|Written by and Starring|
Summertime assembles an all-star group of young slam poets over a single day (which appears to be July 4, 2019)
as they traverse corners of Los Angeles.
Director's Carlos López Estrada sophomore effort was placed in Sundance’s NEXT section for boundary-pushing and emerging filmmakers.
Its experimental doc-fiction hybridity
comes from Estrada’s collaboration with the poets,
with the script comprised of their poetry
and transition moments from character to character.
Almost all of the writers play themselves in the film.
As an expression of a current trend to co-create films with the communities they depict,
is a rousing success,
one that embraces this ethos
and reaches to the audience in joyful participation.
Indeed, at this public premiere screening at Sunadnace 2020, the loud cheers, claps, and snaps started
from the moment the lights went down,
when the bumper sequence opened
with a land acknowledgement of the Utes.
It appears that these videotaped acknowledgements were made with several different Native
and Indigenous filmmakers
associated with the Sundance Institute,
from Bird Runningwater, the director of the Sundance Institute’Indigenous Program
to Adam Piron, Sundance programmer.
The personalization of Sundance’s land acknowledgement,
new this year,
sharply contrasts with the scripted, dutiful readings that I’ve encountered at other festivals,
where the mostly-white programmers are the ones typically introducing the films.
As is episodic by nature,
the atmosphere in the screening mimicked that of a slam performance.
As a result, it was one of the more enjoyable screenings I’ve been to in a while.
Many scenes ask a lot of the non-professional cast,
with various skill levels.
The standout is Tyris Winter, who plays a teenager who was kicked out of his home when he came out as gay.
His comedic epic quest for acquiring a cheeseburger drew a huge, cleansing laugh from me as well as cheers from the audience.
Similarly, the film is at its best
when its internal movie logic
rubs against the reality of the world.
Paolina Acuña-González has a scintillating scene,
where her daydreams manifest on the street,
and a pair of rappers
named Anewbyss and Rah
rise through the stages of an entire career over the course of a day,
their fame coming from rapping about their mothers.
Most of its characters pass through working-class spaces,
which builds towards a genuine vision of solidarity
On the heels of this energy,
the narrative returns to its scaffolding too many times,
and the performances are often cut.
The overly repetitious reminders of certain storylines,
like a recurring graffiti artist who tags walls with “City of Jason” (his own name),
strained in achieving a narrative continuity.
The transitions in the film are often comprised of documentary footage, shot by Sean Wang,
and serve purely as backdrop.
This reduction of the richness of the street vendors,
and outdoor public spaces to signifiers
represents, to me, what is frustrating
about nonfiction nowadays.
Still, walking out of the screening,
it was difficult to deny feeling
that the kids will be alright,
and that the future looks bright.
This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection
I had greatly admired Mosese’s previous film,
It was an experimental documentary
which positioned the filmmaker as part of a global diaspora searching for the meaning of HOME.
This thought on PLACE in , then,
stood out to me.
Especially since it shares with his previous film
an aptitude in narrating the quotidian
in extreme poetic terms.
Cryptic and singular in shape,
dazzling in its play with light and landscape,
rigorously specific to its setting in the highlands of Lesotho,
This Is Not a Burial felt worlds apart
from the more traditional stories
that make up most of Sundance’ narrative features.
The film tells the story of an 80-year-old woman,
Mantoa (Mary Twala Mlongo),
who discovers on Christmas Day that her son has died in a mining accident in South Africa.
With no family left alive,
she starts making arrangements for her own burial.
Until she is told by the city council that her village,
Nasaretha, is about to be flooded for the construction of a dam,
and that its residents will be resettled in the city.
But Mantoa is ferm
in her desire to be buried alongside her ancestors,
while her neighbors pack up their belongings and,
dig up their dead to take them along.
This Gothic premise has its roots in reality.
As Lesotho exports 780 million cubic metres of drinking water every year to South Africa.
This calls for the construction of reservoirs that force villagers out of their homes.
They leave behind their land, crops,
and must either exhume their dead,
or abandon them to the flooding.
According to its production notes,
this is the first film made in Lesotho
in the native language of its local actors.
Its warnings against the cult of the modernity
are sharp and humorous.
The village’s chief line,
“Say the word progress, my tongue rolls backwards”
will stick with me for a while...
But every scene seems to tick off important themes: traditional rites versus the church,
a woman being accused of sorcery,
the value of caregivers,
the lure of the city,
politicians only claiming to speak for their constituents.
This is a surrealist fable,
with fragmented editing
and dialogue infused with pleinty of myths.
Its soundtrack is composed by the Japanese noise musician,
the haunting Yu Miyashita.
You are first taken by his music in the film’s oneiric opening sequence,
that takes place late at night in a seedy bar.
The camera wanders through smoked chiaroscuro,
and then settles on an elderly lesiba player and raconteur
who starts narrating ancient tales of war
and drowned cities
that situate the film in the realm of legend.
THIS IS NOT A BURIAL, IT’S A RESURRECTION
is devoted to how the idea of HOME plays
into our own perceptions of mortality and life after death.
The use of both cinematic framing
and religious undercurrents
create a film that,
is deeply connected to how we live on.
Giulia Ghica Dobre