Magazine article Filmmaker

Dustin Guy Defa

Magazine article Filmmaker

Dustin Guy Defa

Article excerpt

Writer, director and actor Dustin Guy Defa has been on our radar for a little while. We took note in 2011 when he premiered his first feature at SXSW, the off-kilter tragicomedy Bad Fever. That film's eccentric rhythms and ability to access the most private thoughts and feelings, however, didn't prepare us for the devastating short that came next. Watching Family Nightmare is like rubber-necking a psychological car wreck - you can't look away, and you can't not wonder about the people trapped inside. In this case, those people are Defa's own Salt Lake City family, captured in various seamy and intoxicated behaviors on VHS home movie clips Defa edited and himself revoiced. It's both obituary and act of liberation. Next was another found footage short, Declaration of War, which uncannily manipulates applause moments from President George W. Bush's Afghanistan war speech to Congress. And then came two more strong shorts that are both their own rewards and expectation-raisers for the feature Defa says he's working on next.

Lydia Hoffman, Lydia Hoffman - an indelible, all-night-long encounter between a jilted poet (Hannah Gross) and an itinerant party girl (Dakota Goldhor) - had its roots in a short story, but Defa reshaped it for the two actresses. Wrote Richard Brody in the New Yorker, it "packs the emotional amplitude of a feature film into its 15 minutes."

Person to Person, which played Sundance and SXSW this year, is a scruffy, 70s-style chronicle of a garrulous record store owner's exasperated attempts to kick out the somnambulant young woman who crashed in his apartment one night. The ephemeral (relationships, vinyl) and the permanent (what Tom Waits would call "that feel") both collide and are embodied by downtown denizen Bene Coopersmith, Defa's old roommate. "He's a non-actor, an engaging and vibrant person to be around," Defa writes. …

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