This short but powerful documentary chronicled the affect of skateboarding on kids in Afghanistan. It was only 8 minutes long, but packed more of a punch than some of the long-form documentaries that I saw while at Sundance. I was pleasantly surprised by this brief documentary. It was shot on 16 mm film, giving it an interesting appearance, definitely setting it apart from other films I saw. The color was beautiful. The cinematography was lovely. The shots were well framed. The most intriguing part for me was that no one spoke while they were on screen. Instead, the film relied on a series of video portraiture to portray the individuals seen in the program.
The Green Wave
This film was shockingly upsetting, not to say that it was a negative. It took a major risk, relying on animation to tell the tales of the lives of bloggers after the most recent Iranian election. Although reminiscent of comic books, I was surprised the style of animation didn’t detract from the overall production value of the film. In fact, I wasn’t consciously aware of the animation. I was too moved by the story and harrowing journey of these individuals. The story was well constructed, with a good mixture of talking head and animated segments.
This charming film won me over at the festival. Although it lacked some of the qualities that I usually am a stickler about, I appreciated the development of character and the general plot arc of this film. The audio tended to peak and the camera had a tendency to be shaky, but surprisingly this didn’t detract from the overall quality of the piece.
An African Election
Although at times slow, An African Election provided an in-depth and fascinating look a the developing legal processes in Ghana. It was a look at a new and unstable election process that was beginning to take shape in Accra, Ghana. Both political parties were represented and the issues that the politicians were confronted with by having a relatively young democracy and an unstable democratic system. The film was successful at building suspense through the portrayal of various issues during the election, but used awkward titling to break up the sequences and was relatively slow, probably due to the nature of the story.
The Troll Hunter
The Troll Hunter was a surprising attendee at the Sundance Festival. I never expected to see a film that largely relied on special effects at an independent film festival. The dialogue was hilarious. It was a Norwegian comedy/thriller and is likely to become a cult classic. The film portrays three college students who are trying to follow and find a man who authorities say are responsible for various bear-killings in the area. They discover that the man is actually responsible for killing trolls. The rest of the film chronicles the trying experience of hunting trolls. Overall, it was a hilarious, but at times slow comedy and is definitely worth seeing, if to do nothing more than say you saw The Troll Hunter.
Oh, Vampire. What is there to say about this film? It claimed to bring a new look to the ancient lore of the blood sucking fiend, but in reality it was nothing more than a quirky and horribly written melo-drama about a confused individual with a blood lust and fascination with suicidal females. Overall, it was hilarious, utterly hilarious, but only because I neglected to remain quiet the entire time. I sat with a friend, with whom I made ridiculous comments. But, Vampire wasn’t the source of my happiness. It was horribly written, acted like a soap opera and overall, not worth seeing. It makes a wonderfully bad movie to see with a large group.
When I think of the prairie, I think of boring, rolling fields. Needless to say, this film was just what I expected: boring. Slow as molasses, the film progressed as much as a short in the length of a feature. With the unexpected twist at the end, I felt nothing, mostly because I didn’t care at all what happened to the characters. It was weird, funny at times, but mostly boring and slow.
The Last Mountain
The Last Mountain was the most surprising film that I saw at Sundance this year. I went in expecting a slow, steady documentary and what I got was a racy, emotionally charged in-depth look at coal mining in West Virginia. The most unexpectedly fantastic element of the film was the editing, which was reflected by its best editing award won at the festival. The film covers Massey Energy’s controversial methods of mining for coal on Coal River Mountain, the last untouched mountain of the Appalachians. Bill Haney, the director, was unafraid to use text in this documentary, which is usually a risky thing due to the boring nature of simple words on a screen. But The Last Mountain livened up text with exciting backgrounds and lively layering. The Last Mountain was my favorite film at the festival.
“Happy, Happy” was an unexpected take on unconventional family dynamics and a charming, hilarious film. It was an unexpectedly innocent take on infidelity. This foreign film takes place in a desolate backwater town in Norway. Two families collide in the dead of winter. Spousal fidelity is explored, along with race relations between the two children. The film takes on a large number of controversial issues and surprisingly effectively tackles them all in the relatively short amount of time. The writing gives the audience a unique insight into Norwegian life. “Happy, Happy” is a fresh new look at a racy romance. The innocence with which it explores mature and controversial themes is incredible.
A busy and quirky black comedy about the most dysfunctional of families, “The Details,” had an unexpected, yet wonderful, payoff. It was incredibly well executed, with fantastic acting, cinematography and editing. The acting was splendid and loaded with names. From Toby MacGuire to Laura Linney, the highlight of the film was definitely the fantastic characters. The dialogue was insightful, but the actors’ portrayal of the characters was what made the film.