Utah Film Center Damn These Heels 2021: Award-winning Flee set for closing Liberty Park event, If It Were Love an unconventional, highly intriguing dance documentary

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With today’s Liberty Park screening co-sponsored by the Sundance Institue and two final days of films available for streaming on demand, the Utah Film’s Center’s 18th annual Damn These Heels Queer Film Festival will close on strong notes. As for the online streaming options, the festival has attracted a broad national and international audience. This includes 22 states and 13 countries besides the U.S., including the The Netherlands, Germany, India, Czechia (The Czech Republic), Australia, Turkey, Spain, Mexico, South Africa, Switzerland, Canada, the U.K. and Ireland.

Flee

Flee, which will play today (July 17) as the closing weekend event at Liberty Park in downtown Salt Lake City, is a major award winner. At Sundance, it earned the grand jury prize in the World Documentary category. This animated documentary, directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen, recounts the story of Amin (a pseudonym), who opens up for the first time about his journey as a child refugee from Afghanistan, by risking details that could jeopardize his efforts to build his life with the man to whom he is engaged. Last month, Flee won the top Cristal Award for a feature film at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, along with the Gan Foundation Award for distribution. Flee and its composer Uno Helmersson also received the award for best original music in a feature film. The Annecy award is significant, given that the films which have received the honor have typically been shortlisted for the Academy Award nominations for best animated feature.

Reservations for the event are required but free of charge. Guests are recommended to bring blankets and/or low back lawn chairs. The gates are open at 8 p.m. with the screening scheduled to begin at approximately 9:15 p.m. 

Flee, directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen.

The Utah Review closes its reviews of many of the festival’s film slates with a documentary from France:

If It Were Love (Si c’était de l’Amour)

Patric Chiha’s dance film If It Were Love stands out for presenting the dance artists in their own personalities, not a common feature of such films dealing with this performing art form. The dancers are preparing Crowd, a choreographed work by Gisèle Vienne, which is an homage to the rave scene of the 1980s and 1990s and it is intriguing to see how the dancers respond to the work through their life experiences.

Chiha’s documentary style breaches conventional structures and focuses on an aesthetic approach that parallels and integrates the markers of how dance artists engulf themselves in the work through their real-life experiences in love and relationships off the stage. It is a pleasant surprise to see how comfortable the dancers are with the camera present during rehearsals. One also can safely assume the dancers also know how to “play” or “perform” to the camera in such instances, which reinforces the intentions of both Chiha and Vienne. 

One dancer remarks that Vienne’s work is intended to be fiction, which confuses and complicates the process of blending and blurring the lines between the realities and performative dimensions of their lives, particularly in how the process shapes their communication in rehearsal and on stage. To wit: one dancer laughs about the stories as she mentions it is absurd to believe that any one who sees the performance will understand them because of how difficult it is for someone to know what the dance artist is thinking about in the interpretation and performance on stage. But, it also iis apparent that this does not worry either Vienne nor Chiha because it is this sentiment, which offers the space for the viewer to add their own experiences. 

One of the reasons why Chiha’s unconventional documentary approach works here arises from the filmmaker’s long friendship with Vienne and the instinctive comprehension for what the work the dancers are preparing should mean not just for the dance artists and audiences as well. Hence, Chiha incorporates archival footage, shot in the 1980s by Arnold Pasquier, to juxtapose against the scenes being shown from Vienne’s Crowd piece. Pasquier’s footage shows young men dancing, pumped by the euphoria of a rave’s organic character. It sets up a mirror to reflect upon the past in terms of how we might process our experiences in the present.

In the last scene, Chiha and Vienne are dancing in the filmmaker’s home, a unique gesture of mutual artistic respect and appreciation. It’s akin to the acknowledgment one makes in taking the final bows of a performance, in honoring the creator responsible for the genesis of the work. In sum, Chiha astutely perceives the.value of the language and vocabularies of movement as yet a deeper connection in how we express ourselves not just as artists but also in the identities we are continuously crafting in our relationships and our holistic search for love. 

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