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Bess, a lonely, trailer park teen, steals a car and makes a desperate journey from Kansas to Vegas in search of a father she never knew. Her trip takes her deep into the seedy underbelly of America where she encounters an array of lost-souls, deadbeats and con men, and learns that family can be found in the oddest of places. Written by
Sweet Little Lies, directed by William Saunders, echoes Little Miss Sunshine and Stand By Me without the high-profile cast. While the road-trip premise is a precious ore that has been mined by a lot of filmmakers, Saunders's cast and crew keep things looking professional, while retaining a true sense of indie integrity. Aside from lack of high-profile stars, this film could easily be a crossover into the mainstream market.
Saunders worked with a group of fellow film conspirators from the film program at New York City's Columbia University to complete the feature, which took approximately four years from start to finish.
The story introduces us to two "protagonist" characters whose destinies will inextricably intertwine: 17-year-old Bess (Caitlin Kinnunen) is in a trailer park rut in Kansas. Her mother has just died and she and her sidekick best-friend (Joseph Montes) are headed for foster care, with a deadbeat dad (Pedro Pascal) and a social worker (NataSha Yvette Williams) on their heels. Bess's plan is to find the Elvis-impersonating father she never met. In a separate story, conman Roach (Bill Sage) has just stolen a ring from his dead mother's hand and is on the run himself. When their worlds collide, they find themselves all in the same car and peeling out of town. Many twists and turns are in store, eventually landing them all into a resolution of deep introspection.
Celebrating the American landscape and West, the filming took almost six weeks, as the production traveled from New York to Kansas City to Las Vegas and eventually Monument Valley in Utah. Shooting the film in HD allowed smaller set-ups and crew, but nonetheless the film has the look of a high-budget feature.
As the son of former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders, William has a penchant for his strong area connections, and enjoyed the benefit of locations that were for the most part unused. "This is the landscape I remember from my early days," says Saunders, "and certainly influenced my perception of things. The Kansas City area is rich with all kinds of interesting visuals."
Hopefully a third screening will be added, as the first two KCFF screenings are already sold out. But in whatever form you happen to catch it in, you will not be disappointed by Sweet Little Lies.
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