Leave No Trace
dir Debra Granik; with Ben Foster, Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie 18/US ****
After the indelible Winter's Bone, filmmaker Debra Granik carries on exploring the connections of people with nature in this strikingly visceral drama set in the Pacific Northwest. As it expands to touch on a variety of timely themes, the film maintains its tight focus on the central father and daughter, played beautifully by Ben Foster and newcomer Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie. It's a provocative film that reaches deep to evoke a powerfully emotional response.
dir-scr Lauren Greenfield; with Florian Homm, Kacey Jordan 18/US *****
Filmmaker Lauren Greenfield takes her fabulous doc The Queen of Versailles and spirals out to explore the much bigger picture, creating one of the most vital, urgent films in years. An expertly assembled film packed with striking imagery, it's also a riveting exploration of consumerism, taking a surprisingly personal approach that touches on unexplored aspects of a society that's addicted to monetising virtually everything.
dir Crystal Moselle; with Rachelle Vinberg, Ardelia Lovelace 18/US ****
Filmmaker Crystal Moselle skilfully creates a loose vibe in this drama about skater girls in New York City. The narrative is deliberately thin, as the film instead focuses on on the camaraderie, connections and rivalries between young people who are discovering who they are in the context of the tribe in which they find themselves. It's fascinating, honest and thoroughly gripping, expertly shot and edited to bring out the natural performances.
Sundance Short Film Tour
There are seven films from the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in this programme, which has been travelling around the world to cinemas and festivals. This includes the grand prize-winning Matria (Alvaro Gago, Spain), a stunning and rather gruelling depiction of a woman trying to hold her family together through sheer force of will. Two others won jury prizes: Hair Wolf (Mariama Diallo, US) is a witty horror pastiche set in a Brooklyn beauty salon that's being invaded by zombie-like white people looking for "braids!" And Fauve (Jeremy Comte, Canada) is an intensely raw little film that shifts from lively romp to painful drama in the blink of an eye. The other stand-out for me was The Burden (Niki Lindroth von Buhr, Sweden - pictured), an inventively surreal stop-motion animation about the struggles of everyday life.