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Slamdance Film Festival returns to Park City alongside Sundance, after virtual year because of COVID-19

Upstart festival picks 28 features to screen at Treasure Mountain Inn and online.

(Slamdance Film Festival) Australian "slab wave" surfer Kerby Brown is profiled in Bentley Dean's documentary "Facing Monsters," one of the 28 feature films chosen to screen at the 2022 Slamdance Film Festival, in Park City's Treasure Mountain Inn.

Like its bigger cousin Sundance, the Slamdance Film Festival will return to Park City in 2022, after going online for a year because of COVID-19.

Slamdance announced Wednesday the 28 feature films that will play in its 28th annual edition, which will return to Park City’s Treasure Mountain Inn from Jan. 20 to 23. The festival also will screen virtually from Jan. 20 to 30, coinciding with the Sundance Film Festival’s run. (Sundance is scheduled to announce its festival films on Thursday.)

Festival president and co-founder Peter Baxter said in a statement that the selected films “embody the true DIY spirit of guerrilla filmmaking and push the boundaries of what’s possible in storytelling.”

Programmers sifted through 1,579 feature-length entries. Festival rules require that competition entries be made by a first-time director and have a budget of less than $1 million. The films also must not have secured a distributor in the U.S. yet.

Thirteen of the 28 films screening will be world premieres; six will make their North American debuts, and four are U.S. premieres. Thirteen films were made in the United States; the others come from Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Iran, Canada, China, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Poland, the United Kingdom, North Macedonia and Cyprus.

The films fill the festival’s narrative and documentary competitions, as well as the Breakout program for more established filmmakers, and the Unstoppable program to showcase filmmakers with disabilities.

The festival also has selected 79 short films, in several categories, as well as an Episodes category to highlight episodic storytelling intended for broadcast.

Here are synopses for the 28 feature films chosen for the 2022 Slamdance Film Festival. For information about the short films and other programs, and to buy tickets, go to slamdance.com. (All titles are made in the U.S., unless otherwise noted.)

Narrative Features

“Actual People” • Kit Zauhar, who wrote and directed, plays Riley, who in her final week of college works to win the affections of a boy (Scott Albrecht) from her hometown — Philadelphia — and winds up confronting her anxieties about the future, her family and her love life. Also starring Audrey Kan, Vivian Zauhar, Henry Fulton Winship, Isabelle Barbier and Fraser Jones.

Goodafternoon Sweetdream” (South Korea) • In writer-director Bang Seung Hyeon’s story, a woman (Son Ye Won) hangs out with her friends after her father’s death, but her mind is elsewhere. Bang also co-stars, along with Kim Woo Kyeom, Sung San Hee and Yang Min Ju.

Hannah Ha Ha” • A woman (Hannah Lee Thompson) living with her father deals with the return of her older brother, who imposes his lifestyle choices on the household. Written and directed by Jordan Tetewsky and Joshua Pikovsky, the film also stars Roger Mancusi, Avram Tetewsky, Charlie Robinson, Jake Stern, Petr Favazza, Peter Cole and Chuck Fazzio.

Honeycomb” (Canada) • Director Avalon Fast and co-writer Emmett Roiko tell the story described like this by Slamdance programmers: “Five girls stray from society on the hunt for something more special. … You can find them if you follow the sound.” Starring Rowan Wales, Sophie Bawks-Smith, Jillian Frank, Destini Stewart, Mari Geraghty, Jaris Wales, Henri Gillespi, Max Graham.

Love Tasting” (Poland) • Four teen friends in a Polish town wait by the pool for junior prom, and over the next week, nothing will be the same again. Written and directed by Dawid Nickel, the film stars Sandra Drzymalska, Mikołaj Matczak, Michał Sitnicki, Nel Kaczmarek, Kuba Wróblewski and Agnieszka Żulewska.

Snow White Dies at the End” (North Macedonia / Cyprus) Six stubborn people stay true to their own values in a society that does things differently than they do, in a film by writer-director Kristijan Risteski. Starring Natasha Petrovic, Verica Nedeska, Sashko Kocev, Deniz Abdula, Ivica Dimitrijevic, David Janakiev and Valentin Kostadinovski.

The Civil Dead” • Clay Tatum stars as a struggling photographer who plans to chill at home while his wife is out of town — until a desperate old friend (Whitmer Thomas) shows up. Tatum directed and co-wrote with Thomas. Also starring Whitney Weir, Budd Diaz and Robert Longstreet.

Therapy Dogs” (Canada) • Best friends (Justin Morrice and Ethan Eng, who wrote the screenplay) set out to create the ultimate senior video for the class of 2019. Eng directed; the movie also stars Kevin Tseng, Kyle Peacock, Mitchell Cidade, Sebastian Neme, Andrew Michalko and Jayden Frost.

Ultrainocencia” (Spain) • David Climent and Pablo Molinero play test subjects in an experiment, run by a mysterious religious organization, to answer a big question: Does God exist? Director Manuel Arija wrote the screenplay with Climent and Molinero; Sergi Lopez (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) also stars.

Yelling Fire In An Empty Theater” • In writer-director Justin Zimmerman’s film, a young woman (Isadora Leiva) moves to New York and becomes embroiled in her roommates’ stormy relationship. Also starring Kelly Cooper, Michael Patrick Nicholson, Ryan Martin Brown, Colin Burgess and Krista Jensen.

Documentary Features

Doggy Love” (Iran) • Writer-director Mahmoud Ghaffari follows Aslan, who is in love with Yassi, and together they run an underground dog shelter in Iran.

“Ferroequinology” (United Kingdom / United States) • A shared interest in locomotion propels two artists, McNair Evans and Andrew Cross, in a slow trip across America in director Alex Nevill’s film.

Forget Me Not” • A family fights to enroll their son, who has Down syndrome, into the country’s most segregated school system, in this documentary by director Olivier Bernier.

Fury” (Poland) • Aleksandra Rola prepares for the world championships of MMA fighting in Las Vegas, confronting a complicated backstory, in director Krzysztof Kasior’s documentary.

Imperfect” • Directors Brian Malone and Regan Linton chronicle a production of the musical “Chicago” in which the actors — including Linton — have disabilities.

New Jack” • After an extreme and dangerous career as a pro wrestler, Jerome Young — aka “New Jack” — deals with life out of the spotlight. Directed by Danny Lee and Noah Lee.

Sylvie of the Sunshine State” • Filmmaker Sasha Levinson chronicles her life as a single mom to a second-grader, Sylvie, as they navigate life together in the COVID-19 era. Levinson co-wrote the film with Jonathan Sanford.

Underdog” • Vermont dairy farmer Doug Butler risks losing his home to chase his dream: Dog mushing in Alaska. Directed by Tommy Hyde.

Breakouts

“Be Right Back” (Germany) • A mysterious stranger’s sudden appearance upends the odd everyday life of four people living in an abandoned vacation resort in the woods. Director Frauke Havemann co-wrote with Peter Stamer and Mattias Wittekindt. Starring Iris Boss, Inga Dietrich, Effi Rabsilber, Jack Rath and Poul Storm.

Facing Monsters” (Australia) • Bentley Dean wrote and directed this documentary, which profiles “slab wave” surfer Kerby Brown, whose connection with the ocean runs as deep as his love for his family.

Killing the Eunuch KHAN” (Iran) • A chilling synopsis: “A serial killer uses his victims to kill more victims.” Written and directed by Abed Abest, the film stars Ebarhim Azizi, Vahid Rad, Misagh Zare and Iman Basim.

Paris is in Harlem” • Just as a controversial “no dancing” law is about to be repealed in New York, a shooting in a Harlem jazz bar changes the lives of several strangers. Christina Kallas wrote and directed the film, which stars Vandit Bhatt, Leon Addison Brown, Ellie Foumbi, Laura Pruden, Lauren Sowa, Souleymane Sy Savane, Steve Vause and Chris Veteri.

Retrograde” (Canada) • A neurotic young woman (Molly Reisman) develops an obsession after a minor traffic citation, in writer-director Adrian Murray’s film. Also starring Sofia Banzhaf, Bessie Cheng, Meelad Moaphi, Dean Tardioli and Erik Anderson.

“We Are Living Things” (United States / China / Italy) • Two immigrants go on a road trip to find the truth about a shared UFO abduction. Director Antonio Tibaldi co-wrote with Alex Lora. The film stars Jorge Antonio Guerrero, Xingchen Lyu, Zao Wang, O-Lan Jones, Paul Cooper, Manuel René Del Carmen Ordaz, Alfonso Rey and Allison Tibaldi.

(Slamdance Film Festival) Libby Hunsdale stars in "Poppy," about a young woman with Down syndrome pursuing her dream to be an apprentice mechanic. The New Zealand film is one of 28 features selected to screen at the 2022 Slamdance Film Festival, at Park City's Treasure Mountain Inn.

Unstoppable Features

“Iron Family” • A young woman has a vision, and rouses her family to perform an original play for their community in this documentary directed by Patrick Longstreth.

Poppy” (New Zealand) • A young woman (Libby Hunsdale) with Down syndrome pursues her dream to become an apprentice motor mechanic, using secret strategies to achieve her ambition, in this film written and directed by Linda Niccol. Also starring Ari Boyland, Seb Hunter and Kali Kopae.

Straighten Up and Fly Right” • Kristen Abate, who co-wrote and co-directed with Steven Tanenbaum (who co-stars), plays the lead role here: A physically disabled New Yorker who walks dogs to make money but dreams of being a writer — and who must decide, as her life unravels, whether to fall apart or straighten up. Also starring AJ Cedeno, Mehret Marsh, Modesto Flako Jimenez, Marianna McClellan, Kerrryn Feehan and Lawrence Jansen.

Spotlight

“The Severing” • Writer-director Mark Pellington (“Arlington Road,” “The Mothman Prophecies”) describes this new film as “‘Pina’ meets ‘Saw’ … a dance film for the body.” It stars Nina McNeely and Courtney Scarr.

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