Sundance Festival 2022 TV Pilot Review: Indie Epic Show

The half-hour comedy “Chiqui” and the A24 documentary “Instant Life” highlight a program that chronicles the frustrations of being stuck in place.

Sundance has long been a place for those who are looking. They may be looking for a first shot or a last chance, a new home or a lost love – and off-screen their creators tend to be looking for something, too. be it a breakthrough in the biz or an enhancement of their artistic prestige. What a character wants is a great place to start for any film, but the Sundance Film Festival – held in Utah, requires a scenic ride for most people with a badge – has tend to accept subjects who cannot answer that question. They don’t know what they want. All they know is that they are eager to find it.

This year, in the Indie Episodic show, the characters are searching for answers. The six distinct entries in the 2022 indie TV pilot lineup are tied together by several themes: Most focus on women. Childhood reflections also play their part, as do early adult reflexes. Every project adds at least one more Sundance-y plot point, be it an assassin dressed as a preacher, a blunt location-based metaphor, or a secret Sea Monkey recipe. . But the main pattern of the section is to explore the past in a futile quest to correct, or better understand, the present. The sought objectives, if met, provide little or no assurance. What drives these characters is the desire to get out of stagnation and emerge into something, anything, different. There’s a feeling the audience won’t have a hard time identifying, given the purgatory pandemic we’ve been in for so long. The Last Sundance, not to mention the general discomfort, if not utter disappointment, about the future in general.

The highlight of the show “Chiqui” goes back to the 1980s, when Ruth “Chiqui” Baretto (Brigitte Silva) and her husband Carlos (Sebastian Beltran) moved from Medellín, Colombia to the United States in search of a bright future. brighter. The pilot in 30 minutes saw the couple gliding on a couch on the East Coast, moving from a cramped friend’s home in New Jersey to his sister’s residence on Long Island with a private pool. There, Chiqui is loaned a colorful wardrobe from Judy (French Catherine), while Carlos is promised a job by Ted (Greg Prosser). Everything is looking for.

At night, Chiqui watches TV, staring at an attractive couple riding a motorbike in the sunset. She is an ambitious dreamer who is steadfast in her beliefs and you can tell how much she wants to succeed even if she doesn’t scold her husband for holding them back by holding on to life. their old life. (His call with his mother back home becomes a joke, then dramatic, recurring.) Failure after defeat, however, leaves the duo in serious trouble by the end of the episode. Chiqui tries to recreate the liberal image she sees on TV, but the closest thing she got to the American Dream was a package of branded frozen chicken.

Out in the West, Kate Bosworth is similarly captivated in “Carrying on Dancing Horses,” an hour-long premiere about a contract killer (Bosworth) driving a car. through the magnificent landscape between the murders. Knock on the door of “Sopranos” star Joseph R. Gannascoli and everyone’s favorite android Lance Henriksen, only to step inside and “help with the [their] forward” — probably to hell — the opening episode also goes back to the female assassin’s teenage years, when she started working for her father in the death business. “He was in charge of hits on the jukebox,” she said. “I did it for a song.”

There’s a lot missing from the compelling opening episode, both intentionally and otherwise. “Bring on the Dancing Horses” is one of those rare indie TV projects that shot an entire season, rather than just a pilot, and creator/director Michael Polish is sure to fill in the story. The killer’s missing fairy tale in the remaining nine episodes. Why she kills the people she kills, as well as what has led her to a lonely, bleak life she claims to enjoy are nagging questions initially masked by the passage overwritten dialogue and jamming logic. One of the risks with producing an entire episode, rather than an opening sample, is that compelling buyers might not be able to maneuver the next steps of the story as much as they’d like; rather than potential, “Dancing Horses on You” depends on viewers wanting to see Bosworth deliver the same Angel of Death speech to different goals, over and over, up to when the reason to invest in her mission becomes clear.

"Dark heart" Sundance Festival 2022 Indie epic show

“Dark heart”

Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

“My Trip to Spain” finds another woman at an impasse, even though Alexis (played by writer/director Theda Hammel) is desperate for a release. Preparing to leave on the iconic trip – where she’s seeking facial feminization surgery – the home-owned transgender woman welcomes a mind mate with her while she’s gone. Charlie (John Early) has been living in hiding in his New York studio apartment for the past year, terrified of the pandemic, and he soon pours out his guts to Alexis as they share a quick lunch before their flight at the airport. after. “We don’t know ourselves well enough to improve [ourselves],” Charlie told his exasperated friend. “You think this is some kind of luxury,” she countered, emphasizing the importance of the impending procedure. “This is a necessity!”

Meanwhile, as the two sides debate the transformation of Alexis, Bruno (Gordon Landenberger) is repairing the house, repairing the work that Alexis had started earlier during the pandemic. Every rumor about her looks is accompanied by the whirlwind of machinery and piles of wood that accompanies remodeling a house. Hammel’s panning camera – sometimes narrowing around each character to create informative frames, other times circling the house until a point of interest is noticed – establishes a fun atmosphere hilarious, supporting tough discussions and fleeting moments of humour. Alexis and Charlie are trapped in a house in need of improvement, and the house, in turn, traps two people who are hungry for self-improvement.

Two other entries in Sundance’s Indie Episodic show two women waiting for the fortunes once promised them. The so far stranger choice is “Instant Life,” a three-hour documentary series (on sale by a24) that follows Yolanda Signorelli’s pending lawsuit against Big Time Toys – an attempt to keep rights to her beloved Sea Monkeys. It’s correct, other things Sea Monkey. Yolanda’s husband, Harold von Braunhut, invented the product and the two turned it into a healthy business. Not only that, but Harold and Yolanda kept the secret recipe for creating creatures for themselves – a decision that saved their business when, after Harold’s death, Big Time Toys attempted to outsource the product. export to China and completely cut off Yolanda.

But that’s just the end of a very special trove of material amid Yolanda’s poverty in 2016 – living without power, feeding pet pandas, inviting every “Grey Gardens” comparison you can. come to mind – her beginnings as a model, and her husband’s trepidation from being a self-hating Jew into a Nazi is all right. (He adds “von” to his name to make it sound more German.) While not always engaging and indulging in unrelated content, “Instant Life” nevertheless manages to make a splash. touched on the value of life in all its forms, as well as those who would rather eradicate it.

Then there’s “The Dark Heart,” a Swedish true-to-life crime thriller about Sanna (Clara Christiansson Drake), the daughter of a wealthy landowner who returns from college with big plans for the future. family business. The only problem: Her father, Bengt (Peter Andersson), is bound by his way of doing things. Frustration mounts, but things really heat up when Sanna falls in love with Marcus (Gustav Lindh), a young man on a neighboring farm whose family is Bengt’s arch-enemies. Since all of this happened about two years ago, “Dark Hearts” follows Tanja (Aliette Opheim) as she leads her Missing People volunteer unit on a case to find… Bengt, who has been missing for two years.

“Dark Heart” doesn’t address the mystery of what happened to Bendt because it exaggerates the power of stagnation. Sonna couldn’t stand working on the ground with one hand tied behind her back, just as Tanja became irritable when her search was constantly empty. Neither has the power they crave (Sonna to make decisions for herself and the farm, Tanja is trusted in a way that suits her passions), and neither is provided an accessible path to get it. The way their stories overlap is fascinating, even if “Dark Hearts” puts more emphasis on Sonna in the first three episodes and there’s little or no suspense about either of the two’s fates. woman.

Of the show’s six titles – up from four in 2020, but down from eight in 2019 – “Culture Beat” is an odd man. Just five minutes long, the prank show (produced by Eric Andre) stars Andre Hyland with three sketch characters: One is Cory Palmer, the host of the glasses-sponsored sports, energy drink show shady, who went to many local art retailers to ask, “What is art?” Without redressing from that overly broad starting point, the response from the store owners was indeed minimal. compared to the usual prank shows and even shorter appearances by Phil Gower of Hyland (a NPR obsessed with people regularly bumping into people on his side bike) and Lucas Anonymous (a technician rated as “Matrix” who runs through everything on his bike) are too believable to be considered a joke. in the greater Los Angeles area. (But hey, at least none of Hyland’s men are mean.)

Admittedly, this year’s Indie Episodic class was a disjointed group. Finding answers is a broad topic that is likely to cover most stories, and now is a time when viewers tend to project their own circumstances into stories. Sundance returns to virtual in 2022 to appeal to audiences who are still trapped inside – for safety, for warmth, for basic childcare – and, whatever the reason, his views they are even more attached to whatever is going on in their head. But these games are still having to stretch themselves to learn more closely at the present time. Maybe it’s by delving into history, where difficult discussions and admissions still have to be taken into account; maybe it’s a personal journey needed to better understand what can help us, individually, in the present; perhaps it realizes the immediate value of a good chuckle, like when a kind brother asks an art dealer if his painting “Blade 3” is good enough for a gallery.

Whatever you glean from this year’s show, know that you won’t learn it alone. TV is a conversation, and conversations evoke change. Here’s hoping next year we can have more of both – in person.

The Indie Episodic show is now available to watch virtually at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

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https://www.indiewire.com/2022/01/sundance-festival-2022-tv-pilots-review-indie-episodic-program-1234693415/ Sundance Festival 2022 TV Pilot Review: Indie Epic Show

Olly Dawes

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