Slamdance 2013 Recap

Fred Topel reviews Diamond on Vinyl, Joy De V. and Terms and Conditions May Apply.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Because the Slamdance Film Festival runs concurrently with Sundance, we don’t have as much time to see all their films. Slamdance began as a rebel alternative to Sundance but has become a highly regarded festival for independent films in its own right. Here is our recap of the Slamdance films we saw.

Diamond on Vinyl

This is an interesting drama with a hook of amateur wire-tapping that causes the characters to explore what exactly they’re looking for in relationships. Henry (Brian McGuire) records conversations with his girlfriend Beth (Nina Millin) on a digital recorder. When Beth finds one, she leaves him and sends her friend Charlie (Sonja Kinski) to get her things. Charlie, however, is fascinated by the recordings and starts to participate in them.

Diamond on Vinyl is a very raw film, set mostly in small rooms between two characters. It has something to say about what our ability to archive our lives with technology is doing to our interpersonal relations, but I’m not sure it’s broad enough to be poignant. We’ve had dramas about people who escape into video and that seems more overtly maladjusted. It’s bold to explore an audio-only obsession and it’s fascinating to see Henry and Charlie play with fire in a way.

I guess I had a hard time seeing how this might be something people do outside of a movie. I’m sure we’ve all thought about recording our conversations to play back in a fight with our spouses, but that’s not what Henry is doing. He’s looking for some sort of fulfillment in past conversations. The performances are good and concept is twisted enough to hold you until the end. I guess what I’m saying is it’s better than an audio only remake of Sliver.


Joy De V.

This is a cool mystery that reminds me of Brick, not in a derivative way but in a flattering comparison to a gumshoe movie in real world locations. Roman (Evan Louison) goes looking for his missing wife Joy (Josephine de La Baume) around New York. Roman’s a modern day tough guy and his dialogue with every lead is sharp.

Director Nadia Szold has a way of making everyday New York look cinematic. These aren’t the slick streets and highly production designed locations of Hollywood movies. She has to make apartments and suburban condos look like a movie. Her camera is smooth, raising the game above her shaky handheld brethren, and in some long takes I don’t see where she could have laid a dolly track. Very impressive.

With a professional look, a strong script and fascinating new faces performing it, Joy De V. has strong prospects for getting a release. It’s one to look for, and is Szold can achieve this on limited means, I want to see what she does next.


Terms and Conditions May Apply

The terms and conditions of any online service are an awesome subject for a documentary, since they’re all so long none of us even usually read them. Terms and Conditions May Apply is a very professional, thorough documentary, although it quickly becomes focused on surveillance and privacy. These are certainly important issues when it comes to our online information, but I feel like there must be other noteworthy impacts in the pages and pages of text we scroll through to use our iPods or send e-mails.

Director Cullen Hoback conducts lots of interviews with experts and victims of privacy breaches, including big names like Moby, Orson Scott Card, and Barrett Brown of the Hacktivist group Anonymous. They explore in depth the ramifications a few lines of privacy policies and online terms and agreements, mostly regarding Google and Facebook.

I feel like the big examples Hoback chooses are not so much privacy breeches, rather simply monitoring of a public forum. Extreme examples include a tourist who tweeted he was about to destroy America, and a comedian who angrily quoted Fight Club in a Facebook post and was taken literally. In both cases, those were comments made in a public forum that anyone could monitor. Maybe the government shouldn’t take them so seriously, but those misunderstandings happened regardless of Twitter or Facebook’s terms and conditions. A seventh grader’s Facebook post is taken wildly out of context, but again that’s more of a statement about government monitoring than terms and conditions.

There are a few egregious examples, of course the famous Newscorp phone hacking and the less-known example of a “Cold Case” writer whose internet search terms raised red flags. Peaceful protest groups got found out just organizing via e-mail, but protests are always something that have to be planned underground. Maybe don’t use e-mail and text to gather your ranks. It’s important to have protests but it’s harder to plan them in secret now that the target corporations may be watching. It’s a breech of privacy for sure, but protests have been organized since before e-mail existed so revolutionaries just have to be sneakier.

But what do the rest of us face by clicking on these impenetrable contracts, and what’s the alternative to using a cell phone when most of us have to for business? Social media is arguably a necessity now too, so what’s the solution? Terms and Conditions May Apply does some great research about how subtly these contracts have changed in the last decade and the dangers of the privacy portions, but I feel there’s a bigger conversation to have here. Maybe in the sequel? 


Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.