24 Hours in a Row: Sports Demons, Native Forum, 50 Cent

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Mike Plante

Days … hours … blending into one …

Midnight movie Septien premiered on Sunday night at the Egyptian – Septien is a lusciously weird film that follows a group of backwoods brothers overcoming their past through intense house cleaning, painting portraits of athletes in purgatory, and challenging strangers to one-on-one sports. Writer-Director Michael Tully also gives a great turn as the lead actor, whether it’s interpreting the dry atmosphere or playing one-on-one. Tully admitted at the Q&A that everything was real – his insanely big beard, all the sports trick shots. The title is Spanish for septic tank (which serves as a big plot point in the movie). And it’s probably a metaphor. It also reminds Tully of the time his dad made wooden field goal posts in their backyard when the director was a kid. The crowd laughed a lot, and more than a few connected with the lost high school dreams of being a sports star.

Septien Premiere. Photo by Chad Hurst.

The lurid devil-sports paintings in the film that actor Onur Tukel is making is actually Tukel’s art, also featured in the movie’s poster. If you click around his website, you might find a secret link to the 66 paintings Tukel made specifically for the film. They are beautiful and severe. I can’t stress this enough – they are not just “For Adults Only” but “For Adults With a Sense of Humor and Disturbing Athletic Past Only.”

The yearly Native Forum Brunch celebrated the new Native Showcase, bringing together past Fellows and new faces, filmmakers meeting each other, and old friends catching up. Owl Johnson, the manager of the Native American and Indigenous Program, said it’s a great chance for everyone to see each other and connect, especially since there are so many international attendees, with people from Alaska to Australia meeting each other. Plus other festivals’ programmers get to find films. The brunch was full of professional talk but it’s always a fun, laid-back event before the Native blowout party Thursday night. Food highlight? According to Owl, it’s “bacon and eggs, man.” Adam Piron’s recent fascination on the web: ceiling fan videos.

Also at the brunch was On the Ice director Andrew Okpeaha MacLean, an Iñupiaq filmmaker who was born and raised in Alaska (yes, he still thinks it’s cold in Utah). On the Ice is about a promising Iñupiaq teenager who lets everyone in his town think another teen’s death has just been a tragic accident and nothing more has been great. The film has a nice buzz, industry response, and good audiences. People have been getting into the story and the world of the film. Not to mention the aspects of filming in such an extreme place.

MacLean loves the connection to the audience the most, though. The Q&As are short but there are a lot of opportunities to talk with people one-on-one about the story and ideas. Watching with an audience has been a little nervous, but when they gasp at something, MacLean feels good.

The young actors of MacLean’s film are having a blast. They never thought of themselves as actors and now have all this attention on them. MacLean’s only advice was, “it’s going to be really crazy.” One of the young actors, Sierra Jade Sampson, walked by 50 Cent on the street and started crying with excitement.

Andrew Okpeaha MacLean. Photo by Kristin Murphy.

Previously at the 2008 Festival with his short Sikumi, MacLean sees the short as a completely different work than On the Ice, even though On the Ice shares a similar plot to Sikumi. The tone of the feature has changed from the original short – it’s not just a longer version of the same thing. “Sikumi was a complete thing and I’m proud of both that and the feature,” MacLean says. It went through a series of Sundance Institute Labs, which Maclean describes as pulling your brain out and put it in a blender and pouring it back in at the end. He also found both his editor (Nat Sanders) and his composer (iZLER) through the Labs.

MacLean knew the intensity for him would be amped up as well for his first feature. “I’ve seen other people go through it but I didn’t know what it would be like,” MacLean says. “The amount of attention you get from the press is the biggest thing, so many interviews and buzz before the film even shows. Plus we want to find a distributor for it, so it’s more business [to work on] too, versus a short where it’s, ‘I’ve made it!’”

Finally – I asked Aza Jacobs (director of Terri) how his Festival is going. “Crushed my wife’s hand during the premiere,” he confessed. “Felt sick to my stomach as the film played. Went great.”

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