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Czech That Film

March 26 - March 27

CZECH THAT FILM IS BACK

Czech That Film series is a carefully curated selection of recent Czech cinema. Salt Lake Film Society and the Czech Consulate is excited to be bringing this event back to Broadway this year.  

ADMISSIONS

INDIVIDUAL FILM TICKETS
$12 per film screening
 
PASSES
$40 All Access Pass includes access to all Czech That Film in person films and events.
 
All tickets and film passes are redeemable at SLFStix.org.

FILM SCHEDULE

Fri March 26

7 pm

Bratři (Brothers)

(2 hr 15 min)

9 pm

Bod Obnovy (Restore Point)

(1 hr 55 min)

Sat March 27

7 pm

Úsvit (We Have Never Been Modern)

(1 h 57 min)

9 pm

TBD

 

FILMS

Listed alphabetically by title. All films are in Czech with English subtitles. 

BOB OBNOVY (RESTORE POINT)

FRIDAY, MARCH 26 | 9 PM

1 hr 55 min | 2023 | Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Serbia | Not Rated | Czech, Slovak | Feature

Directed by Robert Hloz

Set in central Europe during 2041, a female detective investigates the case of a murdered couple where a restoration team is able to bring one of them back to life.

BRATŘI (BROTHERS)

FRIDAY, MARCH 26 | 7 PM

2 hr 15 min | 2023 | Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia | Not Rated | Czech | Feature

Directed by Tomáš Mašín

In October 1953, five friends decide to leave communist Czechoslovakia and get to West Berlin. They manage to cross the guarded border but are soon detected in East German territory. Unknowingly, they initiate the largest armed manoeuvre since WW2; twenty thousand German Police and Soviet Army members are mobilised, all because of five teenage boys.

ÚSVIT (WE HAVE NEVER BEEN MODERN)

SATURDAY, MARCH 26 | 7 PM

1 hr 57 min | 2023 | Czech Republic, Slovakia | Not Rated | Czech | Feature

Directed by Matěj Chlupáček

Helena, is about to give birth and face a rosy future in a modern city, as the pregnant wife of an important factory manager. However, all her illusions soon perish, as the dead body of a newborn intersex baby is found in the middle of their factory.

SLFS Guest Post: Māsima 2023 and Lauren To’omalatai

Lauren To’omalatai is a Sāmoan screenwriter, director, and film programmer from West Valley City, Utah. She served as Director of the Utah Pacific Island Film Series for four years where she organized free community screenings showcasing films by and about Pacific Islanders throughout Salt Lake County. In 2021 she co-established the Māsima Film Tour with the Salt Lake Film Society to amplify this work and bring it to a wider audience. She is a proud alumni of imagineNATIVE’s Screenwriting: Features Intensive (2021) and Visual Communications “Armed With a Camera” Fellowship (2022-2023) under which she wrote and directed her debut short film “Snack”. You can find her on Instagram, and her website.


“Growing up in West Valley City, I was always surrounded by other Sāmoans and Pacific Islanders in my community. My parents spoke Sāmoan in the home, we ate Sāmoan food, attended a Sāmoan church, and danced in Polynesian groups. I was never the only Pacific Islander in any given place. I could always identify other Pacific Islanders by the way they looked, spoke, or my favorite, that signature boisterous laughter that seemed to follow us around, especially when we gathered together. I consider myself lucky there’s been a constant tether between myself and my heritage. 

During my junior year of high school, I became obsessed with film after watching Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. It was the spark that led me to watch other films, explore film history, and try my hand at screenwriting. This budding interest was supported by a theater in downtown Salt Lake City that showed independent and foreign cinema: the Broadway. I’d always loved to write but there was something specific about screenwriting that spoke to me.

This curiosity led me to pursue a Film Production degree after graduation. I didn’t complete the program, leaving school to get a full-time job to help support my household. I was disappointed I couldn’t finish my studies because during this time I’d become increasingly aware that although I didn’t feel like an outsider in my own community, the world of film and television had yet to catch up to the wealth of stories that Pacific Islanders had— a realization that fueled my desire to continue writing scripts, even if I wasn’t in a position to return to school. 

a photo of a screening from the Utah Pacific Island Film Series

A Utah Pacific Island Film Series community screening of the short documentary Standing Above the Clouds (2020).

A few weeks later, in March 2016, an opportunity presented itself in the form of a free film screening of a Sāmoan film. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to learn the ins and outs of filmmaking in a classroom but I could still attend this screening and hopefully find other Pacific Islanders who were as passionate about film as I was. The Utah Pacific Island Film Series, a program of Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources (PIK2AR), had an afternoon showing of My Fa’a Sāmoa directed by Ursula Ann Siataga.

This short depicted a Sāmoan family living in the Bay Area. It was the first time a piece of media directly reflected my own experiences as a first-generation Sāmoan living in the diaspora. Although set in an entirely different state, it was a powerful moment to see the same ways Sāmoan culture was made malleable and molded around the way other young Sāmoans and their families in the U.S. were living. 

At the screening I met my mentor and friend Susi Feltch-Malohifo’ou, Executive Director of PIK2AR and for the next few years volunteered at screenings and attended Pasifika inclusive Sundance events. In 2019 I became Director until February 2020 when Covid-19 halted all in-person programming. For the next year we tried our best to facilitate online screenings and discussions, but of course, the energy was different and it was this new challenge to rally folks to watch films online at a time when the whole country was growing weary of watching films at home.

During this period, I reconnected with screenwriting and started submitting to screenwriting fellowships, something I’d never done before. To date, I’ve been privileged to participate in back-to-back fellowships that have strengthened my skills as a screenwriter and filmmaker and given me the gift of connecting with other indigenous and Pasifika filmmakers. 

a photo of many people at the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival

“Armed With a Camera” Fellowship cohort at the 2022
L.A. Asian Pacific Film Festival: (L-to-R) M. Kaleipumehana Cabral, Veialu Aila-Unsworth, Peter Filimaua, Alexis Si’i, Misa Tupou, and Lauren To’omalatai

This past year has been an incredible experience for me under Visual Communications “Armed With a Camera” Fellowship where I was given financial support and mentorship to direct my first short film “Snack”. This cohort was the first in AWC’s 20 year history to be entirely Pacific Islander which serves as a reminder that often in AAPI spaces or initiatives, the PI part of that acronym is minimized or forgotten completely.

Through this fellowship, some intercommunity healing has taken place and I’m hopeful we will continue to make strides in ensuring that when AAPI is used, it actually and actively includes Pacific Islanders in a meaningful way. Snack makes its world premiere at this year’s Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and comes full circle to screen at this year’s Māsima on closing night. 

In 2021 I was a participant in the imagineNATIVE Screenwriting Intensive where I spent the following months writing my first feature film. This would also be the inaugural year of Māsima that saw the incredible staff from the Salt Lake Film Society help us orchestrate a virtual tour complete with panel discussions and partnering with local Pacific Islander owned businesses.

I chose the name Māsima, which means “salt” in a few Pasifika dialects, referencing Salt Lake City where it was created and the salt of the ocean that connects our Pacific Islands and stories. In 2022 Māsima’s program was a larger hybrid experience of both in-person and online screenings and thanks to the generosity of Bill Imada and his team at IW Group we took an abbreviated version of Māsima to Los Angeles. 

A photo of important people from opening night of Māsima 2022 at SLFS

Opening Night of the 2022 Māsima Pacific Islands Film Tour

Filmmaking is a collaborative effort. This goes for not only what happens on-set and on the production side of things, but also what happens when your film leaves you and is shared with others. There is a lot of trust and respect when a film is shared with an audience that we would all do well to remember and I’m extremely appreciative of each and every filmmaker who has allowed us to showcase their work in all iterations of Māsima. Salt Lake County has a large population of Pacific Islanders and it’s a dream fulfilled to share Pasifika stories with the local community for a third year at Broadway. 

There is an expression in Sāmoan, Teu le Vā, which means “nurture the space” and that space is essentially the relationships that we all have in our lives. This relationship could be one that you have with another person, multiple people, or the environment around you. This is a personal favorite saying of mine that I strive to live by because the relationships that we have with our family, friends, coworkers, ourselves, and the world around us, are crucial to the ways we see, experience, create, and share art. To be an artist is to be in community and we must prioritize these relationships so trust and creativity can take root and flourish. 

A still from a film showing two Pacific Islander women

Still image from Snack, starring Luseane Pasa and Vida
Tuitamaalelagi Hafoka

The relationship that I’ve had the honor of cultivating with the incredible team at the Salt Lake Film Society is one that I value greatly and I’m grateful to be working closely with an organization that doesn’t just purport to care about diverse stories but, has made an active effort to bring those stories and storytellers to the forefront. I hope Pasifika and non-Pasifika audiences alike will attend one of our screenings down at the Broadway to see the variety of humanity and creativity that the Pacific Islander community has. 

If you can’t make it to the Broadway in May during Māsima’s run or any of the available screenings online, here’s a curated list of Pasifika films that I believe have made waves of positive change and self-expression in the ever-expanding ocean that is Pasifika cinema.”

Here is a curated list from Lauren of Pacific Island films, available on SLFS Letterboxd and below.

Loimata: The Sweetest Tears (2022) directed by Anna Marbrook 

Waru (2017) directed by Ainsley Gardiner, Casey Kaa, Renae Maihi, Awanui Simich-Pene

For My Father’s Kingdom (2021) directed by Vea Mafileʻo 

Tanna (2015) directed by Martin Butler and Bentley Dean

Whale Rider (2002) directed by Niki Caro

The Dark Horse (2014) directed by James Napier Robertson

The Dead Lands (2014) directed by Toa Fraser

Cousins (2021) directed by Briar Grace-Smith and Ainsley Gardiner

Three Wise Cousins (2016) directed by Stallone Vaiaoga-Ioasa

Boy (2010) directed by Taika Waititi

Out of State (2017) directed by Ciara Lacy

Patu! (1983) directed by Merata Mita

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) directed by Taika Waititi

The Orator (2011) directed by Tusi Tamasese

One Thousand Ropes (2016) directed by Tusi Tamasese

Once Were Warriors (1994) directed by Lee Tamahori

Next Goal Wins (2014) directed by Mike Brett, Steve Jamison

Waikiki (2020) directed by Christopher Kahunahana

James & Isey (2021) directed by Florian Habicht

Leitis in Waiting (2018) directed by Joe Wilson, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer

Every Day in Kaimuki (2022) directed by Alika Tengan

The Land Has Eyes (2004) directed by Vilsoni Hereniko

No. 2 (2007) directed by Toa Fraser

The Legend of Baron To’a (2020) directed by Kiel McNaughton

Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen (2018) directed by Hepi Mita

Kumu Hina (2014) directed by Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer 

Island Soldier (2017) directed by Nathan FItch

Ever the Land (2015) directed by Sarah Grohnert

Mele Murals (2015) directed by Tadashi Nakamura and Keoni Lee

In The Can with Doug Fabrizio starts April 20

Salt Lake Film Society partners with University of Utah department of Film and Media Arts and KUER’s RadioWest host Doug Fabrizio to bring you a conversation about THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS. This month’s special guest will be University of Utah Associate Professor of Film Studies Sarah Sinwell. Admission includes a screening of the film followed by a live panel discussion.

Join us for this one night only special event! Tickets are now available here.

SLFS Staff Picks: Anderson and Anderson

Since the early 1990’s, there have been few directors who have crafted more iconic films with iconic casts than Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson (no relation). Throughout the last 25 years, each director has utilized his unique style of visual storytelling, as well as an incredible amount of acting talent to deliver some of the more impressive and acclaimed works of cinematic art out there.

Salt Lake Film Society is proud to be curating a whole month of films to showcase their artistic contributions to the Salt Lake City community! So whether you are a fan of P.T’s deeply flawed characters and suspenseful long takes, or Wes’s unique visual style and sense of humorous storytelling, come down to the Broadway and relive these all-time classics on the big screen! To get you in the mood , here are some SLFS Staff favorites from both Andersons:

Anderson and Anderson SLFS Staff Picks

THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (2001) – Jesse Sindelar, Development Manager

    • “Before I watched THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS for the first time, the friend who recommended it to me told me that the whole film culminated in one single line near the end. After being entranced by the stacked cast, every one of which brought their A-game, and following this horribly dysfunctional family to a surprisingly optimistic ending, I finally discovered what my friend had meant. In one of the last scenes, Ben Stiller’s recently widowed character finally forgives his dad, played by the perfect bastard, Gene Hackman and opens up to him with a simple “I’ve had a rough year Dad”. Not only does it exemplify the emotional growth of the whole family, but I think everyone can deeply relate to that line to some extent.”

A still of Gene Hackman and Ben Stiller from the Wes Anderson film Royal Tenenbaums

 

P.T. ANDERSON Tori Baker, President/CEO

    • “A cinefile simply cannot pick! THERE WILL BE BLOOD is a tour de force that will likely land though cinematic history much in the way CITIZEN KANE has. BOOGIE NIGHTS is so unique and original and “of the moment;” MAGNOLIA packs a punch for anyone who has experienced death intimately, or love absently. Eat that frog or drink that milkshake, either way, thank you PT for the brilliance.”

MAGNOLIA (1999) – Marcie Collett, Associate Director of Development

A still of Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the P.T. Anderson film Magnolia

    • MAGNOLIA is my third favorite movie of all time – right after EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE and BARTON FINK. It is epic, mundane, magical, ridiculous, hilarious, heart-breaking, ecstatic, mysterious, and utterly nonsensical. It is unbearably long as the intertwining, desperate characters unravel until that biblical moment. I fell in love with Philip Seymour Hoffman in 1999 after watching him in this. He is the knight who tends to the mythic, dying Fisher King – Jason Robards who was himself dying in his last role, and he compassionately leads an extraordinary cast who have gone on to star in multiple P.T. Anderson roles.

RUSHMORE (1998) – Rachel Getts, Associate Director of Digital Content

    • RUSHMORE is a coming of age story that incorporates quirk, angst, art, and the Kinks. This sophomore film represents a less stylized Wes Anderson, with an emotional depth that elevates its love-triangle premise. Bop your head to the soundtrack and remember the pain of discovering that you don’t know everything that you thought you did.  It happens to some of us at 15, and to some of us a bit later.  But you can get back up and start anew. ” 

PUNCH DRUNK LOVE (2002) – Stephen Simmons, Associate Director of Production

    • “When I was a wee kid, I was a projectionist, and every-time we built up our 35mm prints, we would have to screen the film, checking to see if the print was damaged or out of order on the reels. One night, we received cans of PUNCH DRUNK LOVE for an advanced screening. It was 2am in the morning as we screened the print. This dramedy was so unexpected, original and awkward. I never laughed so hard in an empty theater. Adam Sandler’s performance alone was worthy of an Oscar nomination. The use of red, white, and blue visuals/colors was hypnotic and carried the anxiety of the plot. When the film ended, it was 4:30 am. I went right up to the projection booth and started it up again. Didn’t leave the theater until the sun came up. That’s how much I love this film.”  

A still of Ben Stiller and Emily Watson in the PT Anderson film PUNCH LOVE DRUNK

 

Indie Movie Theaters in Salt Lake City – SLFS

We hope you enjoyed our staff selections (and nostalgia trip), and we hope you get to enjoy a bit of reminiscing yourself with our Anderson and Anderson film series! Click here to see the upcoming schedule of Anderson and Anderson films for this April.

Valentine’s at SLFS

Valentine’s Day is coming up soon (or some us just consider it any other day, which is cool) so here’s some SLFS offerings available to all.

Need a film to watch? You can find staff recommendations in our latest blog entry here:

Marquee which says SLFS STAFF RECOMMENDS FOR VALENTINE'S DAY" in black and red text with paper hearts flowing up the right side.

Also you can find the films mentioned in this blog on our Letterboxd here:

SLFS is on Letterboxd! Follow us there for more movie recommendations.

And finally here’s some SLFS themed Valentine’s Day cards that you can give to your favorite movie-goer:

How Films Make Us Feel Emotion

While some folks might not readily admit to it, many of us have cried while watching a movie. These could be tears of sadness for the looming passing of the family dog in Marley and Me, or of exultation during scenes of joyous reunion and relief at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. For many people, (cinephiles and non-cinephiles alike), there is at least one movie scene at some point which has overwhelmed them with an acute wave of emotion.

a still from the final scene of the film It's a Wonderful Life
For many, the iconic ending of It’s a Wonderful Life is a guaranteed tear-jerker

The stories that film tells and the immersive way it tells them have always had a capacity to foster our sympathetic and empathetic tendencies, help us grow emotionally, and connect more with others. Whether you watch a documentary about human suffering thousands of miles away or a narrative that reveals the less than evident truths about your own life, watching a film can be emotional, and that is a good thing. How does film do this and what exactly about the art of film makes us feel the emotions we do when we watch? 

This powerful quality of film sits at the heart of why we love it here at SLFS, and why we are committed to providing access to independent film to our community. We are proud to show a wide variety of independent films that help our patrons not just think, but also feel. The more we can understand and discuss this emotive-inducing power of film, the better all of us in our community can be at engaging with the diverse and thought-provoking benefits of cinema.  

Independent Film = Your Brain On Empathy

Emotions are a vital aspect of the storytelling ability that a movie has. Emotions are also vital characteristics of the larger human experience; they are a fundamental part of what makes us sentient, complex creatures. In the modern age of scientific research and medical technology, emotions can be more precisely defined and measured through brain scans of our neural networks and what we know about the different chemicals that our brains release to cause emotional states. And as it turns out, movies are more than capable of inducing and effecting these states.

Humans are naturally empathetic beings; when we see or hear something sad, we are likely to feel sad. When we watch a story on the big screen, we automatically generate some investment in the characters. The way we absorb their depicted plights and decisions often invests us in an emotional cinematic reality, even if we are not directly experiencing the situations in question.

There are countless studies that demonstrate a link between storytelling and empathy, but it also doesn’t take a scientific study to know that movies offer one of the more effective forms of storytelling in human history. In fact, film is so effective at inducing empathy and emotion in people, it is used by researchers as a method to actually induce emotions in subjects, in order to study the brain simultaneously as they feel them. 

Different neural networks activate different types of empathy in research participants who watched an intense scene from Black Swan

For neuroscience researchers like Talma Hendler at Tel Aviv University in Israel, movies offer a useful tool to study how emotions fluctuate in real time and what’s going on in the brain when we feel certain ways. Hendler and her team have been investigating neural networks in the brain and their role in empathy, and have found evidence for two types of empathy. Mental empathy, when people step outside of themselves to think about what another person is thinking or experiencing, and embodied empathy, more of an in-the-moment internalization and adoption of an experience and its emotions.

It’s hard to say which type of empathy an audience member might be feeling during a specific scene, whether they are understanding the rationale and perspective of a character’s feelings, or more acutely feeling the character’s feelings themselves. But one thing is for sure; the empathetic storytelling that film is capable of can play with our emotions like few other forms of media can.

Playing With the Audiences Emotions

As much as there is to understand about the science of why film makes us feel emotion, what about the techniques behind filmmaking itself? How do filmmakers shape their narrative and use all the storytelling tools at their disposal to make us feel?

When filmmakers are crafting shots and dialogue, and considering how to tell the story of the scene, while they might not be contemplating the science of neural networks or the difference between mental and embodied empathy, their attention towards the emotions of their audience is quite purposeful.

“We’re always thinking about how to get into an emotional state, moment by moment, and how to bring as much of the audience along with us,” said Darren Aronofsky, acclaimed director of psychological dramas like Black Swan, Mother!, and The Wrestler in a Wired 2014 interview. It could be through stunning visual perspectives of proper cinematography, swelling crescendos of an orchestral soundtrack, or a well-written line acted and delivered to perfection; filmmakers craft their scenes and visual storylines with concentrated intent of making their audience feel.

an image of neural networks overlayed on a brain, next to a still from the film Black Swan
Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence in Mother!, another psychological horror film from the mind of Darren Aronofsky

As much as the artistry of a film and its filmmaker plays a big role in this, there are also other psychological aspects of film that naturally contribute to the keen emotions that many moviegoers feel when they watch on the big screen. According to professor of psychology at Washington University, Jefferey Zachs, mimicry and music play vital roles in the emotions that film can make us feel.

“[Our brains] say that it’s a good idea to mimic the visual input that we’re seeing…if you watch somebody in the theater and there’s a smiling face filling the screen, most of the audience is going to pop a little bit of a smile…In film, a filmmaker has the opportunity to integrate those things very tightly. They can control exactly what’s shown of the face, and what else is present [on the screen].”

In regards to music in film, Zachs says the type and the timing also play a big role in inducing emotion. Sad moments in movies use slow music composed in a minor key to hammer home the sad things they depict. Minor key music can induce the same kind of sad feelings that we feel when we see people cry or watch bad things happen to people. “You put all those things together and it’s just taking the mechanisms that we encounter in real life and just really pushing all the buttons at once.” Zachs concluded.

Independent Films in Salt Lake City – SLFS

At Salt Lake Film Society, the emotional power of visual storytelling is at the heart of the impact we make in our community. Whether it’s anecdotal or based in scientific research, there is  consistently reaffirmed evidence that a compelling visual narrative can alter our brain’s chemistry. Films can make us feel, in a way that is strangely close to how we might feel if we were actually living these emotional experiences ourselves.

This invaluable form of sharing an emotional connection with others reinforces the unique and underrepresented voices inherent in our  independent film programming. This pairing helps cultivate an introspective and compassionate arts experience for the entire community, a process that SLFS has proudly been a part of for over 21 years. So come join us for an independent film at Salt Lake Film Society, and maybe you too can be a part of an emotional experience bigger than yourself.

To see a list of our upcoming films and events, click here.
To join our Red Carpet Club, or to learn more about RCC levels, discounts, and benefits, click here.


SLFS Guest Post: “The Steady Rise of Asian-American Voices in Cinema” – Alyanna Padilla

Alyanna Padilla (she/her) is a Filipina-American woman and current Utah resident. She is the creator of To Ami with Luv, a newsletter about the K-pop supergroup BTS and the importance of combating racism in pop culture with diverse artists and storytellers. Alyanna has been a loyal SLFS patron ever since she moved here to attend school 10 years ago. Both the SLFS theaters and the proximity to the Sundance Film Festival helped foster her love for independent films, as well as an appreciation for the budding film industry here in Utah. You can read her newsletter here and find her on Instagram and Letterboxd @alyannapadilla.


“Representation Matters” feels like such an overused statement these days. Discussions about diverse films on press tours and in the media almost always include the question: “What does it mean for you to be an *insert member of underrepresented, marginalized community here* in the industry? It is such a loaded, cloying question and many artists feel pressured to represent every member of their community, simply by doing their job.

This is because for years in the mainstream media, it felt like there was room for only one specific story to be told about one marginalized community, and once we have the one, we’re all set. However, there is a reason it is still important to talk about it.

There is a reason why so many videos went viral last week when little Black girls reacted to seeing Halle Bailey for the first time as Ariel in Disney’s upcoming The Little Mermaid. There is a reason we celebrate so many “firsts” in prominent roles in pop culture and politics. It is because representation really does matter. If you do not see someone who looks like you out in the world, it is that much harder for you to to understand your own experiences and believe your stories are worthy of being told.

photo of red carpet and marketing materials for the SLFS Pacific Islander cultural film tour, Masima
Opening night of the 2022 Māsima Pacific Islands Film Tour

That is why the emphasis SLFS places on exhibiting diverse films in Salt Lake City is so important; providing access to underrepresented stories and voices matters. In 2021, 71% of movies presented by SLFS feature directors, lead characters, and/or subjects that were female, BIPOC, and/or identify as LGBTQ+ (SLFS 2021 Annual Report). I watched several of these movies at SLFS theaters and I always appreciate the accessibility and affordability SLFS provides for all audiences. 

Not only that, but Salt Lake Film Society also offers a more extensive approach to exhibiting the stories and voices of other cultures through their Cultural Film Tours. These film tours are a collaboration between SLFS and diverse members of our community to encourage engagement in the arts. The films chosen empower and accurately represent the stories and experiences of members of underserved communities in our city.

SLFS cultural tour programs have been going on for over a decade now, and each year new tours are added to include even more minority populations. Last year SLFS collaborated with Mexican, Jewish, Israeli, and Pacific Island communities to showcase the talent among these diverse filmmakers. During AANHPI month, SLFS hosted Māsima 2022: Pacific Island Film Tour. The program was curated and sponsored by Utah Pacific Islands Knowledge 2 Action Resource, Utah Pacific Islands Film Series, and Salt Lake Film Society.

The lineup of films highlighted filmmakers from the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Māsima is part of SLFS’ annual Cultural Film Tours to continue championing and celebrating the rich history and heritage of the AANHPI community here in Utah. I look forward to watching even more films that will be added to Māsima for AANHPI month in 2023! 

For SLFS’ Letterboxd account, I contributed my own list of recommendations for AANHPI movies. I like, if not love, all of the movies on this list and would readily recommend any of them! I included a wide range of genres, so hopefully there is something on there to attract any type of moviegoer. I even added a few children’s movies on there as well, because it is even more important for young audience members to see all types of representation in the media.

As a child, I rarely saw anybody on screen that looked like me. Watching these movies would have been so impactful to me in my youth. Even as an adult I enjoyed myself because I know how vital it is that they now exist for young, diverse audiences today. My Letterboxd list makes it apparent that the number of AANHPI movies skyrocketed after the success of Crazy Rich Asians in 2018. Crazy Rich Asians was the first movie by a major Hollywood studio featuring a cast of majority Asian descent since The Joy Luck Club in 1993.


 

I remember feeling so many emotions by the end of the movie when I saw it in theaters. It was the first time I witnessed an all-Asian cast in every prominent role: both the romantic leads, the best friends, and all the family members. It was a joy to watch so many beautiful, talented Asian characters have rich, complex storylines all within the same movie.

I walked away from each of these recommended movies feeling proud of how far we’ve come as a society in accepting these movies into mainstream culture. It is long overdue. The success of these movies prove that sometimes the most personal stories end up feeling the most universal. I know I am not alone in this and so many other moviegoers feel the same emotions that come with finally seeing your own experience represented on screen.

 

Hopefully this curated list will open your eyes to some truly exceptional movies made by and featuring people that may not look like you. The power of cinema is that it has the ability to challenge your biases and help you examine your own unique experiences and emotions. My favorite moviegoing experiences are when I walk out of the theater feeling changed. The importance of diverse films is that they tell stories told by perspectives different from your own, which hopefully stick with you long after the credits roll.”


 If you’d like to contribute to the discussion of independent film in SLC, like Alyanna Padilla, then you can get details by contacting Jesse Sindelar at jessesindelar@saltlakefilmsociety.org.

Arthouse Audience Survey

UPDATE: This survey is now closed. We will contact winners via email in the next week.

It’s that time of year… We need your help! We want you to tell us what you think you need and want from your movie-going experience, and how we might improve.

Help us out by filling out this Arthouse Survey by 10/23. Click on the link, fill it out, and you’ll be added to a drawing for $50 certificate and two $25 certificates:

https://survey.alchemer.com/s3/7002524/Salt-Lake-Film-Society

Thank you so much for taking your time to fill this out. SLFS is looking for ways to continue bringing the best in cinema to SLC.

Tower Theatre Update Fall 2022

"While we don't have a reopening date yet, our goal is preservation of the Tower Theatre and also the neighborhood of 9th and 9th as a unique hub for neighbors and friends who support safe spaces for diverse communities to gather."

Here’s the full statement from our own Tori Baker, CEO & Executive Director at SLFS:

“Welcome to the 9th & 9th neighborhood and the Historic Tower Theatre. We are currently under renovation.

Salt Lake Film Society, your local nonprofit cinema organization, has a mission to EXHIBIT, CREATE, & PRESERVE the big-screen experience. Our amazing nonprofit staff is working with construction partners to reveal a renovated lobby, ADA improvements, and other upgrades.

While we don’t have a reopening date yet, our goal is preservation of the Tower Theatre and also the neighborhood of 9th and 9th as a unique hub for neighbors and friends who support safe spaces for diverse communities to gather.

Throughout 2022 we have been working on exterior repairs, including interior planning, drawings and design. We’ve also been committed to fund development, assessments and meetings with our 9th and 9th neighbors on neighborhood preservation ideas. 

We are happy to report that the auditorium repainting, plus ceiling sound panels and video/DVD archive and library assessment are well under way. SLFS has received a pristine collection of 15,000 DVDs to add to our archive and will begin working on the vision for the archive’s return to the newly remodeled lobby.

While we are renovating, see curated films at our Broadway Centre Cinemas location, including traditional Tower programming such as Rocky Horror Picture Show, Tower of Terror, and the most innovative cinematic presentations of independent film in our state.”

You can be part of the preservation of the Tower as a Salt Lake Film Society Red Carpet Club subscriber or donor.

Tower Theatre circa 1940s/1950s

What Is an Independent Film?

The film industry as a whole releases a wide variety of movies each year. While there is an extensive range of stories and types of film in circulation, there are also some important distinctions regarding how films are made, funded, and distributed. You might have heard of “independent films” or “indie movies”, but understanding what actually qualifies as one, and why independent theaters focus on showing them is a bit more complicated.

Salt Lake Film Society operates two independent theaters and we take a lot of pride in the films we show in Salt Lake City. Many of these films, from gripping foreign dramas to small-budget, local documentaries, can be classified as independent films. But we also exhibit and enjoy plenty of films that are created within the major studio system as well. 

This is not to say that one film type is inherently better than the other; there will always be amazing films being made and incredible stories being told, whether independently or studio-supported. At Salt Lake Film Society, we just believe that understanding and contextualizing the differences between independent films and studio films is a part of being a conscientious and engaged cinephile.  

Distinctions Between Independent Films and Studio Films

While there can be plenty of noticeable differences between the experience of watching an independent vs. a studio-supported film, the more clear cut differences usually lie behind the scenes. For the audience, these differences can be evident in the types of stories told and the contrast in creative decisions made. But the differentiating factors that can more clearly distinguish the two revolve around the production and distribution processes, and the respective financial situations of each film type’s budget. 

The definition of what constitutes an independent production can be somewhat muddled, but the most defining trait of an independent film is that it is produced and distributed outside the “major” film studio system. Studio films on the other hand, are defined by their production through a studio owned by one of the “Big 5” media conglomerates (NBC/Comcast, Paramount, Disney, Warner Bros, Sony). These studio films are also funded and distributed by massive production companies that operate under the umbrella of these media conglomerates. 

still of Daniel Kaluuya in the independent film Get Out
Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out, independently produced by Blumhouse Productions

While many independent films are made by individual filmmakers, many are still made by film studios, albeit smaller ones. But an important consideration is that these films usually don’t have a guaranteed distribution network or production funding like the larger studios with their parent companies. Independent films need to scrap and source for producers and distributors almost from day one.

Sometimes, these more independent-focused distributors (A24, Neon, Blumhouse) will fund a project at the beginning, sometimes they purchase it halfway through or after it’s made, but the search for funds and distribution is a relentless necessity that characterizes most independent films. That’s why these films often dominate the film festival circuit (and why most festivals even exist in the first place); these filmmakers are showing off their product to distributors with the hope of it being purchased, and distributed.

While there is no specific dollar amount that separates an independent film budget from a studio film budget, spending range is another major factor that distinguishes these two film types. Independent film budgets can range vastly, from tens of thousands dollars to tens of millions, and occasionally will even require fundraising to finish production and find distributors. Studio film budgets will also vary quite substantially, but their upper limits are astronomically higher, with some studio films working with predetermined budgets that can range up to half a billion dollars. 

Different Motivations, Different Expectations

This large contrast in monetary and distribution processes consequently leads to a variety of differences in production, artistic influence, and definitions of success. Studio films are often formulaic and controlled by senior management from start to finish, and while the production needs vary from film to film, they always maintain some form of uniformity in operation, staffing, and expenses. Independent film productions are more free-form, following the direction and desire of the producers and their artistic vision, often sourcing staff, equipment, and money as they go along. 

still of penelope cruz, johnny depp, and ian mcshane in pirates of the Caribbean: stranger tides
Penélope Cruz, Johnny Depp, and Ian McShane in Pirates of the Caribbean: Stranger Tides, the most expensive film ever made with a budget over $400 million

These creative and production differences understandably lead to clear differences in motivation for producing the film, and what defines a film’s release as successful. Studio films and the stories they tell are much more likely to have the biggest names and the grandest visual effects, and are often made with the primary goal of commercial success. There has never been a studio film made that hasn’t undergone rigorous financial calculations by studio executives beforehand regarding the potential money it might bring in. These films are usually designed to cater to as many people as possible, in order to maximize  attendance and box office revenue (often to recoup some of the expenditures from their immense budgets).

Independent films (and the independent theaters that proudly and consistently show them) have different motivations. These films usually put more emphasis on the art of storytelling, and presenting the perspective of a wide diversity of voices. They often don’t cater to the largest possible audience. Instead, they aim to craft a narrative that makes the audience take a mental step back and ask questions, like “Who?”, “What?”, or “Why?”. Independent films are not totally free from the industry’s financial expectations, but their purpose will usually be more driven towards the limitless freedom of artistic expression, the introspection of the audience, and the diversity of filmmakers, experiences, and stories that naturally comes from that.

Muddied Definitions of “Studio” and “Independent” Films

For any fan of film who has explored the varied types of stories and styles the industry has to offer, it’s clear that there are some distinctive differences between smaller budget, “art house” indie films, and bigger budget, franchise-spawning studio films. But just like the real world, the conversation and categorization is a bit more nuanced than that. In reality, most films do not sit neatly in one category or the other, or their content doesn’t fit the archetype expected from their production and funding.

still of John Corbett and Nia Vardalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding
John Corbett and Nia Vardalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, an independent film which grossed $369 million, with only a $5 million budget

Big studio films can spend big while still emphasizing diverse narratives and more artistically-driven creators (consider Taika Waititi now directing Thor: Ragnarok and Thor: Love and Thunder). On the other hand, independent films with small budgets can still tell more generalized stories that aim for studio-esque commercial success (the independent rom-com, My Big Fat Greek Wedding grossed $368.7 million worldwide). While some may call these exceptions to the rule, others might say that the definitions are simply more muddied in the modern film era. And when it comes to streaming services now consistently producing and distributing their own content, the conversation can become even more complicated.

Independent Theaters in Salt Lake City – SLFS

At Salt Lake Film Society we are proud to exhibit thought-provoking stories and inspiring films to our community through our independent theaters, whether they be niche independent films or widespread studio films. Our goal as a independent cinema is less about properly defining film as “independent” or “studio”, and more about cultivating in our audience a natural curiosity about each film they see, learning more about who made it, how they made it, why they made it, and what creators or organizations they are supporting by purchasing a ticket for it. 

Our independent theaters love to present independent films that emphasize art, culture, and underrepresented voices, but we all have plenty of studio films that we adore. We just love film, and we love the questions and conversations it can produce, so come see a movie and join the discussion, and learn a bit more about different types of film yourself.

To see a list of our upcoming films and events, click here.
To join our Red Carpet Club, or to learn more about RCC levels, discounts, and benefits, click here.