Slamdance Film Festival 2020: Thunderbolt in Mine Eye
Slamdance is a community, a year-round experience, and a statement. The first Slamdance Film Festival was held in 1995 by a wild bunch of filmmakers who were tired of relying on a large, oblique system to showcase their work. Since then, Slamdance has proven year after year that independent grassroots communities take risks on bold talent and launch careers that change the industry. Our artist-led community continues to discover and nurture fellow creators through various programs throughout the year, focusing on new writers, digital and interactive art, grants and mentorship, DIY film education, film screenings and of course, the Slamdance Film Festival.
The Slamdance Film Festival runs Jan. 24–30 in Park City at the Treasure Mountain Inn. Here, find featurettes about Slamdance 2020 films. Go to slamdance.com for more info and SLUGMag.com for more fest coverage!
Thunderbolt in Mine Eye
Director: Zachary and Sarah Sherman
What we think awkwardness looks like changes as details that define our life change. Thunderbolt in Mine Eye, from Directors Zachary and Sarah Sherman, stands as a testament to a new age of strange interactions, which themselves may seem alien a few years from now. Featured at the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival, Thunderbolt In Mine Eye captures a 2019 vision of young romance, following two teens entering an awkward but solid relationship. Harper (Anjini Taneja Azhar) and Tilly (Quinn Liebling) meet under an uneasy teen pretense. Tilly is the best friend of Harper’s brother, Adam, and though both Harper and her brother are adopted from India into a white, Portland-dwelling, liberal-posturing family, they assimilate well enough, and the crux of the film focuses on the ways in which Harper’s burgeoning sense of womanhood begins to distance her from the boys her young heart once found worth fighting for.
Liebling exemplifies this quality as Tilly, whose quiet confidence is peeled away by Harper’s strong will. “What surprised me about Anjini and Quinn’s performance was their ability to drop right in, find and explore the authentic and honest work which began on the page,” says Zachary.
The title is an allusion to the Shakespeare play As You Like It, specifically the line, “If I had a thunderbolt in mine eye, I can tell who should down.” As Harper’s friend group, as well as her own brother, begin to criticize her for dating an older boy—and her brother’s best friend—she unravels a double standard. Tilly faces little to no ridicule while Harper is called a “slut.” Harper’s modest and young sex life is exaggerated into a thing to be ridiculed by every high schooler who has any desire to climb the social ladder. Harper quickly identifies her allies and who has effectively abandoned her.
The depiction is fly-on-the-wall—Harper and Tilly perform a vision of teenage relationships that older viewers may have imagined but never seen play out. It paints a picture of teenage life in 2019. “[The actors] do this dance of trying to connect. That’s all it is,” says Zachary. “Being human is complicated. As long as we acknowledge that we’re in the right room so to speak, ‘awkward’ and ‘right’ are either to the left or the right. It doesn’t matter which way—when you’re in the right room, you’re in the right room.”
The crux of the film is awkwardness. Harper and Tilly are an unlikely couple. It’s impressive how much of this is captured in performance and editing. “When I watch the final film,” says Sarah, “I’m amazed and delighted at how much Harper and Tilly are exactly as I’d imagined them to be. Anjini Taneja Azhar was especially impressive in seemingly seamlessly bringing to life a curious 14-year-old when, in reality she was 18, had just graduated high school, and was living on her own for the first time.”
–Parker Scott Mortensen