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SUNDANCE ‘09: Friday, January 16th

As expected, I’m already finding it nearly impossible to write full reviews of films I’ve seen. While I figure out how to make that happen, I thought I would post brief, harried, morning-after pieces mentioning the previous day’s film(s) that struck me the most. Full reviews are to come. Here are yesterday’s standouts:

Rough Aunties — Kim Longinotto’s latest doc is another superb immersion into a troubled community. In Durban, South Africa, a group of women who call themselves Bobbi Bear devote their lives to protecting abused children. In this particular community, that just so happens to be a tragically full-time job. Seriously, what is wrong with people? If it’s not a stranger, it’s a neighbor. And if it’s not a neighbor, it’s a family member. While the film begins as an inspiring expose of the work these women do, how their tireless devotion and boundless love helps these poor, helpless victims, the film takes a turn for the crushingly personal around the midway point. This only reaffirms just how special these women are. Their commitment is desperately needed to combat the sickening corruption and abuse that torments these children every single day of their lives.

Humpday — Wow, this movie is entertaining! If Hollywood made romantic comedies this smart, the world would be much, much better place. While the low-budget aspect allowed Lynn Shelton and her team the freedom to develop such a potentially one-note concept into something so much more, the fact that Shelton is a female telling this story cannot be ignored. There is a thoughtfulness at work here that might not be overtly, distinctly feminine, but that energy is in there, and, boy, does it help. As usual, Mark Duplass is phenomenal, but it’s the character that Joshua Leonard plays that enriches the film more deeply. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’d love to see Shelton get her hands on a future Apatow project. Much more to come on Humpday, but suffice to say, so far, Lynn Shelton has scored the breakout hit of this year’s Sundance.

— Michael Tully

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Michael Tully is an award-winning writer/director whose films have garnered widespread critical acclaim, his projects having premiered at some of the most renowned film festivals across the globe. He is also the former (and founding) editor of this site. In 2006, Michael's first feature, COCAINE ANGEL, chronicling a tragic week in the life of a young drug addict, world premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The film immediately solidified the director as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s "25 New Faces of Independent Film,” a reputation that was reinforced a year later when his follow-up feature, SILVER JEW, a documentary capturing the late David Berman's rare musical performances in Tel Aviv, world-premiered at SXSW and landed distribution with cult indie-music label Drag City. In 2011, Michael wrote, directed, and starred in his third feature, SEPTIEN, which debuted at the 27th annual Sundance Film Festival before being acquired by IFC Films' Sundance Selects banner. A few years later, in 2014, Michael returned to Sundance with the world premiere of his fourth feature, PING PONG SUMMER, an ‘80s set coming-of-age tale that was quickly picked up for theatrical distribution by Gravitas Ventures. In 2018, Michael wrote and directed the dread-inducing genre film DON'T LEAVE HOME, which has been described as "Get Out with Catholic guilt in the Irish countryside" (IndieWire). The film premiered at SXSW and was subsequently acquired by Cranked Up Films and Shudder.

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