'Weirdsville' to launch Slamdance fest

Irreverent features run concurrently with Sundance fest

NEW YORK -- Boasting such quintessentially irreverent features as "American Zombie" and "American Fork," the 13th annual Slamdance Film Festival announced its lineup of competitive features and special screenings Tuesday.

The screwball comedy "Weirdsville" from veteran cult director Allan Moyle ("Pump Up the Volume") launches the fest Jan. 18 as the Opening Night Gala film. Scott Speedman, Wes Bentley and Taryn Manning star in what fest programers describe as "the story of two junkies on the run from a satanic cult, a cabal of midget knights, a vengeful drug dealer and a mouse."

Programers say a record 3,600-plus films were submitted this year to fill less than 100 slots, up from more than 3,000 submitted last year.

"What sets Slamdance's program apart this year is a passionate combination that offers a high level of entertainment, social and commercial value," said fest president and co-founder Peter Baxter. "In most ways the program represents the spirit of the Slamdance id. This 13-year-old teenager breaks rules, has stayed true to its roots and embodies the spirit of independent creativity.

Each of the ten narrative and ten documentary films is made by a first-time feature director with budgets of $1 million or less.

The narrative feature competition sports six world premieres, including Chris Bowman's chronicle of an obese grocery clerk, "American Fork," Grace Lee's deadpan look at filmmakers shooting the undead, "American Zombie" and Nick Gaglia's portrait of two brothers in a rehab program, "Over the GW."

Other world premieres include three films revolving around murder: Will Slocombe's "Crime Fiction," Daniel Casey's "The Death of Michael Smith" and Slamdance best narrative short winner Jeremy Saulnier's "Murder Party."

The narrative competition also includes Colin Drobnis' story of the friendship between an ex-soldier and a pickpocket, "Bangkok," Peter Kelley's portrait of a thief, "The Path of Most Resistance," Dylan Verrechia's prostitution-themed love story "Tijuana Makes Me Happy" and the US premiere of Baran bo Odar's 80s coming-of-age tale "Under the Sun"

The documentary competition features cover everything from baseball-playing prisoners (Tiller Russell and Loren Mendell's "Bad Boys of Summer"), an obsessive Bob Dylan fan (James Bluemel and Oliver Ralfe's "Ballad of AJ Weberman"), a first-person account of growing up in a cult ("Children of God: Lost and Found") and a post-9/11 revenge killing (Tami Yeager's "Dream in Doubt").

Other docus explore competitive gamers (Seth Gordon's "King of Kong"), an identical twin facing a sex-change operation (Brooke Sebold, Benita Sills and Todd Sills' "Red Without Blue"), a hoped for Wu-Tang Clan reunion (Casey Suchan and Denis Hennelly's "Rock the Bells") and a trans-continental rowboat race (Luke Wolbach's "Row Hard No Excuses.")

Jeremy and Randy Stulberg's portrait of a New Mexico outland "Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa" and Adam Hootnick's Middle East tale "Unsettled" round out the list.

Two stories about the lives of young adults, Gary Walkow's "Crashing" and Henry Pincus's "You Are Here" will be shown in narrative special screenings. Three docu special screenings offer varied looks at interesting lives: Andrew Neel's painter portrait "Alice Neel," Janine Hosking's tale of an accused drug smugler " Ganja Queen" and Arturo Perez Torres' chronicle of Mexican vigilantes, "Super Amigos."

The late-night "21+" screenings feature Sean Meredith's update on the classic "Dante's Inferno," Roar Uthaug's horror film "Cold Prey" and Adam Rifkin's caveman comedy "Homo Erectus."

As always, Slamdance runs concurrently with the indie fest that inspired it, the Sundance Film Festival, from Jan. 18-27.