Sundance 2021 Interview: Frank Barrera Cinematographer of ‘Together Together’

Interview by Anna Harrison

SYNOPSIS: When young loner Anna is hired as the gestational surrogate for Matt, a single man in his 40s who wants a child, the two strangers come to realize this unexpected relationship will quickly challenge their perceptions of connection, boundaries and the particulars of love.

Frank Barrera’s Website: https://www.frankbarrera.com/

Together Together played during the Sundance 2021 Film Festival.

You can read Maria’s review of Together Together and you can follow more of Anna’s work on Letterboxd and her website.

Slamdance 2021 Review: Holy Frit

Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde

75/100

Who knew stained glass could be so interesting? Justin Monroe’s documentary tells the story of artist Tim Carey and Judson Studios who were commissioned by the Church of Resurrection in Kansas City to craft a 400,000 sq foot stained glass window which would be the largest installation known to date. In this process, I developed an entirely new appreciation for the art of glass making, the history industry that is over 1000 years old, and the personal growth that occurs when an artist discovers and reinvents himself.

In this doc, we learn about the history of glass making of the 120-year LA based glass making Judson Studios and the artists who work there. Our “protagonist” is Tim Carey who is the lead artist on the stained glass window commission. Even though I am not an artist I really identified with Tim who had these conflicting notions of perfectionism and impatience about his work and purpose as an artist. It was also a story about a man who underestimates himself and the need of words of affirmation to carry out his work.

This story about innovation relied heavily on a remarkable stained-glass master called Narcissus Quagliata. Tim, Narcissus, and the rest of the team at Judson Studios had a seemingly impossible task at hand; they had 24 months to complete 161 stained glass panels that would form the installation. Time wasn’t on their side. Traditional stained glass window techniques where single-color glasses pieces were individually bound together by lead would not be possible. Instead, they incorporated a new fusion glass staining technique that would allow them to fuse together multiple colors into a single piece of glass.

You will need to watch the documentary to see the final result. In the end, this was a story about finding your light through art and innovation. It was this passion for art and the commitment of the artists that possibly saved a dying industry and one of the last stained glass studios in the US who’s commissions increased after the Church installation. To quote Narcissus, “this window is going to be part of the history of glass.” I, for one, think they successfully accomplished this goal.

Recommended.

Holy Frit Trailer

Buy a ticket to see Holy Frit at the Slamdance 2021 Film Festival

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

Slamdance 2021 Review: A Black Rift Begins to Yawn

Written by Taylor Baker

78/100

Meditative and melodic, A Black Rift Begins to Yawn soars on the back of low light and an unspecific sense of place. Like a deep dream, you don’t know where you are or when you are. But you can rely on the sensory input to feel like a “you are”. Matthew Wade’s ambiguous sophomore film, erases it’s budgetary constraints with smart choices that feel unifying instead of restricting.

Letting a singular early moment like when Laura and Lara are sipping coffee looking at the horizon while their bodies sway does more talking for the film then most expository dialogue dumps in hundred million dollar films do. Matthew not only directs and writes the film, but he serves as his own Composer, Editor, and Producer. With a continuous use of vapor, water, and light the film seems to come together naturally. As if it were simply a consequence of the footage, not something forced.

Liquid, light, glances, words, hidden actions, these all amount to something together but explaining their significance independently is nearly impossible. What connects our main characters? Who are they to each other? Questions like these are typically the very marrow of screenplay, but here they have as much significance as how far away the coyote yowling was. Which is to say, the thoughts crossed my mind, but an answer would have born no real significant weight to the journey. A Black Rift Begins to Yawn is felt rather than comprehended. Matthew Wade is an artist to watch as he continues to mature in his craft and master his voice as storyteller.

A Black Rift Begins to Yawn Clip

Buy a ticket to see A Black Rift Begins to Yawn at the Slamdance 2021 Film Festival

Slamdance 2021 Review: A Brixton Tale

Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde

50/100

A Brixton Tale the first feature film from Darragh Carey and Bertrand Desrochers, unfortunately failed to connect with me. I believe it may do better with audiences in the United Kingdom who are more familiar with the social and class commentary that is going on within the picture. I was intrigued by the presence of footage shot in collaboration with community members. I usually think that this local knowledge in and of the community elevates a film, but that flourish was lost on me here. 

The film tells the story of the tumultuous, toxic, and fractured relationship between Leah, a vlogger, and Benji. The closest comparison I can make of this film is that it is vaguely reminiscent of Waves (2019) and Euphoria (2019) but with none of the polish those projects offered. Whereas, Waves and Euphoria were able to make American experiences somewhat universal, A Brixton Tale misses that mark, it was hard to connect at any level with what I was seeing on screen. I’ll be the first to admit that stories don’t have a responsibility to be universal but it was challenging for me to come up with any redeeming qualities that would justify the experience this details or any reason to make me want to rewatch it.  

I’ll concede that the directors did try to do something new by blurring the reality of Leah and Benji’s relationship and her documentary on screen but that is not enough to sustain the feature. The most effective part of the film was when we were getting Leah’s first person account of what was happening while reviewing footage on her computer screen. I really wish this first person narrative was explored in greater detail because it would’ve allowed me to form a deeper connection with the characters and understand where they were coming from.

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

Slamdance 2021 Review: Bad Attitude: The Art of Spain Rodriguez

Written by Taylor Baker

77/100

Susan Stern’s reflective documentary on her husband, renowned cartoonist Spain Rodriguez, his life, and body of work offers a sincere engagement into his history, beliefs, and legacy. In the wide wake of the world renowned documentary Crumb by Terry Zwigoff the topic of underground cartoon’s can scarcely be skirted around in a conversation without a reference to the work. Going in to the film I was admittedly reducing it in thought to something adjacent to Zwigoff’s Crumb myself.

I was smitten by Stern’s presenting of her own personal interaction with her husband’s work, questioning herself just as pointedly as she questions him. Never alighting on a judgement, but rather sharing observation and what occurred, without recoloring it to make anyone appear in the right. Structured to keep the viewer from knowing exactly when the documentary is being shot until the end is perhaps the most pivotal choice Stern made, and an undeniably effective one. I would drone on about why this is such a masterful touch if it wouldn’t impact your viewing negatively, but it undoubtedly would. I’ll pivot instead to the strongest undercurrent of reflection in the film postulated by Stern, and that is Spain’s depiction of women. Undeniably lustful, and often pornographic. Spain depicted the female form in a way that his contemporary cartoonists in the burgeoning feminist genre of cartooning at best, disliked. It’s interesting to hear them describe their derision at some of the forms and stylings of his art while simultaneously praising him as a human to interact with. Someone who was sincere and truly grappled with good intentions and in good faith while in conversation.

Eventually we progress through his backstory from Buffalo and New York City, to his arrival in Los Angeles. In which a friend drove cross country to get him and bring him to LA for no real discernible reason. At least not in the narration and interview portions within the film share with us. Naturally, Zap Comix finally enters the picture at this point, Robert Crumb’s noted underground comix book. We hear from our talking heads how impactful those books were to the cartooning scene in New York City. What a genius move it was to do that with the ideas, and so on. Pieces of information anyone familiar with the underground comic scene has already heard multiple times elsewhere, but something that is required to make the piece stand on it’s own.

What constantly tempers and grounds the film is it’s focus on Spain. Once a young brash and burly biker teaching politics to a biker club with a Nazi Flag, Spain is now evolving his art across the country to new protagonists, new ideas, and new audiences. The new format almost seems an after thought to the natural progression of Spain the artist. He has a daughter we come to find, and she shares how protective a father he was always tucking his drawings away when she’d walk by. A far cry from the man we meet at the exposition of the film. Stern’s reflective Documentary is so filled with love and authenticity that it’s hard not to fall in love with it just as she did with Spain. I didn’t know who Spain was before, and now I’ll never forget him.

Bad Attitude: The Art of Spain Rodriguez Trailer

Buy a ticket to see Bad Attitude The Art of Spain Rodriguez at the Slamdance 2021 Film Festival

Keep up with distribution and screening news of Bad Attitude: The Art of Spain Rodriguez on their website

Slamdance 2021 Review: Bleeding Audio

Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde

80/100

Bleeding Audio was such a fantastic way to start Slamdance 2021! Chelsea Christer’s doc about The Matches is one of those always desired and rarely found unexpected festival surprises. The nostalgia factor, the late 1990s and 2000s vibes made me adore the experience even more. While on the surface, you might think, this is one of those self-serving documentaries about a band, I found it to be more than that. 

I was unfamiliar with the rise and fall of The Matches before this experience. In all honesty, I knew little about them and it was only after I experienced Bleeding Audio and listened to their albums that I got a full appreciation for what this was. My hook into the documentary was Mark Hoppus, of Blink 182 fame, one of my favorite bands while I was in middle school. Hoppus served as a producer on The Matches second and third albums (Decomposer and A Band in Hope) and it was through his eyes as well as the experiences of members of the Matches that I started to understand what they were really all about. 

Originating in Oakland, CA The Matches started like many other bands, in high school. They predominantly played in local gigs called Loud, Live, and Local (L3). A community formed around the L3 scene and to this day band members claim that this community atmosphere was something unique and special. 

Getting signed to a label was only one part of the equation. During the early 2000’s music industry profits started to dwindle and the music industry was at a crossroads. How would they distribute, market, sell, and promote artists in the age of Napster and peer-to-peer file sharing. This was one of the many reasons for the untimely demise of The Matches.

What this documentary did so well was remove the rose-tinted glasses you often associate with fame. Instead, it offered a more realistic perspective of life on tour, studio time, and the band’s relationship with their scummy manager Miles. At the end of the day, the Matches kept touring to survive never quite making as much money as you’d think they might’ve.

By 2008, album sales had eroded and the band members were starting to consider new paths. After 10 years together, even though it was hard to admit the band was not what they wanted anymore. Many of the members moved on from music before playing a sold out reunion tour in 2019. The heartbreaking part of this story was that their manager never registered their songs with Broadcast Music Inc.(BMI) this meant that band members were not making royalties on any of their songs. 

This documentary was a story of what could’ve been. The Matches had everything to get to the next level and be remembered alongside of Blink-182, Green Day, and other pop-punk bands of that era. But if you ask any of the band members if they’d go back and change anything in their trajectory, I reckon that they’d say that they wouldn’t change a thing. Their reunion concert showed what the Matches were really all about. A band that was deeply rooted in their community with a unique connection to their fans. As the documentary so eloquently put it “any artist that creates something that changes someone’s life means they made it”.

Recommended 

I’d also recommend checking out their music on Spotify or wherever you get your music. Point Me Toward the Morning, Chain Me Free, Audio Blood, Wake The Sun, and Salty Eyes were some of my favorites.

Bleeding Audio Trailer

Buy a ticket to see Bleeding Audio at the Slamdance 2021 Film Festival

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

Sundance 2021 Interview: Jonathan Snipes Composer/Sound Designer of ‘A Glitch in the Matrix’

Interview by Anna Harrison

Jonathan Snipes’ Website: http://jonat8han.com/

A Glitch in the Matrix takes audiences on a journey through science and philosophy to examine the theory that humans live in a simulation and the world as people know it is not real. It is a documentary style animated horror and composer Jonathan Snipes emulated the theme of the film into the score. Jonathan was inspired by 90s electronic beats and used those throughout the music. Beyond being the composer on this film, Jonathan also held the role of sound designer, sound supervisor, and re-recording mixer. Jonathan is also a longtime collaborator of Hamilton and Blindspotting star Daveed Diggs, through their freestyle rap group Clipping, and produced other Daveed tracks including Rappin Ced in the credits and album of Pixar’s Soul and Disney’s Puppy for Hannukah song. Alongside his work in film, he also works extensively as a theater sound designer, especially in Los Angeles’ Geffen theater. He also teaches a course on sound design in UCLA’s theater department.

A Glitch in the Matrix Trailer

A Glitch in the Matrix played as an official selection of the Sundance 2021 Film Festival. It has been released on VOD by Magnolia Pictures and is also available through Virtual Screenings.

You can read Anna’s review of A Glitch in the Matrix or you can follow more of Anna’s work on Letterboxd and her website.

Sundance 2021 Review: The Pink Cloud (A Nuvem Rosa)

Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde

70/100

The Pink Cloud is the third pandemic adjacent movie I’ve seen in these past few months, the other two being Little Fish, my favorite movie of 2020, and the atrocious Michael Bay produced Song Bird. The movie might seem familiar for those who have seen Contagion (2013), the South Korean The Flu (2013) or the Argentine Toxico (2020); what sets it apart however is the intimate focus on the psychological traumas of a pandemic. This first feature written and directed by Brazilian filmmaker Iuli Gerbase signals a somewhat of a resurgence of Brazilian cinema, especially movies that lean more towards the sci-fi/magical realism realm not unlike last year’s fantastic Bacurau. 

Here we continue that exploration through the eyes of Renata de Lelis’ Giovana and Eduardo Mendoca Yago who are forced together into isolation after their first date. In a relationship that would have probably lead to nowhere our leads are forced to explore their dynamic as a couple while navigating the loneliness isolation brings even if there’s some else there with you. While Yago accepts this new reality of confinement Giovana longs for normalcy and loathes her new reality. The struggles we see on screen are those psychological struggles and internal demons we confront at some point during our lives. All happening with the backdrop of a pandemic (quick note movie was written and made before the COVID19 pandemic) and is magnified by the uncommon situation our characters find themselves in. 

An intimate portrayal of life, all of its neurosis, and psychological trauma it can bring. The Pink Cloud is a remarkable debut feature from Iuli Gerbase. This is one of those films that I’d suggest you go into with as little information as possible and just sit with it when you’re done. I for one cannot wait to see what’s next for Gerbase and the continued resurgence of genre Brazilian filmmaking. 

Recommended

The Pink Cloud Trailer

The Pink Cloud is currently awaiting Distribution and it played as part the Sundance 2021 Film Festival.

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

Sundance 2021 Review: A Glitch in the Matrix

Written by Anna Harrison

70/100

A Glitch in the Matrix starts off by examining an idea that’s been bandied about for years and viewed with varying amounts of skepticism: what if we live in a simulation à la The Matrix? The film heavily features Philip K. Dick’s lecture in 1977 wherein he declares we are, in fact, living in a simulation, a weighty declaration from one of the foremost science-fiction oriented minds. Elon Musk and other bigwigs pop up with soundbites, but A Glitch in the Matrix focuses most of its time on ordinary people—some with families, some without; some with advanced degrees, some with high school diplomas—who happen to subscribe to this theory. 

Director Rodney Ascher playfully obscures the faces of many interviewees with animated, mechanical masks, complete with creaking and scraping sound effects provided by sound designer and composer Jonathan Snipes that toe the line between diegetic and non-diegetic. (The film possesses a level of self-awareness that many within it do not.) We never get to see the expressions of those interviewed, but they lay bare their souls as they describe the metaphysical experiences that led them to believe in the simulation theory. Ascher rarely judges; he simply lets the speakers speak, often accompanied by extensive animations of their narratives and underlaid with appropriately eerie music, though there are moments when the viewers—and speakers—are brought back to reality. At one point, an interviewee’s dogs start barking, completely breaking the immersion and giving a much-needed moment of levity.

The first half of the film is interesting enough, if not that groundbreaking aside from the largely-animated style. The second half, however, examines a question I have not often seen brought up alongside the simulation theory: if we are in a simulation, then our actions should have no real consequences, and so what does that mean for our morality? How do we relate to other people?

Here, the film gets more intriguing and more harrowing, especially as we hear Joshua Cooke speak calmly of murdering his adoptive parents at the age of 19 while believing he was inside the Matrix. Yet many of the others interviewed, strange as it may sound, took the apparent lack of consequences in a simulated world and went in the opposite direction, wanting to “level up” for the person controlling them, concerned more with doing good than running amok. Several admissions turn out to be unexpectedly touching.

This is A Glitch in the Matrix at its best: engaging at a personal level with those interviewed, discussing the why over the what. Unfortunately, this is largely delegated to the back half of the film, but while we have to wait awhile before getting to the heart of the matter, it turns out that the heart, simulated or not, beats quite strongly.

A Glitch in the Matrix Trailer

A Glitch in the Matrix is now available everywhere

You can follow more of Anna’s work on Letterboxd and her website

Sundance 2021 Review: The World to Come

Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde

65/100 

With Portrait of A Lady on Fire (2019) as the gold standard, everything that’s come after it has seemed subpar. Fastvold’s second feature, The World to Come, isn’t bad; but it’s hard to ignore comparisons to its precursor Portrait, which shares similar themes. Although superior to the recently released Ammonite (2020), The World to Come suffers from the timing of having to follow up Sciamma’s masterpiece. 

It’s a slow burn (which I adored) and an intimate portrayal of two women who are unhappy in their separate marriages. They find a sense of self, of love, and renewed purpose in each other. I most enjoyed the continued exploration of the female gaze. When I see and hear stories about women on film it is essential that I hear them from a woman’s perspective. This grounds the reality I see on screen with the reality I live.

Anchored by Waterston and Kirby’s performances, and captured vividly at times by André Chemetoff’s cinematography. The World to Come is a story of intimacy and loss that we don’t often see. Though it lacks the swooning magic that made me fall in love with Portrait of A Lady of Fire. It still manages to be a satisfactory addition to the frontier romance drama, even if it fails to be bigger than it’s individual moments.

The World to Come Trailer

The World to Come is currently scheduled to have a limited release February 12th 2021 and become available on March 2nd 2021 on VOD platforms.

The World to Come played at the Sundance 2021 Film Festival.

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.