Chernobyl, Bigfoot and Political Drag Queens Highlight Slamdance 2020 Lineup

Microbudget films from 10 countries will be featured at the Sundance alternative

Slamdance logo

The Slamdance Film Festival unveiled its 2020 lineup of microbudget films Monday that will premiere at the Sundance alternative, among of which include projects about Chernobyl, a brainwashing camp, drag queens and a taxidermist looking for Bigfoot.

All films in competition during its weeklong celebration in Park City from Jan. 24-30 have no U.S. distribution and a budget of under $1 million. Films from 10 countries will participate: U.S., Belarus, Canada, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia, and South Africa.

“Slamdance is above all a place of discovery,” said Slamdance Co-founder and President Peter Baxter. “Every year filmmakers break out of the festival because the industry at large recognizes the need for new voices. With a record breaking 8,231 submissions this year, our artist-led organization brings a lineup full of wonderful risk taking and unique storytelling. That’s the spirit of Slamdance 2020.”

“Avengers: Endgame” directors Anthony and Joe Russo will once again provide a $25,000 fellowship through their AGBO Films production company to enable a deserving filmmaker the opportunity to continue their journey with mentorship from the filmmaking duo. The Russos and Slamdance have a long history together, as the two directors premiered their first film, “Pieces,” at the festival in 1997.

2019 winner Hannah Peterson, received the fellowship for her short film “East of the River,” which she screened at Tribeca in April. She has since been signed by Paradigm and hired by the Duplass Brothers to direct the Disney Channel web series “Shook.”

Among the films that have premiered at past Slamdances include Steven Soderbergh’s Netflix film “High Flying Bird,” Christopher Nolan and Bong Joon-ho’s debut films “Following” and “Barking Dogs Never Bite,” and the first installment in the horror series “Paranormal Activity.”

Check out the full 2020 lineup below:


“1986” – (Germany, Belarus) North American Premiere
Director/ Screenwriter: Lothar Herzog

While Elena repeatedly has to drive into the forbidden zone of Chernobyl in order to make
deals for her father, her life seems more and more contaminated by a destructive force…

Cast: Daria Mureeva, Evgeni Sangadzhiev, Vitali Kotovitski, Alexei Filimonov, Helga Filippova,
Alexei Kravchenko

“A Dog’s Death” – (Uruguay, France, Argentina) North American Premiere
Director: Matías Ganz

Veterinarian Mario and his wife Silvia enjoy a bourgeois life in Montevideo but two events will disturb their tranquility. A dog surgery goes wrong for Mario and Silvia discovers retirement. They will be dragged from paranoia to violence and from violence to nonsense.

Cast: Guillermo Arengo, Pelusa Vidal, Soledad Gilmet, Lalo Rotaveria, Ruth Sandoval, Ana

“Beware of Dog” – (USA, Russia, Germany) World Premiere
Director/ Screenwriter: Nadia Bedzhanova

Three young adults experience parallel struggles with mental health and identity. In Moscow a woman struggles with severe OCD, while her cousin in Berlin tries to build a romantic relationship ignoring her own mental condition. Meanwhile in New York City, a heartbroken boxer faces addiction and lack of self-worth in the aftermath of a break-up.

Cast: Marina Vasileva, Buddy Duress, Paula Knüpling, Marina Prados, Kevin Iso, Pavel

“Murmur” – (Canada)
Director/ Screenwriter: Heather Young

While performing community service at an animal shelter, an older woman begins compulsively adopting pets to ease her loneliness.

Cast: Shan MacDonald

“Majnuni” – (Bosnia i Herzegovina, USA) North American Premiere
Directors: Kouros Alaghband, Drew Hoffman Screenwriters: Kouros Alaghband, Drew Hoffman,
Adnan Omerović

After stalking a broken family through the night in the war-torn city of Sarajevo, Adnan snaps into an altered state of consciousness where his identity becomes entangled in the lives he is following.

Cast: Adnan Omerović, Dina Hebib, Barry Del Sherman, Nela Baždar, Emil Ivancic, Mel

“Residue” – (USA) World Premiere
Director/ Screenwriter: Merawi Gerima

A young filmmaker returns home after many years away to write a script about his childhood,
only to find his neighborhood unrecognizable and his childhood friends scattered to the wind.

Cast: Obinna Nwachukwu, Dennis Lindsey, Taline Stewart

“Sanzaru” – (USA) World Premiere
Director/ Screenwriter: Xia Magnus

When a mild Filipina nurse is hired by an elderly woman declining into dementia, the walls between this world and the next crumble as she uncovers her employer’s shocking family secret.

Cast: Aina Dumlao, Justin Arnold, Jayne Taini, Jon Viktor Corpuz

“Shell and Joint” – (Japan) North American Premiere
Director/ Screenwriter: Isamu Hirabayashi

A wild ride into a world of ideas, alternately profound, shallow, funny and horrific, conveyed by outspoken characters in powerful static compositions, in and around a capsule hotel.

Cast: Mariko Tsutsui, Keisuke Horibe, Kanako Higashi, Aiko Sato, Hiromi Kitagawa, Atsuko
Sudo, Ayano Kudo, Naoto Nojima

“Tahara” – (USA) World Premiere
Director: Olivia Peace

At the funeral for a Hebrew school classmate who took her own life, two best friends find themselves distracted by the teenage complications of lust, social status and wavering faith.

Cast: Rachel Sennott, Madeline Grey DeFreece, Shlomit Azoulay, Daniel Taveras, Bernadette

“Tapeworm” – (Canada) US Premiere
Directors/ Screenwriters: Milos Mitrovic, Fabian Velasco

A hypochondriac, a failed comedian, a loner and two naive stoners seek an escape from their pitiful and mundane existence.

Cast: Adam Brooks, Alex Ateah, Milos Mitrovic, Sam Singer, Stephanie Berrington, Jennifer
Mauws, Julie Simpson, Sandro Dibari

“Thunderbolt in Mine Eye” – (USA) World Premiere
Director: Sarah Sherman, Zachary Ray Sherman Screenwriters: Jason Loftus, Caylan Ford

A brainy 14-year-old embarks on an awkward but heartfelt first love relationship with her brother’s best friend, while exploring her budding feminism and a gender double-standard at their high school.

Cast: Anjini Taneja Azhar, Quinn Liebling


“An Ordinary People” – (South Africa, Eswatini, Namibia ) World Premiere
Director: Ernest Nkosi

Born out of crime and largely marginalized by mainstream society emerges the story of Car Spinning in South Africa.

“Ask No Questions” – (Canada) World Premiere
Directors: Jason Loftus, Eric Pedicelli

A former Chinese state TV insider is held in a brainwashing camp and compelled to accept the official narrative on a fiery public suicide, which he believes was a government plot.

“Bastards’ Road” – (USA)
Director: Brian Morrison

Coming home from war is just the beginning.

“Big Fur” – (USA)
Director: Dan Wayne

If World Champion taxidermist Ken Walker can’t find Bigfoot, he’ll make one.

“Higher Love” – (USA) World Premiere
Director: Hasan Oswald

A blue collar father tries to rescue his pregnant, heroin-addicted girlfriend from the dangerous streets of Camden, New Jersey. Once their son is born, a new journey begins for the fate of the baby and the family’s sobriety that may split them apart forever.

“Jasper Mall” – (USA) World Premiere
Directors: Bradford Thomason, Brett Whitcomb

A year in the life of a dying shopping mall.

“Lovemobil” – (Germany)
Director: Elke Margarete Lehrenkrauss

Along the country roads of rural Germany, prostitutes from foreign countries work in old caravans when mysteriously one woman is murdered and fear begins to spread into an already dark and surreal world.

“Maxima” – (USA, Peru)
Director: Claudia Sparrow

A multi-billion-dollar corporation meets their match in a fearless Indigenous woman who remains uncowed after years of violent intimidation.

“Queen of the Capital” – (USA)
Director: Joshua Davidsburg

DC Bureaucrat by day, drag queen by night, Muffy Blake Stephyns follows her dream of leading a group of vibrant drag performers on a crusade for the community.


“Close Quarters” – (Mexico) North American Premiere
Director/Screenwriter: Andres Clariond

In a time in which it is essential to question gender roles, this film explores, confronts and breaks apart man’s darkest insecurities and vices.

Cast: Paulina Gaitan, Jose Pescina, Jorge Jimenez

“The Penny Black” – (USA) World Premiere
Director: Joe Saunders

The estranged son of a con man fights temptation, paranoia, and his own nefarious legacy as he searches for the rightful owner of a mysterious, million-dollar stamp collection.

“The Wind: A Documentary Thriller” – (Poland, Slovakia)
Director/ Screenwriter: Michal Bielawski

A multi-thread story on a clash between people and the forces of nature, woven into a documentary thriller.