Drew and I decided this was the year we were actually going to make it up to see some films at Sundance. We did the wait-list thing, which was surprisingly easy and efficient. Drew’s mom was in town, so we took her up on a Wednesday and got into Hesher at the Broadway Theater in Salt Lake, and Son of Babylon in Park City.

Hesher is an independant film about a man and his son who have just lost their mother/wife.  In their grief, they encounter an anarchist who presumably helps them deal with it.  This film follows in the tradition of films where an outsider comes in to help the protagonists deal with a challenge or problem, except that Hesher, the anarchist, isn’t exactly helpful.  When the film structure indicates that he’s about to pontificate about helpful life philosophy, Hesher instead tells disgustingly vulgar stories instead. 

The film was brutal and brilliant; I spent most of it with my jaw dropped.  But there are very, very few people I could recommend it to.  The forceful vulgarity is essential to the film’s impact, and incredibly well done, but I haven’t heard language like that since junior high.  It means to be offensive, and succeeds.  Still, brilliant.  I’m so glad we got to see it. 

oseph Gordon-Leavitt delivered a stunning performance as Hesher.  I’m used to seeing him in meeker roles, but he made Hesher intimidating through body language alone.  (If you haven’t seen him in 500 Days of Summer, you are missing out.)  This makes me incredibly excited for Inception–the new Christopher Nolan film with Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, coming out this summer.


We also made it into a late showing of Son of Babylon, which was Drew’s first choice of films to see.  Son of Babylon is the first film to come out of Iraq.  It’s about a boy and his grandmother traveling across Iraq just after the death of Saddam, looking for the boy’s father, one of thousands upon thousands of Iraqi soldiers who are missing–and often buried by their own government in mass, unmarked graves.  The film was surprisingly non-political, dealing mostly with the personal pain and grief of a people who’ve been torn apart by the wars.

I expected the film to be slow, and was pleasantly surprised at how engaging it was.  I’d highly recommend it, and hope it scores some kind of a release in the States.  We listened to the director talk afterwards.  He says there are no more movie theaters left–all of them have been destroyed–so the people who saw him making the film didn’t understand what he was doing, even when he tried to explain. 

There were no actors to be had, so none of the actors in the film are professionals.  He found the little boy on the street, and selected him mainly because he spoke both languages necessary for the film.  (The boy was an impressive actor.  This director must be amazing to get those performances out of actors with no experience.)  The woman who played the grandmother lost her husband in the same way the character lost her son.  This is more than a story–it’s a tribute to the daily lives of many, many women and children in Iraq.

We went up to see one other film, but didn’t make it in.  We’ve decided we need to try to see at least one film every year, though.  This is so my kind of cinema.