Alex R. Johnson's Two Step is a perfect example. The director, a volunteer screener for the festival in years past, put together a lean crime thriller with a healthy dose of local color. Think of it as a Texas flavored cross between Blood Simple and No Country for Old Men, with a bit more of Tarantino's garish sensibilities than Coen brother philosophizing. Two Step was a bit too loud for me—literally, the volume was startling in places—but Beth Broderick gives a wonderful performance as Dot, a take no guff southern woman whose brass and sass can't totally conceal a sweet heart. Her interactions with James (Skyy Moore), a young man who just inherited from his grandmother, are quite good. I kept waiting for the Dot-James relationship to integrate into the main plot of the film, but it never did. By the second half of the movie, which shifts to focus almost entirely on ab ex-con named Webb there's no one for the audience to root for and not much for Broderick to do but drive by James's house now and then and look worried.
Even so, Johnson has a nice visual style, avoiding some of the more obvious visual clichés that permeate this genre. When a woman, unaware that a stalker is in her house, opens a refrigerator door to block out part of the screen, I was actually surprised when she closed it and he wasn't standing there. It's an efficient crime thriller that's as uncomplicated as the dance it was named after. Like the festival that welcomed it, Two Step knows what it is and who it is for, and if it is not as flashy as some other routines, its very simplicity will ensure that it has an appreciative audience that knows exactly what it is getting when it walks in the theater.
Kenneth R. Morefield is an Associate Professor of English at Campbell University. He is the editor of Faith and Spirituality in Masters of World Cinema, Volumes I & II, and the founder of 1More Film Blog.