Slamdance 2023 Capsule Reviews

Starring Jerry as Himself 

Starring Jerry as Himself is a docudrama about a guy named Jerry Liu. The film starts with home movies of Jerry’s family, his three sons Joshua, Jesse, and Jonathan, and his ex-wife Kathy. He Lives in Orlando, Florida, and is retired until his identity is stolen by Chinese men posing as policemen. They tell him they are working on a money laundering case, and he could be extradited to China if he doesn’t help them. He helps the authorities in China figure out what’s going on in the “secret” case until it turns out the whole thing was a scam, and Jerry lost all his money and savings. Jerry plays himself in this film, as the title implies, but it’s more than that. It’s a tale of why we should all be careful of online or phone scammers. They can come across as very realistic and prey on someone’s good-hearted nature like Jerry. Senior citizens are very susceptible to this kind of thing. That’s why family members and friends need to keep a close eye on them and what they are doing regarding social media and their financial situation. 

The Underbug 

The Underbug is an Indian film focusing on two men in a house looking for something that may or may not be creeping around in the dark. Various scenes of bugs set the mood, but a war going on outside between Hindus and Muslims takes the focus. Suspenseful music, a creepy doll, jingling, and darkness inside the house the two men are in keep the scare factor high. The constant rain outside doesn’t help either. The two men eat dinner together, but something still lurks in the darkness. Eventually, a little girl shows up. The style and feel of The Underbug keep you, as a viewer, on your toes. It’s so creepy and scary that you can’t turn away. You are afraid you might miss something. There is an undertone of political tension that drives the film forward. The little girl, I believe, is a symbol of the future of their country. Even though it has a horror movie feel, it is also about the various people and how they differ from one another based on religion and political beliefs, an idea we, as Americans, can also relate to.


Onlookers takes place in Laos and is a documentary focusing on tourism in Laos but sometimes shows the Laos people doing their job, such as washing a dog or other types of jobs. Most of the time, the Laos people sit around doing nothing or praying to their gods. However, the film focuses on people from other countries experiencing Laos and its beauty. They go canoeing, hiking, rafting, zip-lining, and mostly sightseeing. The film is a love letter to Laos, a country I had not heard of before reviewing this documentary. The movie doesn’t have any spoken words except in the distance because the director (Kimi Takesue) wants people to see the country, its people, and all the beauty within it, just like the tourists who visit it do. There are occasional motors of various forms of transportation and animal sounds in the distance, though. It is a change of pace for a film to have no spoken words, but it has sound, which works for this movie. Sometimes there are shots of children going to school, breaking up the mundanity of the film.

Where the Roads Lead

In a small community in Serbia, something is going on involving two men who want to kill another man who is part of a group building a highway on the outskirts of their small town. He may want to build a hotel for the townspeople to profit off travelers from the new road. The townspeople are so close-knit that everybody knows what’s happening, but no one knows the full story. There are shopkeepers and their little boy, a police chief, Djura, who is trying to drink his coffee and get a shave, and a girl, Jana, who runs everywhere trying to get help, but no one believes her that the new guy is in danger or that the guys who want to hurt the new guy haven’t been taken care of yet. The film displays the time to show the passing of time, and that’s a good tool. There is a humorous side to this story because of how it unfolds. There are no phones or ways of communication besides word of mouth. In a way, the film is a mystery because we, the viewer, don’t even know what’s happening. We’re kind of like the stranger in town! It’s a fun film in that regard. All the characters are interesting, and the story is fun to try to follow, no matter how complicated.

Stars in the Ordinary Universe 

The film takes place in chapters and has three distinct stories within the film’s overall length. The Superior Gene, a YouTube show with a real science teacher, is seen by a high school-age girl Park Seoyoon, who wants to try to discover the meaning of life and why she is the way she is. The film also features a second story of a boy who wishes to be president but only grows up to be an average person with no education or real possibilities and has to resort to being a Beggar King instead. The third story is about a man who can help but tell the truth, but nobody wants to hear it, so they leave him alone to contemplate his own life alone. The three stories interconnect, and all have very good philosophical ideas they are trying to convey. This was a fun movie to watch, and it gave me my own ideas about life, work, love, and other things. 

Dan Skip Allen

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