First Run
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First Run

The 2022 Sundance Film Festival Satellite Screenings

Dispatches from Park City films in the Charm City.

This past weekend, the folks behind Feature Presentation got the chance to attend a Sundance Film Festival Satellite Screen. Over the past few years, the people at the Sundance Institute have programmed a few movies from their festival to be played over one weekend all across the country. This year, eight films were screened at seven different venues nationwide. The SNF Parkway Theatre, home of the Maryland Film Festival and located in Baltimore, MD (our home base), was selected as one of the theaters, so we got the chance to spend the weekend seeing these Sundance selections.

Seeing as the Utah in-person aspect of the festival was canceled, it seems to me that we were one of the lucky few to see these movies on the big screen in their premiere.

Movie #1: Sirens (dir. Rita Baghdadi)

On the outskirts of Beirut, Lilas and Shery, co-founders and guitarists of the Middle East’s first all-female metal band, wrestle with friendship, sexuality and destruction in their pursuit of becoming thrash metal rock stars.

We started our weekend with the first of three documentaries. If the goal of a documentary is to both educate and entertain, I would say that Sirens accomplishes both. I learned a lot about the political climate of Lebanon, about the lives of both women and metalheads (particularly women metalheads), and that I have absolutely no interest in attending a metal concert in the middle of the day with only four other people.

Movie #2: Alice (dir. Krystin Ver Linden)

When a woman in servitude in 1800s Georgia escapes the 55-acre confines of her captor, she discovers the shocking reality that exists beyond the treeline…it’s 1973. Inspired by true events.

Alice is a great example of a movie that you just need to trust. When a movie has a wild concept or you know that a twist is coming, you are invariably judging it just a little bit more. Can they pull it off? Will they pull it off?

That’s what I ended up doing for a good chunk of the runtime in Alice. I’m not quite sure they do pull it off, but it’s a hell of a swing and I appreciate that. Good design and a kickin soundtrack help elevate it.

Movie #3: Free Chol Soo Lee (dir. Eugene Yi and Julie Ha)

After a Korean immigrant is wrongly convicted of a 1973 San Francisco Chinatown gang murder, Asian Americans unite as never before to free Chol Soo Lee. A former street hustler becomes the symbol for a landmark movement. But once out, he self-destructs, threatening the movement’s legacy and the man himself.

The best part about Free Chol Soo Lee is that it doesn’t end when you think it’s going to. I feel like most documentaries that tackle the legal system end after the big case or when the verdict comes down. When that happens in this 83 minute documentary, there’s still nearly 30 minutes left.

Spoilers if you are unfamiliar with the Chol Soo Lee story.

I appreciated the fact that they spend some time talking about his life after getting out of prison. It’s silly for us to think that his life is just better now that his false imprisonment is over. He had to deal with a reintegration to society that coincided with him being the face of a cultural movement. That was quite an interesting perspective.

Movie #4: Every Day in Kaimukī (dir. Alika Tengan)

A young man is determined to give his life meaning outside of Kaimukī, the small Hawaiian town where he grew up, even if it means leaving everything he’s ever known and loved behind.

Easily my favorite movie of the weekend came when I needed it the most. There’s an obligatory speed bump when you realize you’re only halfway through any sort of movie marathon, but Every Day in Kaimukī is exactly my kind of movie.

I have publicly praised both 2021’s Red Rocket and 2019’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco, and this film feels like a crossover of the two. An autobiographical-adjacent look at the things you love and hate about the place that made you you. Stylistically the film feels very similar to those two as well, so if you liked those flicks I highly recommend this one when it comes your way.

Movie #5: Emergency (dir. Carey Williams)

Ready for a night of partying, a group of Black and Latino college students must weigh the pros and cons of calling the police when faced with an unusual emergency.

Preceded by a Baltimore-based short, F^¢k ’€m R!ght B@¢k. Baltimore represent!

The first movie of the fest with really high highs and really low lows plot wise. Between that and the movie’s genre-bending (it is an impressive complete 50/50 with humor and suspense), it was hard for me to be fully on board. I just wasn’t really ready. But definitely one to watch.

Movie #6: Marte Um (dir. Gabriel Martins)

In Brazil, a lower-middle-class Black family of four tries to keep their spirits up and their dreams going in the months that follow the election of a right-wing president, a man who represents everything they are not.

Unfortunately my least favorite film of the weekend. Though that entirely seems to be a me problem as reviews for this one are great and I understand what everyone else is saying. I just had a difficult time finding it particularly special, but who says a movie has to be special? I don’t know — can you tell I just didn’t like it and feel bad about that? Sorry!

Movie #7: Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul (dir. Adamma Ebo)

In the aftermath of a huge scandal, Trinitie Childs, the first lady of a prominent Southern Baptist megachurch, attempts to help her pastor husband, Lee-Curtis Childs, rebuild their congregation.

The only movie of the weekend that is a straight comedy (excluding the short F^¢k ’€m R!ght B@¢k), but that might be an unfair moniker. It tackles the hypocrisy of the church and the good and bad things about organized religion in this country, but doesn’t just let you laugh it off. There are a handful of moments that really make you sit with how uncomfortable these things can be. They are the most powerful moments in the movie.

Sterling K. Brown gets to show off by doing the most, but Regina Hall really gets to shine putting her dramatic skills to the test by proving that tragedy is the best comedy.

Movie #8: La Guerra Civil (dir. Eva Longoria Bastón)

The epic rivalry between iconic boxers Oscar De La Hoya and Julio César Chávez in the 1990s sparked a cultural divide between Mexican nationals and Mexican-Americans. A chronicle of a battle that was more than a boxing rivalry, and examines a fascinating slice of the Latino experience in the process.

Do not get me wrong, this documentary is interesting and well made. But at the end of the day, it’s a standard sports documentary. I knew nothing about this boxing match or the cultural divide it inspired, so I’m grateful for the history lesson. But after the marathon that was eight movies over three days, it felt like a bizarre way to end such a great weekend.

Photos: Sundance Institute

Plot synopsis from Sundance Institute/SNF Parkway Theatre.

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Patrick J. Regal

Patrick J. Regal

Educator. Artist. Founder and Editor of Feature Presentation. Instagram: patrickjregal

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