SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL ROUND-UP #2

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

 If one cares about performance art, freedom of speech, or feminism Pussy Riot is a must-see documentary. Combining footage from Pussy Riot members, the trial, civilian protests, and their own shooting filmmakers Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin craft a superb film that fully grasps the depth of the situation. When three members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot are arrested after a demonstration inside a cathedral all of modern Russia’s current struggles of church and state, feminism and patriarchy, artistic freedom and political control,  rise to the surface presenting the viewer with moments of frustration and inspiration. What especially stood out was the three girls parents loyal support to their daughters despite generational differences. Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, due to the filmmaker’s precise execution, demonstrates why this story is so relevant to both the history and future of art for everyone, not just Russia.

Interior. Leather Bar

The most controversial and thought-provoking film I’ve seen at Sundance this week. It is also the only film I got carded before entering (apparently I look under eighteen?). Is it a documentary? Is it a narrative? It is a bit of both. How much is real and how much is staged? That’s remains unknown and is part of the films allure. Directed by Travis Matthews and James Franco Interior. Leather Bar is an experimental film unlike any I’ve ever seen that raises questions of normality, masculinity, and human sexuality. All in shocking, unique, and head-scratching ways. The film follows Franco and Matthews attempt to recreate the lost forty minutes from William Frenkins film Cruising. The missing footage was explicit (too explicit for early 80’s MPAA to allow) scenes of Al Pacino (playing an undercover cop) journeying into the world of gay S&M bondage clubs. Franco and Matthews cast a straight man to play Pacinos part and Matthews makes the controversial decision to include real sex in the scenes. After setting up the premise Interior. Leather Bar then follows everyone through the one-day film shoot. Conversations about society, art, pornography, and comfortability amongst those who are different ensue. How effective is the film? Is it convicting? Does Mathews transcend pornography and create art? What exactly is the point? I have my own opinions (which I hope to write about soon), but reactions throughout the theatre were as diverse as the film itself. Which perhaps was the point.

God Loves Uganda

Many know of the sickening anti-gay bill attempting to pass in Uganda. Many have seen the shocking homophobic videos from Ugandan pastors about LGBT people. Some might have even heard of the murder of David Kato, a gay rights activist in Uganda. The unsettling documentary God Loves Uganda tactfully articulates how this hatred towards LGBT community sprouted (Christian missionaries from the fundamentalist organization ihop), the devastating affects, and even how their twisted view of the ‘good news’ cares more about power than people. Director Roger Ross Williams is able to articulate so much in the doc making it an expansive important piece in the ongoing conversation between the Christian and LGBT communities. It covers a vast array of topics from the ethics behind modern day missionaries to the shocking homophobia spread to Ugandan churches by fundamentalist Christians who no longer had audiences in the states. Yet God Loves Uganda fits its title for while it discovers the origin of this vitriol hatred in Christianity it also features some truly inspiring Christians reaching out to those being rejected by everyone else. They preach love, while the others preach hate. The contrast is striking. Unfortunately no matter how hard they try, the damage already done in Uganda is irrevocable and will continue to poison generations to come. Despairing facts aside, God Loves Uganda is a moving, infuriating, informational, thought provoking, and convicting doc that is a huge wake up call to western Christians and their churches.

In the next couple of days a review of the cannibal horror film We Are What We Are and a longer reflection of God Loves Uganda will be posted on The Alternative Chronicle. Keep your eyes posted.

Tomorrow I will post the final round-up.

~Andy Motz

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