Some of you might know who the musician Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, is already know that he is a strange individual. Look at his most recent music video for "Ready Err Not" and his consistent affiliation and contributions to Adult Swim will give you some insight of the kind of visual art he creates to accompany his music. This year's Sundance gave us his directorial debut, Kuso, a collection of semi-connected short films chronicling the lives of the mutated women, men, and children of Los Angeles, following the earthquake to end all earthquakes. It has Adult Swim alumni like Hannibal Buress, Tim Heidecker, and David Firth (the man who created Salad Fingers), so you know it's bound to get a little crazy. But that doesn't even begin to explain what the hell happened in the first screening.
It's notable for people to run out of screenings (like for the film Raw that had it's premiere at last year's Sundance) or just simply walk out (again, at last year's Sundance, for Swiss Army Man), but this might actually take the cake. There are so many moments where people have walked out, like when a mutated woman chokes a man to death until he reaches a climax, resulting in him ejaculated a large amount of oddly colored semen on her face, or when an alien forces a fetus out of a woman's womb and proceeds to smoke it. Yes, you read both of those lines correctly.
So now the questions begs, what the f**k Sundance? Sundance has always been in the business of challenging audiences, to my earliest memories of A Celebration to most recently Swiss Army Man, but this seems to be overboard. Did another Sundance troll make it's way into the World's best independent film festival? As with Swiss Army Man, the answer is both yes and no. You see, it can't exactly be a troll to Sundance is the festival is on board with it. The artists involved have a message, but the message is obscured in excessive gore and rape jokes. They want to speak about racism and the bloody history of America, but only leave tidbits to psyche out critics who over indulge themselves in the critical analysis of films that aren't for the mainstream. This film is nowhere near for the main stream, and I doubt not a single distributor will go near this film. But it's not meant for us. Sundance might be aware of the pretentiousness that has become of the festival and wants to get back to its hardcore indie roots. To trick out and force members of the media to sit through a shitshow. A literal shitshow. As one of the characters says in the film: “This is art. This is shit. Art is shit.”
Trash culture, like early Harmony Korine and Trailer Park Boys, find their art in the lowest brow humanly possible yet speak on certain issues like sex in Kids, homosexuality, poverty, and the importance of community in TPB, Kuso will find its place in this subculture as well as the hardcore horror groups. While it may not be the Oscar front running film Sundance is known for, Sundance is giving more attention to the real die-hard indie films and films that aren't a drama and spawning new classics, like The Witch, Raw, Swiss Army Man, Advantageous, Upstream Color, and Primer. It's allowing filmmakers to start giving new original content in expanded genres to give fresh perspectives and new stories that aren't the normal cut and dry. We've seen films like 28 Days Later and Momento pop out from Sundance, but we've been lacking those daring and incredible films for a while. Kuso doesn't stand with those giants, but it makes a bold statement: Filmmakers, don't be afraid.
Watch the trailer and good luck finding it down the road. (If you haven't figured it out by now, it's NSFW)