Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love | Nicholas Broomfield | Photo: Nicholas Broomfield

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love
Sundance Film Festival

Director: Nick Broomfield

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love follows Leonard Cohen from his fledgling writer days through his career as the famed folk singer-songwriter as we know him. This documentary explores (some of) his love of Marianne Ihlen, with whom he was in an open relationship for many years and who is thought of as his muse. It starts on the island of Hydra, Greece, where Cohen wrote literature (his second novel, Beautiful Losers, received dismal reviews from Canadian reviewers). On Hydra, Cohen and Ihlen found a simple sort of love with each other, both feeling that they weren’t particularly attractive but that the other was beautiful—this is where Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love looks to find the footing that its title suggests.

Unfortunately, that element fizzles out, and what we get is a half-baked documentary about Cohen’s proclivities for women, LSD and other drugs. The title Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love is lip service to the angle it purports. Rather than an in-depth uncovering of the passion and tensions between them, Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love modulates to Ihlen to give dry, historical updates on where she is concerning Cohen at points in his career with dispassionate summaries. The film reveals faulty writing for film, which would have better existed as a biography for avid fans.

The interviewees certainly don’t help. Since Cohen and Ihlen are dead—having passed three months apart, a factoid coincidence that the film romanticizes—Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love relies on interviews from friends of Cohen to guide the film. Ihlen moves to Montreal to be with Cohen with her son, “Little” Axel Jensen. She eventually moves back to Hydra because she’s unhappy with the way things are going with Cohen in Canada. While his friends acknowledge the strife that Ihlen faces when Cohen neglects her and has relationships with other women, they excuse him for the way he treats her.

Because Cohen is a poet, artist and musician, the interviewees chalk such wayward behavior up to essentially being his nature, that he needs the company of women to feel secure and that he’s someone whom she can’t contain even though her desire is to be his proverbial “one.” Their and the film’s avoidance to hold him accountable for his melancholic relationship with Ihlen is reductive toward what, in reality, was likely a complex relationship. One friend makes a point to state that Cohen was a feminist. Well, great. Without fleshing out the passion that Cohen and Ihlen had to have held for each other to create any kind of narrative tension with his free-loving actions, Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love simply and obliviously shines Cohen in a negative light.

The parts of the film that offer some warmth are those where Cohen is performing his music, and video and audio footage from past interviews. His music and performances are particularly arresting on the big screen, and the spare darkness of his songs let his voice softly proclaim his poesy. Cohen’s voice grounded who he was and what he was saying. For example, when Cohen explains why it felt right to participate in the free-love movement of his heyday in his own words via audio footage, his reasoning that it was an advanced, intimate expression of friendship makes sense. Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love doesn’t offer any of Ihlen’s perspective about Cohen’s participation therein, just commentary from the interviewees about their opinions about the matter in general and that Cohen did it. Had there been any sort of documentation of her thoughts on this matter, that would be a start, but the documentary just repeats the platitude that Cohen’s distance from she, his muse, distressed her.

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love’s storytelling feels clumsy. The speaking from interviewees jolts from one topic to the next with the film dragging photos and video behind them, making short-lived pit stops at the topic of Ihlen then obsequiously course-correcting to lionize Cohen along the trajectory of his career. This leaves the viewer to play catch-up then compressing his life after the ’70s into the final minutes of the documentary. I’m honestly surprised that, alongside Kew Media Group, the BBC produced this. –Alexander Ortega

Photo: Stuart Ruckman

Dallas Graham was one of the first artists I became aware of when I moved here,” says Daniel Charon, who came to Salt Lake City six years ago to add his talents to the artistic direction of Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. Since they met, it’s been “in the back or [Charon’s] head,” that one day the two would work together. Ririe-Woodbury is more than half a century old and one of the most successful repertory companies this side of the Mississippi. Graham’s Red Fred Project is a relatively new non-profit that facilitates experiences for children with life-threatening illnesses. Specifically, it allows these kids to try their hands at writing books. Graham’s inventiveness and passion for storytelling inspired Charon to try something new this year with the slot the company typically reserves for a “family friendly” show.

What’s to come of the collaboration is the live creature and ethereal things, which Charon describes as a totally new direction for the company. Charon says he looks at what they’re doing with this show as being “sort of like a Pixar film,” in that it’s made to appeal to many different audiences all at once. Advertising might lead people to believe it’s a kid’s show, but the live creature and ethereal things is something that always has an adult audience in mind as well, it’s one of those pieces where the craft required to make it work on both levels fuels the creation of something that it’s more inventive as a result. Charon suggests the performance would make great fare for a date or other such special night out on the town.

All of the major collaborators on the project are other Utah artists Charon met though Graham, including composer John Paul Hayward and costumer Jared Gold. Charon is particularly excited about Hayward’s score, which received special support form the Charles and Joan Gross Family Foundation. He told me to expect something that will remind the audience at turns of their favorite Broadway musical, the experience of singing around a campfire and even twentieth-century Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, all within the course of a single evening.

The most visible collaborators, of course, are the theatrical talents of Flying Bobcat, Alexandra Harbold and Robert Scott Smith. Fans of Flying Bobcat’s work will be surprised to see them stretch into the new space of physical acting, although they’ve also collaborated with Charlotte Boye-Christensen’s NOW-ID. (Oddly enough Boye-Christiansen is Charon’s predecessor at Ririe-Woodbury.) The movement in the work is created collaboratively by Charon, the dancers and other performers reflecting Graham’s imaginary cast of birds, the Jolly Troop, which he uses to foster creativity among the kids his organization serves. The text contains an inventive mixture of Spanish and English.

As much as this show represents a departure for Ririe-Woodbury in terms of how the company creates a “family” show, it carries on a strong tradition of serving Utah’s K-12 students. This year over six thousand students will see matinees of this performance for free and many of these students will have received introductory educational materials from education director Ai Fujii Nelson, herself a local choreographer and company alum. Moving away from the familiar tropes of dance education you might be used to (time, space and energy, anyone?) the material students will experience in class for this project will ask larger questions about how the dancing body can address and express themes of friendship, trust and loss.

In past family shows, existing works commissioned by the company were reframed for family audiences, usually either with a theme or a loose story stringing existing repertory together. Some Ririe-Woodbury fans may remember former education director and company alum Gigi Arrington’s brilliant cameos (such as Mr. On d’Move). While those performances were highly successful at making dance accessible, this piece has truly been a local collaboration, and a chance to create a multi-genre happening that is truly of Salt Lake.

The company is having a busy year, in addition to this project, their home season contains another new work by Charon and a piece by local hero Stephen Koester, who will be retiring from the University’s School of Dance this year. Koester’s legacy as a teacher connects him to students all over the country like Juan Aldape, who makes work in the Bay Area, and Molly Heller, who is active here and in New York. Ririe-Woodbury’s dancers will also be touring to North Carolina and Montclair, New Jersey, to present Ann Carlson’s Elizabeth, the Dance.

Ririe-Woodbury’s dancers will also be touring to North Carolina and Montclair, New Jersey, to present Ann Carlson’s Elizabeth, the Dance. Critic Amy Falls has expressed the satisfying difficulty to discuss Elizabeth in its entirety because of the amount of amusingly bemusing incidences in the piece. If the buzz around it is any guide, the same might well ring true for this new creation.

The Infiltrators | Alex Rivera, Cristina Ibarra | Photo: Lisa Rinzler

The Infiltrators
Sundance Film Festival

Directors: Alex Rivera, Cristina Ibarra

The Infiltrators is the stirring documentary cum dramatization about how members of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) helped aid in halting various deportations from the U.S. NIYA are an active immigrant-advocacy group that creates public awareness of people detained by ICE. They catalyze public outcry unto public officials who can call for the release of these individuals. In The Infiltrators, once NIYA organizer/undocumented immigrant Marco Saavedra and his cohort learn that Claudio Rojas has been detained by ICE at Broward Detention Center, they hatch a plan for him to infiltrate it to empower Rojas to work around being detained. What ensues is an inspiring, true story about the power and efficacy of grassroots activism, especially when facing the detention and deportation of undocumented people in the U.S.

Claudio was detained during the Obama presidency. According to the crew’s responses at the SLC Q&A following The Infiltrators, as much as it seems that the state of immigration law may have changed, it’s largely the same under 45. Detention centers strip undocumented detainees of any semblance of due process or sentencing, and people interned at such facilities may often stay in limbo there from months to years. Once NIYA members had discovered that outing themselves as undocumented doesn’t always necessarily lead to deportation, they learned that advocating for undocumented detainees with politicians—especially among Democrats who purport to be the friends of immigrants—often spurs releases down a federal chain of command.

The Infiltrators begins as Claudio is arrested and detained point-blank in front of his home. His son, Emiliano Rojas, had been stopped at a police checkpoint some time prior without an ID or documentation. When Claudio went to get him out, the judge essentially allowed Emiliano to stay in the U.S., but gave Claudio another deal: He had three months to leave the country. Claudio was long-established in the U.S. with his family and stayed, and ICE tracked him down. Hence, Emiliano contacts NIYA, who obliges to infiltrate the Broward facility to agitate from within to help Claudio secure his release.

We learn that other Broward detainees have escaped violence and severe political pressure and moved to the U.S. because of it. The government, however, hasn’t granted them asylum. Among a milieu of undocumented people from across the globe, Saavedra disseminates information for detainees to help them create a buzz both within and outside of Broward to resist deportation. Releases that allow the facility to share private information about detainees to the media, passive resistance like refusing to board a deportation plane and prompts for fasting empower the people at Broward to agitate the authorities of their facilities.

What’s more, Saavedra discovers that there’s a women’s half of the facility. NIYA organizer Viridiana Martinez submits herself to Broward to help Maria Soledad just as Saavedra helps Claudio. In concert with NIYA member Mohammad Abdollahi and other NIYA activists on the outside strategizing and sending in paperwork, Saavedra and Martinez rally and empower Broward detainees to the point where the facility and ICE are fed up to the point of letting them Martinez and Saavedra go—they aren’t used to dealing with “people who hold their head high,” as it’s said in the film. Ultimately, NIYA succeed in securing the release of a handful of detainees whose proverbial clocks for deportation are ticking.

All the while, reenactments of the proceedings “on the inside” guide the film’s narrative. The acting and depiction thereof are engaging and pair fluidly with the narrative of the real-life events. The sense of when this actually happened seems like it was more recent than it was, and I feel like it would have been more ingenuous to communicate its historical context toward the beginning of the film, and more directly. Nevertheless, the course of events in The Infiltrators lend themselves to being revealed in the context of the 2012 general election when they do in terms of the storytelling element.

I implore you to see this film because it’s eye-opening, informational, well-crafted and absolutely crucial for us to know these details about the detention of undocumented people and how to fight it. You can find out more about National Immigrant Youth Alliance and their services at theniya.org. –Alexander Ortega

Once upon a time, in a world that feels light-years away from the here and now, a young man spent his afternoons cleaning the classrooms of the middle school he had recently graduated. Though far from glamorous, the job afforded him two hours a day to escape into a variety of landscapes including Skinny Puppy’s Cleans Fold and Manipulate, The Cure’s Disintegration, New Order’s Substance and a collection of BBC recordings from post-punk pioneers Bauhaus called Swing the Heartache. In time, he would supplement those albums with dozens more, always looking for the elusive imports with bonus songs and alternative track lists.

Looking back, Swing the Heartache was a somewhat unusual album to fall in love with. Bauhaus were rarely a conventional band, and their BBC sessions included a mix of their most commercial offerings and some of their most experimental diversions. It doesn’t even feature “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” I would have been introduced to that particular track on the weekly late night request show. Seemingly every week, someone would request it, and the DJ would moan and groan about the song’s length. Sometimes he’d actually play it. It was always the live version from Press the Eject and Give Me the Tape (a title that probably makes little sense to anyone unfamiliar with the cassette bootlegs that were easily found in London markets but were nearly impossible to find in America). As a result, the original 12” version always sounds a bit odd. For as good as the album was, songs were always better when the studio trickery was removed from the process.

I know this firsthand because in 1998, the stars aligned and the group reformed for the Resurrection Tour, reconvened again in 2005 for the unforgettable Coachella Festival show where vocalist Peter Murphy performed “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” upside down while dangling from a rope like a sleeping bat. A tour followed and then an opening slot with Nine Inch Nails (the Boise, Idaho, show being one of the strangest concerts I’ve ever attended as the crowd seemed to be made up of cowboys and porn stars).

Just when it looked like Bauhaus had successfully risen from the grave, it fell apart.  The future was dead, and Go Away White was released as the parting salvo.

Murphy brought the songs back to the stage in 2013—without guitarist Daniel Ash, bassist David J and drummer Kevin Haskins. The Salt Lake City show was confined to the Urban Lounge, a venue with a tiny stage that boxed Murphy in. It was a good show, but paled to the Bauhaus performances where Murphy was allowed to stalk, shake and bend his way around a larger area. I loved the intimacy, but it came at a price. The Damned’s Dave Vanian ran into the same problem. At least Mark Gemini Thwaite was on guitars. His swagger might not match Ash’s, but having seen him play with The Mission, I felt like he was the second best option. I still feel that way.

Flash-forward to 2018. To celebrate their 40th anniversary, Murphy returned to the Bauhaus material. Thwaite, who had notably been missing from Murphy’s touring lineup for years, was back, and this time, David J was coming along for the ride. Regrettably, Ash and Haskins were not (silver lining being that the missing duo has been visiting their back catalog of songs with a heavy emphasis on their Tones on Tail, their post-Bauhaus project under the guise of Poptone).

This time Murphy was booked at The Depot, a fitting venue with a stage that would allow him to mirror walk, contort and fill the stage, rather than being restricted due to its size.

The set begins with the performance of the entire In the Flat Field album. This included classic tracks like “Double Dare,” “In the Flat Field,” “Stigmata Martyr,” fan favorites “A God in an Alcove,” “The Spy in the Cab” and “ St. Vitus Dance,” and the deeper album cuts “Dive,” “Small Talk Stinks” and “Nerves.” This would be the first time I’ve heard the last three live. “Small Talk Stinks” wouldn’t work without David J’s vocal, and “Nerves” and “Dive” are enjoyable oddities, but not essential listening.

Murphy is in top form. He looks like Shakespeare’s Prospero, but acts like the playwright’s Robin Goodfellow. He teases the audience like a mischievous creature, dismissing the crowd’s presence as frivolous at one moment and basking in their attention seconds later. His banter is dry and cynical at times, but this proves to be something of a mask that he lowers from time to time. He’s devilish, but not the devil; cheeky, but somehow charming nonetheless.

The remainder of the main set included classics “Burning from the Inside,” “Silent Hedges,” “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” and “She’s in Parties” before finishing with “Adrenalin” from Go Away White.

The encore is a sprint through “Kick in the Eye,” “The Passion of Lovers” and their covers of T. Rex’s “Telegram Sam” and David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust.” Had “Dark Entries” been included in the mix, I might have lost my mind.

The night ends with a second encore, a cover of Dead Can Dance’s “Severance.” Murphy dedicates the song to a fan who recently lost her daughter.

The night’s set lists reveal that “Dark Entries” and “Three Shadows” (presumably “Part II”) were cut. I would have loved the additional songs (any addition songs), but to complain would be akin to a professor asking why their best student didn’t read unassigned lessons to earn extra credit.

Bauhaus were magnificent because they were propelled by a certain amount of immediate and rising tension. There were shows where the personality clashes distracted from the performance, but there was always an electric atmosphere that you simply can’t replicate even when you hit all the notes perfectly.

And yet, in this imperfect world, this is as close to those magical nights of Bauhausian chaos as we can hope to get. The songs sounded great, and Murphy is in top shape. This wasn’t simply a night of nostalgia. It was vibrant, bold and slightly dangerous.

It was everything I could have possibly hoped for. Ryan Michael Painter 

SLUG Magazine has been a truly unique voice in Utah and independent journalism for over 30 years. Each month along the way since our inception, SLUG print-issue covers have represented the undulations of Salt Lake City’s and Utah’s local creative communities and the impressions of musical phenomena from the reaches of the world. From local to national to global music, to action sports and Utah-based film festivals, arts and entertainment in Utah have percolated in SLUG’s coverage. Physical SLUG Magazine issues provide a visual timeline of growth alongside that of the counter-cultural zeitgeist of SLC. A kaleidoscope of SLUG covers is the result.

In this, our 30th Anniversary Edition’s “30-Year Cover Retrospective,” we’ve selected a cover from each year of the magazine’s existence. With each issue, we entreat you to take in the different eras of SLUG in an earnest curation of some of our favorite covers. Find in the following pages one standout cover from each year of SLUG since 1989. Local characters and rockist underdogs abound; contemporary, colorful, expressive illustrations juxtapose with the black-and-white grit of early photos; and the dark and sinister waltz with what’s warm and human in this menagerie of covers.

If you have a favorite issue or cover from SLUG’s storied history, our archive issues can be found on SLUGMag.com at SLUGMag.com/issues.


 

Issue 2 – Jan. 1989 – January of 1989 features a flyer for the Danzig, Victims Willing and Bad Yodelers show on Friday the 13th at Speedway Cafe. The iconic Danzig skull appears alongside six Misfits Crimson Ghost skulls underneath the first-ever design for SLUG’s logo. This DIY show-flyer motif would be mimicked until 1990.

Issue 24 – Dec. 1990 – What’s black and white and red all over? The December 1990 issue of SLUG. This two-year anniversary edition features red ink and is the first SLUG Mag ever to sport a color. On the cover is an evolved SLUG logo and design, and features HateXNine’s Khristmas in Kuwait album art doused in dripping blood.

Issue 31 – July 1991 – July 1991 depicts local, straightedge-hardcore number Iceburn in their first incarnation, originally composed of musicians from Insight and Better Way. While they lived under the straightedge label, their music pushed the boundaries of what would be considered “straightedge music” at the time by incorporating jazz, blues and experimental influences.

Issue 42 – June 1992Decomposers were darlings of the SLC music scene, affording them this June ’92 cover story. The music-review equation for Decomposers band may well have been “Decomposers = The Gun Club + Nirvana + Gravedigger V.” The layout’s skulls correspond swimmingly photo’s wraithlike shutter drag. Throw in some ghouls, and Decomposers’ spirit comes to the fore.

Issue 54 – June 1993N.S.C. (National Security Council) was Utah’s premier anarcho-hardcore band in the early ’90s. This inverted band-photo cover bespoke the far-left ideals of each member found in the cover story. Instead of an interview, each N.S.C. musician expressed their respective, grim outlooks on humanity and Western culture in personal essays.

Issue 68 – Aug. 1994 – With biting momentum and speed, SLUG’s 68th issue hit the streets with Jared Eberhardt’s beautifully sleek graphic at the forefront. Developed through a combination of a hand-drawn cartoon of a woman on a (then) modern Vespa and 1994’s graphic-design software (Mac Quadra 650 and Aldus Freehand), Eberhardt created August ’94’s eye-catching cover.


Issue 81 – Sept. 1995 – Sweet and to the point, the September issue from 1995 focuses on legendary punk quartet the Ramones. The interview within the mag, written by SLUG writer Madd Maxx, discusses the history of the Ramones, with first-person storytelling from Marky and Joey Ramone about how they were the sons and, eventually, the “godfathers” of punk.

Issue 96 – Dec. 1996SLUG had true shock value in the ’90s, a time before social media, when SLC was still largely dominated by conservative cultural forces. This creepy Santa Claus marionette took a jab at capitalist-fueled consumerism. The mag’s inside content was normal music content, with this Santa as a face for our then wry voice.

Issue 108 – Dec. 1997 – 1997’s December issue depicts the faces of beloved punk band Descendents—especially so since guitarist Stephen Egerton and bassist Karl Alvarez were Utah locals. It matches the layout design of the interview inside, following the same color scheme and repeating motif. This cover was used in anticipation for the Descendents show at Club DV8.

Issue 115 – July 1998 – The July 1998 cover pictures Black Flag vocalist Henry Rollins—veritably hyping up the interview inside. In the first segment of this two-part interview, Rollins discusses his various books and the release of Solipsist. This was the second time that Rollins appeared on the cover of SLUG—and it wouldn’t be the last!

Issue – 128 – August 1999Melvins took over our cover with King Buzzo shredding on his guitar. SLUG Writer RDJ recaps their show at Club DV8 from the month prior before Buzzo and drummer Dale Crover discuss early musical influences, band evolution and their (at the time) upcoming releases. Still active and wicked, we continually anticipate Melvins’ next moves.

Issue 143 – Nov. 2000 –In 2000, Salt Lake City had yet to become the burgeoning metropolitan area it is today. Outspoken former Mayor Rocky Anderson—SLC’s first truly liberal leader—sought to progress SLC out of the draconian state it was in before the 2002 Winter Olympics. SLUG Executive Editor Angela H. Brown photographed the soon-to-be nationally known Anderson.

Issue 155 – Nov. 2001Motörhead’s music and iconography have engendered outright fanaticism. In anticipation of a then rare SLC show, frontman Lemmy Kilmister told SLUG about arcane details of his storied, debauchery-ridden past. Though Motörhead didn’t play the show at Bricks (legend has it that the stage was too small for Kilmister’s liking), Motörhead’s relevances persists.

Issue 162 – June 2002 – At some point, almost every kid who grew up punk in the 2000s liked leftist punk group Anti-Flag. Camilla Taylor created this illustration and screenprint of Warped Tour band Anti-Flag for this cover amid staunch, Bush-era nationalism, hearkening to the punk roots of SLUG covers all the while.

Issue 175 – July 2003Leia Bell’s Rilo Kiley drawing brings readers to Bell’s prominent aesthetic featured in SLC staples like Kilby Court during the early 2000s. Much like Bell’s popular show posters, the 175th issue cover lists the bands The Suicide Machines, The Gossip, COSM and Foil Kit Lampy in addition to Rilo Kiley being the cover story.

Issue – 182 – Feb. 2004 – In anticipation of the first-ever Salt Lake City Tattoo Convention and SLUG’s 15th birthday, the two concepts became one as a Sailor Jerry–inspired, traditional flash-tattoo design. Inside the mag, SLUG Writer Jennifer Nielsen interviews Keet D’Arms and Nate Drew from Lost Art Tattoo about how they managed to put the convention together.

Issue 194 – Feb. 2005Bob Moss was a locally beloved, eccentric folk hero who passed away in 2011. In addition to a plethora of banjo music, he created our “Sweet Sixteen” cover in his inimitable outsider-art style. What’s more, much the cover’s script was in the Brigham Young–invented Deseret Alphabet, on which Moss was an expert.

Issue 206 – Feb. 2006 – For our 17th anniversary, SLUG Lead Designer Paul Butterfield incorporated an old childhood birthday photo of SLUG reader Ben Fox. Fox actually wore this wacky shirt and racing helmet with his birthday cake. We recognized it as a pure, individualist expression that matched our promotion of the selfsame ideal.

Issue 226 – Oct. 2007Chris Swainston photographed this issue cover six feet under in a grave excavated by hand while Travis Dinsmore buries the viewer alive for our ghostly Utah Folklore Issue. A bricolage of orange, black and sepia tones invokes a distant, hazy feeling of stories passed through time—much like Utah’s folktales.

Issue 237 – Sept. 2008 – Local artist Sri Whipple’s use and manipulation of cool and warm color shapes the diabolical visage in this oil-painted cover. It sets the mood for the issue’s cover story on local band The Vile Blue Shades. The cover story discusses the history of The Vile Blue Shades and their impact on the music scene in SLC.

Issue 250 – Oct. 2009 – If you’re involved with local music in Utah, you know recording engineer Andy Patterson. For this local audio-engineering issue, photographer David Newkirk captured the scrappiness of Patterson’s studio, where he’s recorded countless local bands and a respectable amount of national acts. With all his own bands, too, Patterson is a living local legend.

Issue 258 – June 2010 –Round Three of SLUG’s annual Beer Issue helped solidify a yearly tradition that continually highlights local brewers and all things hoppy, frothy and bubbly. Illustrated by Manuel Aguilar, the 2010 Beer Issue cover is a pastiche of ’50s-esque horror-film posters, featuring many SLUG teamsters running away from beer monsters.

Issue 274 – Oct. 2011SLUG illustrator Sean Hennefer captured the kitsch and quirk of John Waters. Bright hues of green, yellow and pink all pop from the page, illustrating the “Pope of Filth,” a silhouetted Divine, cigarette smoke and—of course—pink flamingos and palm trees (nodding to his controversial film, Pink Flamingos) in an unsettlingly bright and distorted manner.

Issue 282 – June 2012 – In spring 2012, Torche had recently released their Harmonicraft album. This record comprises forward-thinking metal as colorful as this cover by Sean Hennefer. What’s more, Torche later used the illustration for band T-shirts, and it also graced the SLUG team’s T-shirts for the Utah Pride Festival’s LGBTQ+ parade in which we marched.

Issue 294 – June 2013 – As a nod to SLUG Magazine’s sports coverage, this cover is a shot by SLUG skate photographer Weston Colton. The black-and-white layout frames skater Forrest Huber performing a backside 180 over a weathered fire hydrant. The cover story about Huber on the centerfold of the issue mirrors this cleancut layout style.

Issue 307 – July 2014Kilby Court celebrated their 15th year as one of Salt Lake City’s most beloved all-ages venues in 2014. Owners Will Sartain and Lance Saunders trace the number “15” with sparklers, appropriately capturing a cause for celebration. The photo was taken by Russel Albert Daniels.

Issue 321 – Sept. 2015 – This Eat Local Week Issue is the only of its kind—however, it catalyzed SLUG’s annual Food Issue thereafter. Squid Vishuss uses food as a common theme in her artwork. Her work recalls characters like Strawberry Shortcake, and she is known as an advocate for body positivity and promoting self-love.

Issue 328 – April 2016 – Record Store Day brews up warm, fuzzy feelings in any music lover’s heart—including SLUG Magazine’s. Illustrated by Ryan Perkins, the vibrancy of this cover and design through the use of joyful colors like bright blues and yellows depicts the excitement Record Store Day and the dreams that spring can bring.

Issue 339 – March 2017 – With style and grace, Heidi M. Gress captured this image for the Local Fashion cover. Models (L–R) Donat Mouélé and Ashtyn Beadles model clothing from Davis Hong and McKell Maddox, with hair and makeup by Amber Pearson. For the 28th Anniversary of SLUG, it’s the perfect depiction of SLUG’s elegant maturity.

Issue 357 – Sept. 2018 Trent Call illustrated the late Anthony Bourdain in his signature sketch style, framed in a sea of blue. We not only featured a reflection from SLUG writer James Bennett on his experience interviewing Bourdain, but we also capture the chef’s impactful influence with quotes in each food article of this Food Issue.
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am | Timothy Greenfield-Sanders | Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am
Sundance Film Festival

Director: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Toni Morrison needs no introduction—and so the newest documentary about her life begins with the words, “She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man.” The passage comes from her 1987 novel, Beloved. “The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.”

With this spoken epigraph, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am ventures into the life and legacy of the matchless American author. New interviews with Morrison center the film. She recalls stories of her childhood, from her parents’ origins in the American South to growing up in Lorain, Ohio; becoming head of her household and the first black woman Senior Editor at Random House; writing in the early morning, and the moment when she finally began to call herself “writer.” Morrison’s interviews are candid and insightful, her words graceful and often penetrating. (I couldn’t help but think of Robert McCurdy’s 2006 painting of Morrison that resides in the National Portrait Gallery. In it, she stands regally, singular against a blank-white backdrop, hair pulled back, also in a grey cardigan.)

The Pieces I Am most comprehensively covers the earlier and rising arc of Morrison’s career. From past interviews and readings to iconic photographs (such as those by Gordon Parks and Bruce Davidson, among many others), the film visually contextualizes each of Morrison’s works, considering them within history and place and identity—the literary landscape and the author’s own life at the time. Morrison talks about her first novel, The Bluest Eye (“How does a child learn self-loathing?”), and later about writing Song of Solomon—her first novel whose primary character is a man—after the death of her father.

About Morrison’s second novel, Sula, one reviewer critiqued, “Toni Morrison is far too talented to remain only a marvelous recorder of the black side of provincial American life.” But Morrison refused to accommodate or yield to the white gaze, to any “master narrative.” She continued to create work for an African American audience, and she delved unflinchingly into her questions, pulling from her profound understanding of history to write new narratives for her characters’ inner lives. “The history of the place of black people in this country is so varied, complex, beautiful and impactful,” Morrison says. “Nobody could have loved as much as we did, went on with life as much as we did, carried on …”

The publishing of Beloved, Morrison’s fifth novel, saw a major shift in the author’s career, but it was also “an extraordinary turning point in the history of this country, and I would say the history of this world,” says Angela Davis, whom Morrison first contacted in the 1970s (back when Morrison was an editor) about writing an autobiography. “She urged us to imagine people who were slaves as human beings, individuals with subjectivity, who also loved, who also had imaginations, even as they were subjected to the most horrendous modes of oppression. We can never think about slavery in the same way.”

Directed by photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders—whose recent film projects include The Trans List and The Black ListThe Pieces I Am has similarly amassed a nonpareil group of leading writers, critics and academics, such as Farah Griffin and Hilton Als, with interviews conducted by Sandra Guzman. Along with Davis, there’s Oprah Winfrey, who frantically called Morrison’s local fire department for the writer’s phone number. Poet Sonia Sanchez remembers Morrison hanging up when she phoned, saying Morrison had won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature (Morrison figured Sanchez was drunk), and author Fran Lebowitz grins about the Nobel parties afterward. Movingly, these figures weigh in on striking moments in Morrison’s career, such as in 1988, when 48 black writers and critics furnished a statement in tribute to Morrison. The letter was part praise for Morrison’s work and part protest for her lack of national recognition, which the signees felt was long overdue.

Along with these interviews, The Pieces I Am folds in a brilliant collection of visuals by esteemed modern and contemporary artists, including works by Mickalene Thomas (who sequences the opening credits with dynamic collages), Charles White, Faith Ringgold, Kara Walker, Kerry James Marshall and Lorna Simpson, to name only a few.

With this rich compilation of interviews and artworks, along with the troves of archival and historical material, The Pieces I Am crafts a wondrous portrait of Morrison that is both intimate and reverent. As in her writing, Morrison leaves audiences feeling recognized, seen, acknowledged. Her presence and words are ever palpable. –Kathy Rong Zhou

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am screens at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in the Doc Premieres category. For showtimes and more information, visit sundance.org.


Showtimes: 

Jan. 28 // 6:30 p.m // Temple Theatre 
Jan. 29 // 2:45 p.m // Broadway Centre Cinema 6 
Feb. 1 // 9:00 a.m// The Ray Theatre Park City
Feb 2 // 5:45 p.m // Broadway Centre Cinema 6

Behind The Bullet | Heidi Yewman | Photos courtesy of Big TIme PR

Behind the Bullet
Slamdance Film Festival

Director: Heidi Yewman

Behind The Bullet begins with a montage of news clips, narrated by a cluster of the unmistakable sound of news reporters announcing countless tales of gun violence. The mood that drapes over the introduction feels desensitized by the normalization of these tragedies. In the beginning of the film, as a viewer, one can assume that the stories Yewman assembles together are with the intention to educate audiences about the seriousness of gun violence. We soon learn that, in actuality, the film is about guilt and forgiveness. Behind the Bullet tells the stories of Christen McGinnes, Will Little, Kevin Leonard and Taylor Dwyer, four people who, throughout the film, tell us how they have lived with the consequences pulling the trigger.

From start to finish, the film cuts back and forth between the four characters as they unveil the details of their somber stories—some carry hope, some regret and all of them with the common denominator of desperation to forgive themselves and find peace. With the exception of Taylor, a teenager who shot and killed his brother by accident when he was 8. Taylor’s distance and disconnect from the obvious remorse his parents share (each in a completely different way) is unsettling. One soon learns that Taylor also plays drums in a Christian band, in which his father, Daron, is the frontman. Daron tells the details of their tragic story as Taylor remains on the stage, as his way of healing is leaning on “god’s will.” This scene sets a tone—it feels like there is a lack of accountability with statements like “It was his time” and “God knows best” when referring to Taylor’s brother’s (Matthew’s) death, instead of reflection of what could have been done to prevent the tragedy. This makes it difficult to feel sympathy in the same way a viewer does for the other three characters.

Taylor’s part is distracting from the other three stories, as Christen, Will and Kevin  actively work toward closure and redemption in a more obvious way. There’s a part where the film features aspects of Taylor’s Youtube channel, The Dynamo Bros, where he and his peers blow things up. The film’s intention could be to address Taylor’s healing process, through this creative outlet. However, it is almost sobering to watch scenes of teenagers violently blowing things up after scenes of  the other characters healing through support groups, surgeries and reflection. It seems while the film is trying to elicit sympathy for Taylor and his family, scenes like this feel ironic, as it goes to show that they are displacing the blame for gun violence and almost brush it off.

With the film’s narrative choice of moving from one character to another in short increments, it’s challenging to emotionally invest in Christen’s, Will’s, Kevin’s and Taylor’s stories as much as their experiences deserve. Each journey, however, does teach viewers about the consequences of gun violence, I believe this is what Yewman was aiming for with this documentary. Additionally, It is hard to figure out who the audience is supposed to be for this film. Where it was presumably meant to be educational, it falls short because all the issues in the film are answered with vague metaphors and spiritual beliefs that don’t bring tangible solutions, as is the case of Taylor. The film ends with a choir-like song, four statistics and no mention of a solution to gun violence—and does not suggest gun control. The ways gun violence could be prevented aside, the religious foundations the characters have is a big part of how they individually choose to cope. I believe the point is that all of the characters look for peace and closure in their own way. –Bianca Velasquez


Showtimes:

Jan. 29 // 5:45 PM // Ballroom

This is not Berlin | Hari Sama | Photo: Alfredo Altamirano

This Is Not Berlin (Esto no es Berlín)
Sundance Film Festival

Director: Hari Sama

1980s Mexico City punks subvert the trope of “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll” in This Is Not Berlin. Artsy post-punk kids intrigue Carlos (Xabiani Ponce de León) and Gera (José Antonio Toledano) with their dangerous-feeling scene at the club they long to get into, the Azteca. It’s the venue at which Gera’s older sister, Rita (Ximena Romo), fronts her Patti Smith–meets–Asylum Party band night after night. After school, their futbol-player clique seeks out fights with gangs of rival high schools and bump heavy metal in the car, blowing off the steam of wayward machísmo. But Carlos has a thing for Rita, and the people they want to be around are the queer, youth-culture, avant-garde vanguard of the Azteca. This Is Not Berlin unfolds Carlos’ coming-of-age tale, which is a loosely autobiographical representation of that of director Hari Sama (according to his Sundance 2019 SLC pre-screening remarks on Jan. 29, 2019).

This Is Not Berlin introduces Carlos as an aspiring engineer of sorts. Under the tutelage of his cool uncle Esteban (Sama), he learns how to fix and build small machines, and repairs Rita’s surly boyfriend’s synth. This earns them entry to the Azteca, where they throw back beers, network with the hip kids and, for Carlos, bask in Rita’s allure as she weaves through singing and prose poems with a political bent atop coldwave instrumentation. Nico (Mauro Sánchez Navarro), the relatively older but still young proprietor of the club, first wants Carlos’ and Gera’s first dalliances with the Azteca to be their final ones because they’re underage. The best-friend pair keeps returning, however, and they endear themselves to the crowd of the Azteca, integrating themselves into a lifestyle of sex-driven art, hard drugs, queries of their own sexualities and political activism. Herein, the question is whether they can balance their growth into their new, volatile selves—especially Carlos.

Where Alfonso Cuarón’s 2018 success Roma takes root in the tumultuous zeitgeist of late-’60s Mexico City, This Is Not Berlin, by contrast, celebrates the (sexual and artistic) counter-cultural liberation that this permutation of the punk scene heralded in the ’80s. (Also note the coincidences of the two films’ respective autobiographical inspirations and the casting of Marina de Tavira as the mother role in each film.) Sama’s storytelling is extraordinary and transcends the trappings of typical rite-of-passage films by way of its content’s extremities. For some, Carlos’ journey may be relatable—but even so, the film’s sexy and salacious scenes conjure excitement about its anarchic spirit, considerably so when coupled with the characters’ ardor in creating and executing performance art.

I think that the full extent of how transgressive the non-normative sexuality of This Is Not Berlin is perhaps understated in the film. Amid the conservative climate of Mexico in the ’80s, homosexual acts and queer signifiers were quite risky, which Sama acknowledged in the SLC Q&A. He also asserted, however, that the way this film depicts its punky group is how the people on which it is based expressed themselves in real life. There are also tacit indicators in the film of ’80s-Mexican attitudes toward queerness via Carlos’ and Gera’s peers in the futbol crew, who refer to the Azteca as a club for “putos.” When Carlos comes to school with a buzzed side of his head and half-washed-off makeup on his face after a night at the Azteca, jocks’ and schoolteachers’ ostracization of Carlos effectively communicates not only institutional scorn but patriarchal expectations of how a man should rebel. And Carlos’ new friends and he, as provocateurs, don’t relent in the face of dogma.

The ending of This Is Not Berlin is one that only the throes of real life could inspire. The dark, artistic ethos of the characters’ environment leaves an indelible impression, a vampire bite. The ebbs, flows and fluctuations of Carlos’ relationships with those around him engulfed me—you’ll care about him, Gera and Rita through the end. Sama, his cast and his crew have created a spellbinding story of urban magic, individualism and lust with a driving noir drumbeat. This Is Not Berlin demands to be seen. –Alexander Ortega


Showtimes:

Jan. 31 // 5:45 p.m // Library Center Theatre 
Feb. 1 //9:45 a.m // Holiday Village Cinema 4 

Happy Face | Alexandre Franchi | Photos courtesy of Big Time PR

Happy Face
Slamdance Film Festival

Director: Alexandre Franchi

In a disorienting evolution, the film Happy Face is a piece that explores abandonment, fear and the interplay between society and self-worth. Beginning in a therapy support group, we are introduced to all of the characters, each having some type of physical deformity. The main character first introduces himself as Augustin, however, at the conclusion of the support meeting, he storms to the bathroom and peels back tape and bandages, revealing his flawless skin and a different identity—Stan (Robin L’Houmeau), a 19-year-old finance student and Dungeons & Dragons fanatic, whose grief becomes the orchestrator of his denial. 

The film races between memories and the present moment, and in an opening scene, as the camera pans between isolated body parts—delicate cheek to nail, arm to forehead—we soon discover that his mother is a victim of breast cancer and has lost a breast. There is an unassuming tension between the mother and her son as she prods him not to leave her for his absent father. Later, we learn that her cancer has come back, and four tumors are growing in her jaw and brain.

As we are introduced to the members of the support group, we are also given insight into their stories and their goals. Lead by Vanessa (Debbie Lynch-White), a woman whose ability to empathize has grown from her own insecurity about weight and appearance, ends up needing the group as much as they need her. There is an overwhelming sense of fear and isolation present in the meeting, and each individual has a desire that is challenged by an undesirable sense of not belonging or loss. Because of this, Stan’s attendance exemplifies a great irony—in an attempt to deal with his mother’s inevitable disfigurement, he attends these meetings and helps to resolve the hurt of the people present, but in doing so, he leaves his mother in a hospital by herself as she undergoes treatment for a terminal cancer. He won’t return her calls and spends an increasing amount of time with the group, located in the same hospital she is staying at.

Stan’s identity is soon discovered by the rest of the group, but his eagerness to help prompts their forgiveness. Throughout the film, he evolves as the antagonist, the protagonist and, at times, it is greatly unclear what is taking place in his development. His anger drives many of the characters to break, which ends up helping them. He moves forward with the motto: “Break them so they get over the fear of being broken.” So they go through the action of breaking themselves, whether it be talking to a stranger or an ex-partner in order to make a breakthrough.

As the confidence and power of the group dynamics grow, each character takes on the persona and power of a different Dungeons and Dragons character, and by takings steps toward accepting themselves together, they earn their figurine. However, the storm of emotions experienced by Stan are also mixed with the morals, sexual desires and rage of those in the meetings, causing turbulence within the group.

Director Alexandre Franchi successfully shows the experiences of these marginalized individuals, with the subplot of Stan’s inability to confront the loss of his mother. The film moves fast, and by the end, it seems as if many moments were unresolved, however, the relevance was undoubtable as so many people are bullied and harassed because of their appearance. At times the story grew in unexpected ways with no resolution, causing a handful of scenes to feel out of place—but for those seeking a fast-paced challenge to their standards of beauty, Happy Face will prevail and inspire. –Makenna Sutter-Robinson


Showtimes:

Jan. 30 // 8:00 PM // Gallery

A Great Lamp | Saad Qureshi | Photos courtesy of Big TIme PR

A Great Lamp
Slamdance Film Festival

Director: Saad Qureshi

What exactly are we all searching for? Especially in our darkest moments, where do we look for light? Saad Qureshi’s new film, A Great Lamp, attempts to answer this question through an understated and surreal drama that unfolds in a Waiting-For-Godot style non-story. The three main characters’ (Max, Howie and Gene) hopes of witnessing a rocket launch are more important than the actual event that never occurs. The film crawls, spending much of its runtime on seemingly meaningless scenes that only make sense in the narrative’s slowly accumulating, grander meaning. One-off conversations about trauma, death, gender identity and more take place, and the casual nature in which these three characters undertake these weighty themes defines the film’s unforgettable style.

Much of Qureshi’s absurdism and nonchalant treatment of oddity resembles the early work of Harmony Korine, but with a more nuanced and empathetic lens. Where Korine’s films can verge on a humorous fetishization of poverty, A Great Lamp is a masterclass in character development and subjectivity, treating the players’ eccentricities as something not to be marveled at, but as an honest and invaluable part of their identity. Qureshi forgoes gross exaggerations in favor of creating characters who resemble the reality of a contemporary American population. Marked by a disenfranchisement and a disconnect from normalcy, they’re ultimately resilient and all the more beautiful for their refusal to sublate their unique personalities.

As far as plot is concerned, nothing really happens over A Great Lamp’s short runtime. However, this does not result in a lack of meaning or substance. Most of the film involves the characters of Max and Howie roaming the city, putting up memorial posters for the former’s grandma and slowly getting to know each other. They talk about their dreams, run from the law and bond over fishing through coins in fountains. Both are disconnected from their family and homes, so there’s a heartwarming sense of unity over shared loneliness. The best scenes feel almost improvised, as if the line between the characters and the actors have vanished. A particularly moving scene between Howie and an older woman on the street unwraps the metaphorical meaning of the upcoming rocket launch, giving the interaction a realist spin that culminates in one of the film’s most devastating moments.

Turning away from the film’s narrative, Qureshi achieves an equally stunning effect in his technical direction. The film is shot in crisp, hi-resolution black and white, interspersed with hand-drawn animations and grainy stills. It takes the already atypical story structure and further complicates it with full-on digressions, but they serve as better insights to the character’s thoughts than dialogue ever could. The music, too, is sparse but effective, only entering with percussion clips or eerie electronic noise when the plot deems it absolutely necessary. The film’s final act, especially, uses music to an unbearably evocative degree, a sequence full of pump organs, homophonic chanting and field recordings.

More than being an unprecedentedly emotional story, A Great Lamp makes crucial points about the coded ways we talk about what it means to be well-adjusted or independent, and why these terms might be ultimately futile. It takes three unlikely heroes and forces viewers to question what makes them unlikely in the first place. For how unassuming and left-field the film as a whole is, Qureshi communicates a timely message about the importance of community, kindness and honesty. It’s about the unlikely ties that bind us, and how important it is to never give up on yourself or others. –Connor Lockie


Showtimes:

Tue, Jan. 29 // 6:00 PM // Gallery
Preceded by animated short Get Up, Pierrot, directed by Gurleen Rai, F. Anthony Shepherd.