It’s a good thing we were snowed in today since we called it a night around 4:30 a.m. and needed some serious R&R. The exclusive late night after-party of Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie at the Blue Iguana was filled with Sundance shenanigans with open bar, loud beats, and cameos by Parks & Recreation’s Aziz Ansari, Saturday Night Live’s Will Forte, and E!’s resident movie critic, Ben Lyons.
In between watching screeners and reviewing festival schedules at our own “HQ,” I caught up with Matthew Campbell, programmer for the Starz Denver Film Festival (SDFF).
This is his third Sundance and he looks forward to coming each year to scout the newest crop of independent films. Campbell also works for the Palm Springs International Film Festival and Los Angeles Film Festival, which gives the SDFF an artistic advantage come November.
“For our festival in Denver, it’s a balancing act of what we see here at Sundance and at other festivals, combined with the official film submissions we receive,” he says. “I’m able to travel the circuit and see what film trends are developing, while meeting the filmmakers, directors, and writers to get their perspectives.”
During Sundance, he has a full schedule with 18 films over five days. It’s not much different than a normal day in the life of Campbell. “I try and watch at least a movie a day, if not two or three,” he says.
Here’s a hearty serving of what he’s seen so far and what else he has on the agenda for the rest of the ‘fest.
Campbell’s M’m M’m Good Cinema Stew:
1. ½ Revolution
This documentary brings the protests and violence from last year’s Arab conflict in Egypt’s Tahir Square alive on-screen, telling the story from a bystander’s point-of-view. Directed by Omar Shargawi and Karim El Hakim, they captivated the entire audience during every second of the film.
“This is definitely, my favorite film so far. The footage they captured was surreal and it is really new to our culture because of digital technology to be able to watch history unfold right in front of you. It’s hard to believe this only happened a year ago, and now it’s being told at Sundance.”
Part of the New Frontier program, which highlights films focusing on multimedia installations and cinematic innovation, this choice was not Campbell’s best. The film is focused on varied visual imagery and musical soundscapes with no traditional plotline to follow.
“New Frontier can be hit or miss because most of the films are from first-time feature directors. I really wanted to love this avant-garde film, but I just liked it. Weston Currie (director), is known for his short films and since it was his first attempt at a feature length film, it lacked the sense of telling a complete story.”
If you’ve seen Rubber, which premiered at the 2010 Cannes International Film Festival, you know that director Quentin Dupieux (also known electronic musician Mr. Oizo) tells truly bizarre tales. Wrong is equally off color, following Dolph Springer along a journey to find his lost dog, all while changing the lives of others along the way.
“I loved his last film, about an evil car tire. I’m really curious to see what Dupieux does next. Not many people know that he’s also a crazy talented musician who also scores his films. I’m expecting to be taken on a wild ride for sure.”
This surprising film, also part of the New Frontier program, examines the nature of humans and beasts while capturing creatures like zebras, rhinos, ostriches, and buffalo while interpreting the visual roles of zookeepers and taxidermists. Canadian director, Denis Côté challenges the audience to reflect of control and power in it’s natural habitat.
“Quebec cinema really has a heavy presence on the independent film scene and has a thriving film-making community. Côté is a great director and his last film, Curling, played at last year’s Starz Denver Film Festival and achieved critical acclaimed.”
Films that defy mainstream standards and often have first-time feature filmmakers stretching very low budgets are showcased in the NEXT program. Directed and written by David Zellner, an Austin-based filmmaker, Kid-Thing is a striking film that explores the mind of a 10-year old, isolated child.
“David was a on the jury last year of the Starz Denver Film Festival and his short film, Sasquatch Birth Journal 2, was in our program. The Zellner brothers are pretty well-known for their short films and I’m really to see his directorial debut here.”
Katie Shapiro is one of Denver’s resident gals about town. A “Jill” of all trades, she is a freelance writer, blogger, and PR guru. She likes skiing, drinking Manhattans, scarves, recycling, to-do lists, Gittel, and putting pins in the map. Check back often for the latest in travel, music, fashion, culture, and happenings.