Susan Morris | Essays

Sundance/Slamdance 2023: Art + Life

This year, at the 2023 Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals, one can sense anxiety as well as nostalgia, a fractured world searching for sense and meaning. Here is a roundup of films that feature arts intersection with life.

Salt and Pepper Shakers
Still from Margie Soudek’s Salt and Pepper Shakers

How art intersects with daily life took a number of forms. Are objects witnesses to our lives? An obsession or compulsion? Do they building identity? These are some of the questions filmmaker Meredith Moore asks in Margie Soudek’s Salt and Pepper Shakers centering on her grandmother’s extensive collection. With her first set of ducks dressed as ladies acquired in 1946, figurines on shelf after shelf in the form of pigs, ducks, gnomes, clocks, outhouses, strawberries, hamburgers, cacti, peanuts, skeletons, penguins, happy faces, flowers, dogs, hands, devils, nude female body with breasts as pouring holes, and guns.  Moore teaches a special effects class, so is able to digitally manipulate images of the shakers to Margie’s delight, extending the collection even further.

Tank Obstacles
Still from Liturgy of Ani-Tank Obstacles

Ukrainian sculptors who formerly made religious statuary are are now utilizing their skills to build anti-tank impediments to help fend off the Russian invasion in Liturgy of Ani-Tank Obstacles. The frozen figures of angels and Christ  silently watch these craftsmen weld, solder ,and formulate metal defense items for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, often using materials from destroyed buildings. Amidst liturgical music, we hear on the radio talk of negotiating with Putin, to which one sculptor replies, “It’s like telling Jews to negotiate with Hitler.”

The Sidewalk Artist (winner of Narrative Shorts Grand Jury Prize, Slamdance) makes art by impressing hands and faces into concrete sidewalks. In Momo Local, a schizophrenic dumpster diver in Paris meets a female artist who uses waste materials in her work, like a tumbling building and man wearing building facades.

Thriving: A Dissociate of Reverie is an animated film featuring Kitoko Mai, a painter, who has DID (dissociative identity disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder). We see various iterations of her in vivid colors, 1970s music and dreamlike imagery. Mai is Black and nonbinary, but her alters, like Cheyenne, have totally different profiles and are played by other actors.

Baba is a problematic immigrant who is scamming his landlord, and tries to sell a precious painting by his estranged wife which is in turn is stolen.

All Sundance and Slamdance 2023 Category Reviews
The Built Environment
Visual Arts
Media Arts
Art + Life
Performing Arts
Literary Arts

Films Mentioned
Margie Soudek’s Salt and Pepper Shakers. Director Meredith Moore. Sundance
Liturgy of Ani-Tank Obstacles. Director Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk. Sundance
The Sidewalk Artist. Directors David Velez & Brandon Rivera. Slamdance
Momo Local. Director Alexia Colette. Slamdance
Thriving: A Dissociate of Reverie. Director Nicole Bazuin. Sundance
Baba. Direcctors Anya Chirkova, Meran Ismailsoy. Sundance

Posted in: Arts + Culture

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