Sundance 2023: Fremont, Gush

2 months ago Filmmaker Magazine

Anaita Wali Zada in Fremont (photo by Laura Valladao)

Anaita Wali Zada in Fremont (Photo by Laura Valladao)

After three full features and one walk-out on my first full IRL day of Sundance 2023, I closed with the day’s best, Babak Jalali’s Fremont. Donya (Anaita Wali Zada, a debuting nonprofessional Afghan refugee playing one) lives in the titular city but commutes to San Francisco to work at a fortune cookie factory. She can’t sleep at nights and, after eight months of unsuccessfully trying to get a psychiatrist appointment, finagles a slot with Dr. Anthony (Gregg Turkington). Their one-on-ones are representative of the film as a whole; even on the semi-populated factory floor, Fremont largely unfolds as a series of conversations between two people. A former translator, Donya’s days are a not-unpleasingly-repetitive series of mutually bemused interactions with Dr. Anthony, coworker Joanna (Hilda Schmelling, also a first-time performer), select fellow Afghani residents of her apartment complex and an elderly Afghan waiter at a restaurant where she seems to be the sole diner. The server’s always watching a melodramatic series she doesn’t want to pay attention to, and eventually her disinterest infects him. One day she arrives and the TV’s off. What happened, she asked? “I can’t tell if this series is interesting or if my own life is uninteresting.” From his lips to bingewatchers’ ears!

20 years ago, movies like this—droll post-Jarmusch/Kaurismäki exercises in missed connections and tentative bonds, often between the dispossessed of different cultures—were thick on the ground, and I generally enjoyed all of them. Fremont‘s variation is that its performances are low-key naturalistic rather than hollowed-out deadpan, and it gains a lot from the specificity of its characters and their unglamorous milieus; it’s not like this part of California is overrepresented onscreen. The tone is well-judged—jokes are melancholy and droll rather than merely cute, framing is purposefully used for emphasis and comic timing and there’s no sleeve-tugging score or third-act bathos. There are plenty of examples of how to overemphasize being understated or triple-underline an “unresolved but hopeful” ending, but Fremont avoids those traps too. Digital black-and-white generally looks terrible for whatever reason, but Jalali and DP Laura Valladoo’s rendition is excellent; at certain moments, as when enormous expressionist shadows appear on the walls of an apartment complex’s stairwell from descending residents, it’s clear that the palette is being used for reasons much more specific than the usual excuses of either a period setting or unsuccessfully trying to look “timeless.” In short, I laughed a lot and have no significant complaints, even if the film is at the “well done, better than usual” level rather than the successive, hard-to-reach tier of mastery. It is, nonetheless, odd to see this specific-variation-on-a-familiar-mode slotted in Sundance’s NEXT category which, by the fest’s own definition, is for “pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling […] the films in this section will shape a greater new wave in American cinema.”

For that, I turned to the New Frontier section of Sundance, which this year consists of three experimental features. I started with Fox Maxy’s Gush, the first feature by the Native American filmmaker whose shorts have, over the last few years, become a regular staple of experimental programs at, most prominently, TIFF and NYFF. These started coming out during the pandemic and are, as Maxy described to me last year, assembled from personal archives documenting “a decade’s worth of footage of fucking around.” Chaotic in the very online sense, the shorts offer rapid-fire edits of disparate images and situations, soundtracked by an eminently Shazam-able melange of (mostly) uptempo music suitable for partying that’s cut together faster than Girl Talk would ever dare, with subjects’ voices regularly pitch-shifted up and down and .gif-y computer graphics (here including a skeleton throwing punches at no one in particular) periodically overlaid. The first time I saw Maxy’s work, I knew I was looking at something that was definitely meaningfully new, made by someone younger and way more online than me, but I didn’t know what to make of it or if it was even possible to evaluate qualitatively. Since then, her shorts have come to be a good-energy highlight of the comparatively staid programs they’re part of, a function her feature similarly serves relative to the bulk of Sundance’s lineup.

On her site, Maxy’s output is divided into three categories: “Horror,” “Music Videos” and “Docs,” that first being the unexpected label for her experimental documentary work. Perhaps “Horror” derives from the condition of being Native in the US: protests at Standing Rock and elsewhere have been regular elements in shorts like F1ghting Looks Different 2 Me Now. Those are not explicitly present in Gush, an omission that may be a manifestation of the interest in self-care and mental self-preservation that also ebbs through Maxy’s corpus (here represented by excerpts from an interview on those topics between Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell). Otherwise, we’re back in an enjoyably and by now familiarly chaotic place: within the first five minutes, there’s both horizontal and vertical split-screen, and Maxy continues to cut something like every three to max ten seconds.

Recurring throughlines include a conversation in a car between two young girls (one says she’s about to turn 20 and I died a little bit) doing their makeup while talking what is most accurately described as “mad shit.” If Maxy’s work is a kind of quasi-public-diary-for-self, this represents the subtweet strand, as the two (shot, somehow, from four different angles, including overhead from the sunroof) roast an unnamed 50-year-old with wife and kids who’s been hitting on one of them: “He acts like a good man who’s trying to change his community.” Another consistent feature is an interview with a friend who similarly roasts the male-dominated entertainment industry while glowing herself up: “I don’t know what it is, but you’re either hot or crusty in this world.” There is repeated freaky CG imagery of red and blue internal organs—disembodied and floating in the black computer background void, eventually clarified as coming from a mixed-media stage performance—and a German shepherd, seemingly Maxy’s own, that makes multiple welcome cameos. Sometimes there is text onscreen, in such an incredibly tiny font size as to almost certainly be illegible on a laptop or large TV: even if this is very online work, it’s definitely scaled for the big screen. I still don’t really know what to make of The Fox Maxy Experience, but I found another dose of it invigorating and get that legibility is definitely and rightfully viewers’ problem; as the pro-hotness interview subject says, “If you can’t digest it, that’s not my problem. That’s what’s being served.” Perhaps Maxy’s the Jonas Mekas of not giving a shit.

Continue reading...

Read On "Filmmaker Magazine"
More News On "Filmmaker Magazine"
25 days ago - Alameda County landlords owed thousands in rent, call for an end to eviction moratorium 25 days ago - Monday Feb. 27 COVID-19 update: 4 deaths in Douglas County 25 days ago - State basketball preview: 6A, 5A tournaments return to Weber State’s Dee Events Center this week 25 days ago - One Wealth Advisors LLC invests in Enovix Co. (NASDAQ:ENVX) 26 days ago - Uncommon length makes Pleasant Valley’s 2-3 a no-scoring zone 26 days ago - Study: Back-to-back hurricanes likely to come more often 26 days ago - What’s Happening Vegas? – March 2023 26 days ago - Osceola County community events calendar for 03/01/2023 26 days ago - North Adams, East Clinton, Unioto still alive 26 days ago - North Korea holds rare meeting on farming amid food shortage 26 days ago - 'Dilbert,' Scott Adams lose distributor over racist remarks 26 days ago - Soap or phone call? Colo. lawmakers want to make prison phone calls free 26 days ago - EXPLAINER: Windstorm was likely a derecho. What is that? 26 days ago - What's Happening in Las Vegas for this Year's March Madness 26 days ago - Outsmarting humans just one step for AI video game players 26 days ago - 'Cocaine Bear' gets high with $23.1M, 'Ant-Man' sinks fast 26 days ago - 'Everything Everywhere All at Once' dominates at SAG Awards 26 days ago - Digital Transformation: The Revolutionary Impact of Technology in Africa 26 days ago - ShotSpotter (NASDAQ:SSTI) Price Target Increased to $44.00 by Analysts at Lake Street Capital 26 days ago - Season 3 of Outer Banks disappoints critics; watch only if you were a die-hard fan of earlier seasons, they suggest 26 days ago - Board Game and Card Game Market Size in 2023 with [ STATISTICS FIGURES] Future Development Status and Forecast up to 2029 26 days ago - Tabletop Gaming Market Size in 2023 NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT and Latest Innovation in Analytics Sector till 2029 26 days ago - Celona Offers Most Comprehensive Private 5G Solutions for U.S. and Foreign Markets 26 days ago - ShotSpotter, Inc. (NASDAQ:SSTI) to Post Q1 2023 Earnings of ($0.03) Per Share, Northland Capmk Forecasts 26 days ago - Asian shares track Wall Street decline on hot economic data 27 days ago - Final Nebraska high school swimming and diving season leaders 27 days ago - Girls BB: Saluting Section Champions 27 days ago - Tens of thousands protest Mexico electoral reforms 27 days ago - Third finals appearance the charm for Hortonville's Skebba; Stoffel makes history for Appleton North 27 days ago - Medical Blades Market Business Opportunities, Top Players and Forecast 2030 27 days ago - Central College Dutch Sports Update – 2/26/2023 27 days ago - Buhro takes individual crown as Oak Harbor earns sectional championship 27 days ago - Nebraska conservatives set sights on education takeover – Associated Press 27 days ago - Back-to-back: Minico successfully defends 4A state wrestling championship 27 days ago - Here are Saturday's high school sports results 27 days ago - Farewell, Fontana: NASCAR's last weekend at a racing gem 28 days ago - Kansas Democrats pick Repass as their new chair despite campaign baggage 28 days ago - Tesla’s Global Engineering HQ in Palo Alto — Opening Party Highlights (Pics, Videos, Quotes) 28 days ago - San Ann'as Pizza and Mexican celebrating 45th anniversary 28 days ago - L.A. on the Record: The Senate takes one more look at Garcetti 28 days ago - Dodge County real estate transfers 28 days ago - How UNL instructors are tackling the emergence of ChatGPT and other AI in higher education 28 days ago - Some Democratic-led states seek to bolster voter protections 28 days ago - Casey Vaughan: Only rain should go down a storm drain 28 days ago - Nebraska conservatives set sights on education takeover 28 days ago - West Michigan Conference basketball: Girls and boys roundup from Feb. 24, 2023 – CatchMark Sports 28 days ago - Jeff Yost: Look Upstream 28 days ago - Brokers Set Expectations for ShotSpotter, Inc.'s Q4 2023 Earnings (NASDAQ:SSTI) 28 days ago - Building affordable homes in Fremont 28 days ago - Local chef to open farm-to-table eatery in Fremont 28 days ago - Jeanna Wilcoxen Murder: Where Is Jeremiah Connelly Now? 28 days ago - More than 70 soldiers killed in Burkina Faso, extremists say 28 days ago - Clyde Council to consider citizens raising chickens in town 28 days ago - Wilhelm: More on Jacksons, Willow Hill and efforts to share insight into African American history 28 days ago - STATE HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING TOURNAMENTS: Crowded at the top ... Trojans third, but well within striking distance in 5A tournament 28 days ago - Bulldog wrestlers have solid day at state 28 days ago - High school boys basketball: 6A/5A second round recap 28 days ago - Head-To-Head Analysis: Amprius Technologies (NYSE:AMPX) & Novanta (NASDAQ:NOVT) 28 days ago - Here are Friday's high school sports results 28 days ago - It’s Official: California Will Be Tesla’s Engineering & AI Headquarters
free geoip