who hopes to find the man of her dreams on a TV show, turns in to a bittersweet look at life, and how some things are just beyond our control. McCune is brilliant in her performance, commanding the screen as an adorable, beautiful, and charming young girl who just wants love in her life, and sadly if she ever ends up on “The Bachelor,” she might be incredibly disappointed.

The Slamdance Film Festival runs every year from January 25th to January 31st.