May 1, 2000

Slamdance 2000

From Todd Robinson's <em>Amargosa</em>, a beautifully produced investigation of the life work of Marta Becket, a dancer who lives out her creative/real/fantasy life in the ghost town of Death Valley Junction.

Eight documentaries screened at this year's Slamdance 2000. The festival shared some traits with the Sundance Festival, most notably the difficulty with which docs could be located in the catalogue. Documentaries were mixed among the competition and special screening films in the Slamdance catalogue, a spiral-bound faux school notebook that was other wise a triumph of from and function. Realizing that audiences were demanding docs, and in keeping with the ad hoc nature of the festival, press relations chief Margot Gerber put together a hand-written list of the docs and taped it to the press table. Like the catalogue, and most everything else at the festival, this worked.

The winner of the competition, The Target Shoots First by Chris Wilcha, is an extraordinary original piece that offers a delightful turn on the tired personal diary format. The Slamdance jury—Stacy Edwards, Ruby Lerner, Mark Lazarus, Ray Barry, Daniel J. Harris and non-voting chair Gabriel Wardell—obviously were on target with Target, since it went on to win two prizes at South by Southwest. And it screened on video.

The star-studded documentary event of Slamdance was the showing of Barenaked in America. This on-the-road-with-Canadian band-Barenaked Ladies-feature had the audience cheering. Not only were two of the band members in attendance, the film's director, Jason Priestly, conducted the Q&A. Perhaps because of the incongruity of Mr. Priestly's new, fully developed, hip-hop persona, the event had all the right buzz to make it an alternative scene success. The film is good, charming and approachable, just like Barenaked Ladies' music. It succeeds on many levels including craft, and featured a six-camera shoot for the concert footage.

Other Slamdance documentaries were the politically passionate and revealing Good Kurds, Bad Kurds from Kevin McKiernan. Enter from German filmmaker Velt Bastian, A Galaxy Far Far Away from writer/director Tariq Jalil and Searching For Roger Taylor by Aaron Barnett. Moonshine by Kelly L. Riley screened as part of the Lounge Shorts program. Exceptional among the features was writer/director Todd Robinson's Amargosa, a beautifully produced investigation of the life work of Marta Becket, a dancer who lives out her creative/real/fantasy life in the ghost town of Death Valley Junction. Amargosa also takes my own prize as the best marketed documentary.

The hike up the Main Street hill to the Slamdance screenings is highly recommended for documentary fans in Park City. It offers not only much-appreciated and invigorating fresh air, but a much-appreciated fresh documentary venue.

Tags: