Film Scouts Diaries

1998 Sundance Film Festival Diaries
The Festival at the End of the Street (January 18)

by Richard Schwartz

PARK CITY, Jan. 18 - With 103 features and shorts showing as part of the Sundance Film Festival, you'd think there was enough to keep most movie buffs occupied.

Yet, for every hundred directors whose films are accepted by the festival programming committee, 600 others receive rejection notices. It's almost like applying to Harvard.

Over the past few years, however, both foresaken directors and insatiable filmgoers have found salvation. The Slamdance Festival has provided a haven for those filmmakers who don't quite make the Sundance cut but still want to screen their films before an intelligent Park City audience and perhaps some visiting film execs.

Housed in the Treasure Mountain Inn at the south end of Park City's Main Street, Slamdance specifically seeks low-budget films by first-time directors without distribution deals, unlike Sundance. This distinction helps preserve the independent spirit of Slamdance, the festival organizer believes.

"As the independent filmmaking scene becomes over-romanticized, this year's festival stays true to our main purpose of supporting emerging filmmakers," said Peter Baxter, who co-founded Slamdance in 1994.

The roster for Slamdance makes up in diversity what it lacks in name recognition. Two of the most talked about films include director Randolph Kret's "Pariah," a story of race and crime on the streets of Los Angeles, and "Yellow," Chris Chan Lee's tale of eight Asian-American teens on the verge of graduation. Scott Storm's "Burn," a drama about "rebirth through destruction," is most notable for its executive producers - "Usual Suspects" director Bryan Singer and Counting Crows vocalist Adam Duritz. Among the short films, Gina Prince's hilarious "Bowl of Pork," a Forrest Gump spoof, stars comic Dave Chapelle of "Nutty Professor" and new stoner comedy "Half Baked" fame. (Funniest TV moment of the week, by the way, was Chapelle explaining the "marijuana subculture" to Regis Philbin.)

Also screening at Slamdance is "Cannibal: The Musical," a twisted comedy by "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The film actually preceded "Orgazmo" (their other live-action film now showing at Sundance) by a couple years and marked the partners' film debut.

The Slamdance Festival even includes a film about Slamdance itself, among other things. "Independents Day," a documentary by Marina Zenovich, examines the direction of indie filmmaking against the backdrop of all the Park City film festivals.

And, yes, there are even more festivals. How else to handle the overflow from Slamdance, which claims it received a record 1300 submissions this year? Last year, that competition was known as Slumdance. That festival folded this year and its spot was assumed by the Slam Dunk Film Festival.

Alright, this is beginning to get a bit confusing now.

Coming Tomorrow: More on the Slam Dunk Film Festival

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