Piers Marchant at Sundance, Day Seven

January 31, 2020

Sundance 2020: Day 7

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Number of Films: 2
Best Film of the Day: His House

His House: Becoming a refugee from a war-torn country after having watched your family members butchered, making your way across the ocean in a small, open boat, crammed with equally desperate people, only to be held in a detention center for weeks, months, or years, that should be enough. But in Remi Weekes politicized horror flick, that’s only the beginning of the sufferings for a poor married couple (Wunmi Mosaku and Sope Dirisu), just relocated to a rundown apartment in London. Within hours of their arrival, the husband starts hearing voices and visions of their young daughter, lost at sea on their way over to England. The wife also experiences the paranormal, only in her case, it’s their daughter talking to her, telling her she must kill her husband in order for her to be brought back to life. As the hauntings get worse, and more violent, putting the couple at serious risk for deportment, the two of them must rectify the great wrong they have committed. As a political allegory, it works surprisingly well, especially given the demonic status conferred to refugees in Europe and the U.S., as a horror flick, it has some spooky moments, even if things get a bit literal by the end. Still, the trick of any good scary movie is to care what happens to the characters, and by dint of the film’s strong storytelling, and spot-on performances from Mosaku and Dirisu, it’s an effectively moving piece of topical creepiness. 

Boys State: Each year in Texas, 1,200 boys (and girls, though separately) are selected by the VA to take part in a fantastic political experiment. Divided neatly in half, between the Federalists and the Nationalists  —  made up designations, without previous political affiliation  —  who are then asked to vote in an acting government, including senators, speakers, party leaders, and the highest office, governor. The boys set their agendas and platforms hoping to steal away enough of the other party’s members to put their officials in power. Directors Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss shrewdly focus on certain kids who come to figure prominently in the proceedings. There’s Rob, a jockish, white-bread right-winger, who determines the best way to win hearts and minds is to pander to the reactionary elements in the crowd; Ben, at 17, already shrewd political handler, who worships Reagan, and quickly becomes his party’s leader; and Steven, a more liberal kid with immigrant parents, who appeals to both sides as a shockingly effective public speaker. To the film’s credit, it doesn’t play favorites directly, offering a balanced approach that leaves room for surprise turns of character (it turns out brash Rob is actually more thoughtful than he has let on, admitting he’s pro-choice, but is pretending otherwise to pander for votes), even as it reveals, in all its ugliness, the vulnerabilities of the democratic system and how they can be fully taken advantage of if you’re ruthless enough. 

Tomorrow: I fly away, anon. 

Into the frigid climes and rarefied thin air of the spectacular Utah Mountains, I’ve arrived in order to document some of the sense and senselessness of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Over the next week, armed with little more than a heavy parka and a bevy of blank reporter’s notebooks, I’ll endeavor to watch as many movies as I can and report my findings. 11:16PM  |   URL:  https://tmblr.co/Z52bPy2nTMH2L
(view comments)  (Notes: 5)  FILED UNDER: sweet smell of successssospiers marchantfilmsmoviessundance 2020sundance international film festivalpark cityhis housewunmi mosakusope dirisuboys stateamanda mcbainejesse mossarkansas democrat gazette


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