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CategoryIndie Film

Slamdance: cosboi

Directed by Gosha Shapiro (they/them), cosboi is a short film that follows the story of a genderqueen teen who goes on a journey of self-discovery through TikTok and anonymous Uber-type rides. Through the power of the For You Page on TikTok, the teen is inspired by advice and wisdom to venture out and practice new forms of themselves in conversation with rideshare drivers. This film beautifully demonstrates a pivotal time in a teen’s life when they are discovering who they are through self-reflection, media consumption, practice and rebellion.

cosboi premiered at the 2022 Slamdance Film Festival.

Slamdance: Paris is in Harlem

“Jazz is the soundtrack of New York.”

The year is 2017 and the Cabaret Law is still in effect in New York City. Enacted in 1926 during Prohibition, the law states that any business serving food and drink must pay for a license in order to also allow their patrons to dance. This prohibitive law proved to be inherently racist as it hurt minority run businesses in poorer neighborhoods, especially those who couldn’t afford the fee. And now the days of this obscure but hurtful law are numbered.

Written and directed Christina Kallas, Paris is in Harlem takes place during the final days of the Cabaret Law. It follows various characters, all of whom eventually visit the Paris Blues, a legendary Jazz bar in Harlem once run by Samuel Hargress Jr. to whom the film is dedicated. Much like with Kallas’ film The Rainbow Experiment, Paris is in Harlem employs split screens, cuts and varying perspectives to offer the viewer a multi-character mosaic. While there are many storylines, everything is anchored by the ongoing angst caused by institutional racism, the threat of gun violence, cancel culture and the Cabaret Law. Even tackling these heavy subjects, Paris is in Harlem is a film brimming with hope and joy. It serves as a reminder the power of community and human connection.

Paris is in Harlem premiered at the 2022 Slamdance Film Festival.

Slamdance: Signs and Gestures

Florist Clara (Grace Whitford) is excited about her first date with Simon (Craig McCulloch), a man she’s been chatting with on a dating app. Clara hasn’t told Simon yet that she’s blind, hoping that a blind date would be a good time to reveal this. But when Clara arrives for the date it turns out that he’s deaf but she mistakes his lack of communication with a rebuff. 

Directed by Itandehui Jansen, Signs and Gestures is a sweet romantic comedy about how connection can transcend disability.

Sundance: Am I OK?

Lucy (Dakota Johnson) and June (Sonoya Mizuno) are inseperable. When Lucy discovers that June is moving to London for her job, she’s beside herself. Especially because Lucy is starting to come to terms that despite many attempts at heteronormative relationships, she’s really not interested in men at all. June tries to help guide Lucy in her new journey of coming out of the closet but their disagreements on how Lucy should go about it and what will happen to their friendship when June leaves for London threatens to tear their relationship apart.

Directed by Stephanie Allynne and Tig Notaro Am I OK? is not your typical coming-out story and in that way it feels fresh and different. Lucy struggles with the intricacies of same sex attraction, especially the mixed signals she gets from her coworker. This film didn’t wow me but it was enjoying. Am I OK? is a heartfelt comedy about friendship and sexuality.

Note to add: I’m not sure when this was shot but there are several scenes that take place in the old 101 Coffee Shop which was a Hollywood treasure until it closed during the pandemic.  It’s now one of the locations for the Clark Street  chain.

Am I OK? premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Sundance: Emily the Criminal

Emily (Aubrey Plaza) is feeling the weight of $70k worth of student loan debt and a criminal record that prevents her from getting a decent paying job. After covering a delivery shift for a coworker, she’s tipped off on a money making opportunity: working as a dummy shopper. Youcef (Theo Rossi) is the leader of a criminal ring in which he places stolen credit cards with dummy shoppers who will buy high value goods fraudulently to sell them for quick cash later. The gig is unpredictable and despite the danger Emily keeps at it. As Youcef leans on Emily for more advanced jobs, she clings to the hope that a traditional job as a designer might still be in her reach.

Written and directed by John Patton Ford, Emily the Criminal is a tense drama that begs for repeat viewings. It effectively demonstrates the fundamental flaw in our society that prevents former criminals from transitioning into law abiding citizens. It’s also really just an engaging story. Emily the Criminal is a great starring vehicle for Aubrey Plaza. I also really enjoyed Theo Rossi’s performance and his on screen chemistry with Plaza.

Emily the Criminal premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

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