The best films screened at this year’s Treefort Festival

Photo courtesy of Ella Smith

This year’s Treefort Music festival came in full force and did not disappoint, especially on the film front.

While you were losing your voice shoulder-to-shoulder with your new found festival buddy, it’s possible you may have missed some incredible films. Here are the top films screened at this year’s Filmfort.

“Winter in Pluto” directed by Natalita and Riley Teahan

Running time: 40 minutes

Winter in Pluto is an experimental musical created by Missoula, Montana, artists Natalita and Riley Teahan from the producers of “Myths From My Womb.” The film explores the themes of self love and poses the question, “What if you fall in love with yourself the same way you fall in love with another?” 

The film follows the story of the daughter of Venus, a love goddess named Stone who controls all acts of love through her cotton candy-esc world somewhere in the clouds. As Stone continues on the path of reuniting humans with their missing half, she begins to question her work and the belief system that has guided her for centuries. 

[People attending a movie screening at Filmfort.]
Photo courtesy of Ella Smith

This film personifies exactly what it means to love and to grieve like a woman. The divinely feminine approach to this film created a space that tells a story of love and loss in a way I had never seen before, but remains to be the most authentic and truthful narration of what it looks like to fall in love with yourself.

In a mixture between music video, documentary and film, this work follows an abstract and mystic blend of animation and live action techniques that weave together to create one collection of love.

The film is currently in the festival circuit and is not yet available online. However, it will be on the creators’ website in the near future. Natalita’s album, “Winter in Pluto,” which accompanied the film, can be listened to in whole on YouTube and Apple Music.

Natalia and Riley are absolute world makers in their approach to this film, exploring sex, pleasure, love and loss all through a distinctly feminine gaze. Their dynamic softness and strength radiated throughout the screen with stunning and tasteful expressions of nakedness and vulnerability in love, showcasing bodies and intimacy as an artform in of itself.

Prepared to be left in tears and to reevaluate your relationship to the home within your heart and how you give yourself grace and love.

“It’s Raining Frogs Outside” directed by Maria Estela Paiso

Running time: 14 minutes

“Its Raining Frogs Outside” tells the story of a girl, Maya, resisting her childhood home’s attempt to destroy her using her own personal history. 

At what can be presumed to be the end of her life, Maya is trapped in a cycle of memories from her past that depict her slowly losing her grip on reality and her sense of self through a horror-like collage of old videos and memorabilia from her childhood. 

In Maya’s remembrance, she begins to slowly fade away the further she pushes to untangle her life prior to facing its imminent end. The film plays out like a nightmarish recounter of childhood memories and what happens when the consciousness unravels in its search to find peace. 

Alongside stunning creativity, this film in all terms distorts your own mind as Maya is in the process of losing hers, inviting the viewer to lose their own sense of reality while they walk through Maya’s dying one.

The director stitches together a chaotic masterpiece of reality and surrealism among intricate and thoughtful details of past, present and future behind a backdrop of one woman, sitting in one chair, watching frogs rain from the sky outside her window. 

“Dusty and Stones” directed by Jesse Rudoy

Running time: 83 minutes

“Dusty and Stones” is a powerful and brilliant portrait of what it means to be a musician, and by far one of my favorite music documentaries I have had the pleasure of watching. 

The film tells the story of country musicians Gazi (Dusty) Simelane and Linda (Stones) Msibi, cousins from Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland who travel to Nashville Tennessee following an invitation to perform at a country music show. 

The director, Jesse Rudoy, was a striving musician himself. He found the story of Dusty and Stone by asking the question, “Does anyone play country music outside the United States, and if so why?” There under a YouTube search of African country music he found Dusty and Stones, two African cowboys. 

This film was an absolute joy to behold and every single member of the audience was left smiling upon hearing the story of the cowboy cousins. 

This film was not at all what you would expect to see in a music documentary. It is a glimpse into the true nature of being a musician and not the small percentage of stars who “make it.” This film explores what it means to candidly and unapologetically live your life with gusto. 

Seasoned with belly laughter, instances of culture shock and beautiful portraits of the human condition, this documentary should be at the top of your list. 

The film is currently on the festival circuit and has not yet made its way online, but will be publically available in the future. In the meantime, you can listen to music by Dusty and Stone on SoundCloud. 

“Vertical Valor” directed by Alex Kavutskiy

Running time: 15 minutes

When the director tells you that on film day he meant to take an anxiety medication and instead took Ecstasy, you know the film is bound to be funny.

This rang true for Alex Kavutskiy’s “Vertical Valor.” Taking place during World War III, a group of skateboarders who avoided the draft by failing their drug tests are put on the job of casualty notification, delivering notices to family friends that their loved ones have died in the war. 

Left to their own devices and armed with their skateboards, the men make their way around town delivering notices, eventually returning and befriending one of the victims’ fathers.

What may seem like a curious theme for a comedy is an absolutely hilarious short that broke the often serious tone of the festival circuit. 

“Vertical Valor” was one of the funniest shorts played at this year’s festival. I continued to ask myself time and time again over the course of 15 minutes amidst my cackling — how did they come up with this?

This film was in every way loveably idiotic and creative to the fullest extent. 

Filmfort 2023 brought in a star-worthy collection of shorts, animations and documentaries spanning from local to global directors that fully personified the heart of Treefort: community and love.

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