Sundance 2023: Featured Fiction Film

Here’s a capsule review of other narrative features I saw at Sundance:you can also read and of my reporting.

Former Afghan journalist Anita Wali Zada ​​stars as Donya, a former Afghan translator of US troops who has taken refuge in the famous city of Babak Jalali. Fremont It has the slow pace, Academy proportions, and low-contrast black-and-white imagery of Paweł Pawlikowski’s film, but plenty of deadpan humor that satirizes the absurdity of Donya’s situation. Jalali, who is Iranian, also conspired (along with Carolina Cavalli) to edit the film. Laura Valladao served as the cinematographer.

The main character in the joke is Donya’s assigned psychiatrist, played with hilarious quiet aloofness by Greg Turkington. But the film also makes fun of non-white people, such as Fortune, the owner of his cookie factory where Donya works, Ricky (Eddan). office space (1999).Chinese-American connections tie the film’s visual style to the classics Chang is missing (1982), another black-and-white film set in California. The film is set in Fremont, which has the largest population of Afghans in the United States.

Fremont Similar Chang is missing Small, but also a depiction of community. Here we see Suleiman (Timur Nusratti) in a satirical critique of traditional Afghan patriarchy, where he doesn’t speak unless ordered around his wife (Taban Ibraz). Unfortunately, the lighthearted satire fell short of Ricky’s wife (Jennifer McKay), becoming the stereotypical (but very toned-down) Dragon Lady.

Using non-professionals in static shots can lead to boredom. But Zada ​​holds her own, especially when Donya has to impose herself. Donya is the mask Donya wears when interacting with this alien world.

Photo credit: Sundance Film Festival

Late (2023)

Marija Kavtaradze’s Laurinus Baleisha shot in brilliant 16mm slow It is an exploration of traditionally constructed and plotted romantic relationships in which Elena (Greta Greenevichute) is promiscuous and Dobidas (Kęstutis Chikenas) is asexual. The title is unfortunate because Dovydas was a sign language interpreter and deaf people were often seen as intellectually inferior.A better title would have been ironic normal relationshipor even Blunt love and sexthe question at the heart of the film is whether romantic relationships without sex can be considered normal. slowunderstand. Her characterization speaks to why many traditionalists are so uncompromising on issues of sexual politics, including marriage equality and transgender rights.

slow At first, I thought it was one of those movies that can be worked out with honest conversation, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Elena’s deep-seated beliefs about sexuality were the real obstacles. Seeking advice from childhood friend Viktoria (Laima Axtinaite) doesn’t help. Elena would have been better off talking to her worker about sex.

The grain of the 16mm film stock and the sense of distance from the image underscore the fuzzy rules of the central relationship, while the vibrant colors underneath suggest the potential for love if the protagonist makes an effort. That line is made more easily crossed by the presence of a long line of Elena’s former lovers and the physical nature of her profession as a contemporary dancer (choreographed by Anna Vnuuk). But the occupation also allows for moments of romantic movie magic, such as when Elena and Dovydas’ flirting moves while hanging the laundry exactly match the tempo of the ultra-diet music. very Good song sung by April Snow).

The film is from Elena’s point of view and the camera loves Grinevicius. At the same time, Sikenath’s more restrained performance fits his character’s history of romantic rejection because of his particular form of queerness. Quietly deconstructing what it means to “have sex” with kisses, cuddles, and other non-penetrative acts of physical intimacy (Irma Pužauskaitė served as intimacy coordinator).


Photo credit: Sundance Film Festival

Cons (2023)

Disadvantage, Randall Park’s feature directorial debut, takes a conventional asshole-faced narrative and ferments it with Asian-American observations, concerns, and neuroses. GRAPHICS Adapted by Adrian Antomine from his novel, the film follows negativity-filled egoist Ben (Justin H. Minne) through the worst months of his life (“My low point was in high school.”). ”). Min is accurately cast. He has the face and smile of a movie star. This is necessary to play a character that runs out of audience patience in the first half hour.

The month in question is sparked by an altercation with an intelligent, beautiful and rich girlfriend, Miko (Arimaki), which leads them to take a break while she goes east from the West Coast for an internship. Ben tries a date, but it doesn’t go well for her. He loses his low-paying job. Even his gay best friend Alice (Shelley-Cola) moves to New York for a change. The film tries hard to justify her best friend’s character being gay, but when Alice refers to herself and Ben as “assholes like us.” , Alice is dirty. There’s only one person in this movie who clearly dislikes her. Finally, I deeply appreciate that Ben is only semi-reformed. As in life, no one in this movie is innocent, not even Miko.

Where this film stands out is in the characters’ daily dialogue, almost all of whom are at least partially Asian, with two notable exceptions that I won’t spoil. On the negative side of him, Ben is very focused on race and gender, and Alice’s use of him as a beard to meet her family is a testament to how the film explores traditions and the complex history of East Asia. It’s an opportunity to bring… It’s a side street to real-life concepts and conversations rarely seen on screen.

Despite his obsession with race, Ben rejects performance expression in art. Miko reminds him that “glossy” mainstream success can open doors to more artistic projects. What she doesn’t say is that such success means that even bad movies have a high voter turnout from Asians, and they don’t have to worry too much about whether they think the movies they greenlight are “good.” This allows some gems to escape gatekeeping. When in Hollywood, act like a philistine.


Photo credit: Sundance Film Festival

Mutt (2023)

it is clear Mutt This is Vuk Lungulov-Klotz’ feature debut. Filmed in Academy ratios by Matthew Pottier, the story of a Chilean-American transgender man, Feña (Lio Mejiel), on the streets of New York on a bad day in his life drags a bit in a few places. (Edited by Adam Dictello). Insensitive to key moments and not afraid enough to deploy clichés. One of the clichés I’ve come to forgive is the parent-child recollection monologue because I’ve heard quite a few of them in my own life. As you can see here, it concludes with a love vocation, but for some it also serves as a melodramatic queer wish fulfillment.

“Mutt” begins with Feña waking up in her ex-girlfriend’s bed, needing Plan B (ex-John played by 2D Coldman), and how this day of being found and tracked takes Feña. It is a provocative description of what makes you feel like you are. Beside her estranged and truant 14-year-old sister (fleeting but cool Mimi Rider), she gets into scrapes and accidents, and then takes her benign transphobic father (Alejandro Gic) from Chile to her home. We were picked up from the airport after a 14 hour flight. Mehiel feels capable of more than accommodating being overwhelmed by the whims of fate, but the script rarely calls for it to do so.

Along the way, what pissed me off the most was when people objectified Feña to satisfy their own curiosity. He always reluctantly agrees. Calling him both “sir” and “young man” seems a bit overkill. Perhaps what needs more nuance is how Feña’s reaction is written.

And a word about John’s mustard yellow shirt jacket that Fenya borrowed for a while. The outfit was designed by Elena Lark, but that jacket rightfully gets its own designer credit (Cyrus Blaze).

Read the following: Sundance 2023: The Brilliant World of ‘Sometimes I Think About Dying’ and ‘AUM: The Cult of the End of the World’

TNL Editors: Nicholas Haggerty, Brian Chow (@thenewslensintl)

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