The Sundance 2020 Docs: The trial was as provocative as the story (2023)

The Sundance 2020 Docs: The trial was as provocative as the story (1)

The swan song for John Cooper after his outstanding three-decade tenure atSundance Film Festival, including 11 years at the helm, was overshadowed by two landmark events in the documentary field: the marriage, apparently celebrated by filmmaker Sam Green, of Sundance Documentary Director Tabitha Jackson and filmmaker Kirsten Johnson at the festival's launch event (the couple were introduced at the DFP Party by DFP Associate Head Kirsten Feeley to thunderous applause) and at the end of the festival Jackson's anointing as Cooper's successor.

And amidst those mighty bursts of joy was the first Sundance of the 2020s, offering a smorgasbord of provocative work and insightful discussions to make festival-goers smile amidst the snowflakes.

What continues to confuse me in a good way isBloody nose, empty pockets, by brothers Ross, Turner and Bill, who are as challenging as they are entertaining. Back at Sundance for the first time since pushing boundaries and genres in 2015Western, the Ross brothers set up their venue on their last night at a Las Vegas bar to set the stage for a self-contained depressive retreat. This is familiar territory for many artists - Shakespeare's Falstaff made drunken courtship an art formHeinrich IVeThe Merry Wives of Windsor, while Eugene O'Neill subverted the bar for his underlying despair and glimmer of hopeIceman is coming. And there was Edward Hopper's study of loneliness and longingnight owls, which Tom Waits would take as inspirationNight owls in the restaurant, in all its gravel story glory, well past midnight, driven by an overnight train and a shaggy dog. I could feel the stardust from all these artists in therebloody nose- and you can add Eagle Pennell'sLast night at the Alamofor good measure.

As the sun rises in The Roaring 20s, step inside Michael, an obvious fixture there who, like all his roommates, is long lost. "I didn't become an alcoholic until I became a failure," he jokes, alluding to his long-lost acting career. And so begins the long, sad journey of the shipwrecked, who seek refuge from an unforgiving world and find sympathy among philosophers, weirdos and conspiracy theorists. Alcohol flows throughout the day and into the night, and cigarette smoke casts a sepia-soaked blues over the action. The bartender occasionally entertains the crowd with "Crying," and the jukebox selection seems to complement the mood spectrum.

The Ross brothers filmed this tragicomic dance for 18 hours - until the last customer stumbled into the twinkling dawn, the night shift bartender finished The Roaring 20s for the last time, and the credits rolled to Peggy's bittersweet "Is That All There" Lee Is?"

And then, after the screening, the filmmakers took the stage and revealed the truth behind the truth: “The Roaring 20s,” explained Bill, “is a fiction. The bar doesn't exist in Las Vegas, where the documentary is said to be set and where the B-roll cutscenes were filmed; it's actually in New Orleans and it's still open. And, as I found out later, Michael is an actor from New Orleans, and the first-shift bartender there is a professional musician.

Hmmm. Bill went on to say that he and Turner were inspired by an essay by George Orwell in which he describes his ideal pub in 10 criteria. Unable to find the perfect bar after years of searching, "they created a composite space for people to escape to... We used construction to reach a reality we couldn't have reached any other way." Elections, when most of the country was distraught.

Despite the cultural, psychological, and historical differences between New Orleans and Las Vegas (it hadbloody noseactually filmed in Las Vegas and occupied by Las Vegans it would have a different vibe) and despite the fabricated context of last night at a fictional bar on the darkest day of the decade,Bloody nose, empty pocketsit worked as an experiment in creating community, albeit with a touch or two (the Ross brothers recruited their "cast" from their bar-to-bar R and D), and allowed the narratives to flow and meld as freely as alcohol .

The Sundance 2020 Docs: The trial was as provocative as the story (2)

The process was as much the story as the story in many offerings at the depthsit started out as a very different project for Emma Sullivan, who had planned a profile of Peter Madsen, a quirky, charismatic, independent inventor of submarines, space rockets, and other gadgets — sort of a cheap Danish version of Elon Musk. But 18 months later, the project took its darkest turn: Kim Wall, a Swedish journalist who wrote a story about Madsen, joined him in his submarine - and then disappeared while Madden himself reappeared. Sullivan's film radically changed from a profile play to a true crime story, and she found herself in the middle of a murder investigation. His footage to this point now becomes a source of clues about Madsen's psyche for the viewer as well as the filmmaker (and the prosecutors who used the footage in Madsen's murder trial), and Sullivan brings in a team that Madsen once admired , while taking the emotional lead from shock to dismay, disgust to despair. As Madsen's text messages, emails, and the contents of his hard drive go from weird to downright frightening, and as Madsen himself confesses to Sullivan months before the murder, "There's a chance you've actually found a predator," one ponders the dangers ignoring the dark side of your documentary's protagonist - until your documentary becomes something else entirely.

by Benjamin ReeThe Painter and the ThiefIt's a different way of exploring the relationship between artist and subject. Barbora Kysilkova, a Czech painter who moved to Norway after escaping an abusive relationship in Germany, is the victim of two of her paintings being stolen. The thieves are caught, convicted and imprisoned, but the paintings are gone. But Kysilkova's quest isn't so much to get her job back — though she's devastated at losing a chunk of it — as to understand the person who committed the crime. She asks him, "Can I paint you?" And so begins a fascinating and deeply intimate psychic journey between two independent souls.

When she reveals her painting to the thief, he collapses - in tears, in amazement and perhaps also in fear that through her art she has eroded his soul and explored the deepest scars of a lifetime of pain. The two share a unique relationship, united by an appreciation for the nobility of the outsider and the nomad. He signs a correspondence for her, "Love of a decent criminal". Ree won a Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling andThe painter and the thiefrecently secured worldwide distribution for NEON.

It wasn't impossible for Swiss-German filmmaker Susanne Regina Meures to travel to Saudi Arabia to investigate a film about the plight of women and girls - her visa application was rejected five times - but she found that at a meeting chat group formed with a Saudi expatriate activist in Berlin to support women leaving Saudi Arabia. Meures took a big risk and asked if anyone on the ground had any intention of fleeing Saudi Arabia; 40 women who took an even greater risk responded. After communicating with each of them online, she settled on Mura, and over the next few weeks, Meures gave Mura a crash course in guerrilla filmmaking via smartphone.

The result is an intensely intimate week-by-week film and ongoing escape plan in which Mura shares her determination to break free from an oppressive regime and a hopeless family life, and her fear of leaving it. family and friends behind. The film is certainly a captivating thriller, because every step towards freedom is fraught with serious consequences. For Meures, however, one has to ask: Given the crucial role of her participation in the taking and processing of the images, what is her responsibility to Mura if the escape is unsuccessful? The film was picked up by National Geographic Films.

The Sundance 2020 Docs: The trial was as provocative as the story (3)

by David FranceWelcome to Chechnyaalso takes extraordinary precautions with the film's protagonists in light of the cruel anti-LGBTQ culture in Chechnya and Russia. The film takes us through a series of rescue missions in and out of Chechnya, to safe houses in Moscow, then on planes to unknown locations - all led by a team of intrepid dispatchers/activists. As the story progresses, France contains a series of videos filled with violence against gay men, each scenario more torturous than the one before. To further protect its protagonists, France has commissioned a digital expert in AI and machine learning to develop special software to alter their faces and insert double faces, allowing viewers to maintain an emotional connection otherwise lost through the traditional blur method would be attenuated. changed faces and voices. France explained this in the questions and answers following the screening, also because of the significant risks involvedWelcome to Chechnya, “We couldn't be a film crew. This was a guerrilla project; we secretly filmed with consumer cameras, iPhone, body cams and GoPros.” , and will air on HBO in June.

Tom White is the editor ofDocumentary filmMagazine.

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