This year’s Slamdance Film Festival holds the iconic fest’s vibe in hand, capturing the slightly off-center genre-infused cinema that it’s become accustomed to. When I see a Slamdance film I know that I am about to experience something very unique and inherently independent. This sort of expectancy and payoff means that I can expect an experience, either way.
In 2024’s case, it’s been an interesting and fun ride.
My first two films, Darla in Space and Welcome to the Enclave, are great examples of perfect programming with unexpected narratives.
Darla in Space (Eric Laplante and Susie Moon)
Darla in Space (2023)- Slamdance Film Festival
Darla in Space is a cleverly absurd film that seamlessly blends heart and humor. Its undeniable charm anchors this nearly whimsical narrative, forming a delightfully odd but engaging experience.
The film opens with a wonderfully eccentric introduction to Darla (portrayed by Alex E. Harris), showcasing her unique kitty coffin business. Socially awkward and passively agreeable, Darla now faces a daunting challenge: she’s saddled with over $300,000 in taxes due to her mother’s debts, played hilariously by Constance Shulman.
Darla’s world takes a fantastical turn when she discovers a sentient creature, an amalgamation of yeast and Kombucha, imprisoned in a pool. Astonishingly, this entity offers Darla an unprecedented orgasmic experience, igniting a spark of entrepreneurial inspiration.
Motivated by this encounter and fueled by a self-help mantra urging her to embrace the unexpected, Darla devises a plan. She envisions monetizing this otherworldly sensation, embarking on a venture that catapults her into a whirlwind of excitement and intrigue.
This mysterious entity (a pleasure-providing entity whose voice is not unlike HAL 9000) speaks gently, desires interstellar travel, and is quite taken by Darla. Together, they navigate a series of misadventures, from hotel stays to crafting an irresistible marketing strategy that captivates a growing clientele.
Daringly audacious yet strangely relatable Darla in Space blends surrealist comedy with beloved science fiction tropes. Co-written and directed by Eric Laplante and Susie Moon, the film offers a fresh and exhilarating take on the genre. Alex E. Harris delivers a standout performance, infusing the script’s quirks with wonderful comedic timing and genuine warmth.
As the narrative unfolds, intriguing subplots emerge, adding layers of complexity and depth. From corporate adversaries reclaiming their property to Darla’s stumbling ex, each element enriches the storyline, culminating in Darla’s empowering journey of self-discovery.
Something that felt uniquely joyous about the film is how this bizarre story feels natural in this world. It draws attention to the preposterous nature by nurturing the weird with a simple structure and beloved science fiction influences. This plot is embraced wholeheartedly and won’t be for everyone, but if you’re willing to take a chance, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Darla in Space is a surreal comedy that defies conventions while remaining grounded. It’s a testament to the power of imagination and the enduring spirit of adventure. It’s also just damn funny.
Welcome to the Enclave (Sarah Lasley)
Welcome to the Enclave (2023)- source: Slamdance Film Festival
Welcome to the Enclave presents an intriguing conceit, weaving thought-provoking notions through a visually curious direction. This experimental short boldly challenges preconceptions about technology, exploring its enormity and profound impact on our culture.
Co-written and directed by Sarah Lasley, the short film opens with an introduction to the Enclave, a digital 3D neighborhood shared by our two main characters. This seemingly idyllic locale, also shared online, harbors a naivety within its hosts. Their dreamlike land swiftly transforms into a nightmare — a haven for online trolls seeking to destroy and demean.
I found this storytelling approach particularly intriguing. The blend of mediums in Welcome to the Enclave is refreshingly unique, conveying significant depth despite its brief runtime and limited dialogue.
The film keeps a keen eye on the pulse of contemporary culture, shedding light on the surrounding dangers while also breathing colorful life into its choice of medium.
I expect that Sarah Lasley has a lot more to say and I can’t wait to see how/what she does next!
More coverage coming soon!
Does content like this matter to you?
Become a Member and support film journalism. Unlock access to all of Film Inquiry`s great articles. Join a community of like-minded readers who are passionate about cinema – get access to our private members Network, give back to independent filmmakers, and more.