Indie Express Videos

Loading...

Related Videos

Loading...

Friday, April 25, 2008

FIRST GLANCE FILM FESTIVAL part 2

First Glance Film Festival
Reviews By Linda Overly

Dakota Skye (87 min, CA)
Directed By John Humber

Before I begin this review let me warn you that Dakota Skye is a film about a girl in high school. Now you must erase every beloved high school movie of recent decades such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club, American Pie, etc. from your mind. Now, if you can, imagine a high school film that is so honest and engaging that you wish it wouldn't end.

Dakota Skye is a teenager with problems similar to most girls her age, except she is cursed with a super power she hates. She knows whenever someone is lying to her. The opening scene of the film is Dakota's graduation day. But her story begins with a flashback of the year before.
In her junior year Dakota is disillusioned by her boyfriend's narcissism, and bored with her friends' obsession with SATs and the future. She is like a walking time bomb ready to explode from the all the deceit. Although she resents each of them, she holds on to them because they are all she's got.

Nearly at end of her rope, a miraculous incident occurs; Dakota meets Jonah, the first person she's ever met that does not lie about anything. Immediately the two are attracted to each other but there are a couple problems. Jonah is her boyfriend's best friend and despite the fact the she tries to deny it, Dakota is falling for him. Jonah feels the same way and tells her. Now Dakota must decide if she should stay in her completely uncomfortable comfort zone or take the risk and trust Jonah with her heart.

This film was my favorite of the festival. It was worth every minute of my time and I believe that many people will feel the same way. It is no wonder that this film won the festival's award for Best Ensemble Cast in a Feature Film.

Partially True Tales of High Adventure (12 minutes, CA)
Directed By Murphy Gilson

Fresh and pithy, Partially True Tales of High Adventure just 12 minutes long but nearly everything about it is clever and memorable. Charlie is a mid-Western Irish, self –admitted drunk, and writer with his last chance to get his first break in Tinsel town. After pitching his script he is told that his work is merely a rip-off of the classic sitcom Cheers.

Charlie's sanctuary is a true blue dive bar complete with red velvet wallpaper, a smart and sassy waitress, and obnoxious regulars. It is here that he takes in brews, burgers and banter with his ever supportive buddies.

Just when he is nearly convinced that he should buy his bus ticket back to Indiana, a chance meeting with the industry's "It girl" and a slick bar room showdown, Charlie realizes that he may have finally captured the formula to make it big in Hollywood.

The only flaw I found in the film is that Shannon Elizabeth plays herself and is the "It girl." While Elizabeth looks great, in reality she has never achieved this coveted title, unless you count the brief attention she received from a naughty three minute scene in the popular teenage flick, American Pie released nearly a decade ago.

Oh, but wait-she is currently a competitor on "Dancing with the Stars." To me the show is simply a cheesy vehicle for has-been celebrities trying to make a comeback. One never knows however, Elizabeth may be just one step away from sweeping all of us off our feet and end up with many more minutes in the spotlight.


Beanie Baby Soldier (10 min PA)
Directed By Larry Mendte

It has been said that if you want to change the world then start with yourself. This proverb or a similar belief may have inspired Corporal Stephen McGowan to begin a crusade that would change the lives of hundreds of thousands of children.

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, many people were left with the devastating loss of loved ones and the entire country felt utter pain, confusion, and despair. There were scores of brave individuals who did not give a second thought to rise to the challenge of protecting, serving, and saving lives, as well as trying to keep hope alive for fellow Americans.
Among these countless heroes was McGowan. The 26 year-old enlisted in the army and when it was time for soldiers to go to Iraq, he volunteered. Selflessly, he felt obligated to go before men who had children.

After arriving in Iraq, the fear and innocence he saw on the faces of the country's children transformed him. He wanted to bring them joy and to show them that Americans are good people. So instead of Christmas gifts for himself, he asked his mother to send toys he could give to the children and the easiest gifts to take on missions were Beanie Babies. McGowan began passing out the small, lovable stuffed animals to the kids and before long he became known as The Beanie Baby Soldier.

I found this short film to be extremely moving, the kind everyone should see. To me, the message is that people should take actions, large or small, in the spirit of McGowan's that come straight from the heart and are purely in the name of kindness.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

FIRST GLANCE HOLLYWOOD

First Glance Film Festival
Written By Ian Cappelletti

Driving through Hollywood on Melrose Ave is usually fun and evokes some ooo’s and ahhhh’s at the sights in boutique windows – except the experience becomes positively hellish when you’re already late for the only screening you’re supposed to attend that day and the traffic makes you want to claw your eyes out. After finally getting to Raleigh Studios for part of the Saturday sessions for the First Glance Hollywood festival, I had to call the big boss and ask where the hell the entrance was to this thing; Raleigh didn’t exactly hang a banner for anyone.

Once inside the gates, I eventually found the Chaplin theater but of course ran into some trouble with getting a pass to the viewing session. Shane to the rescue once more.

Fortunately, I somehow only managed to miss two of the five shorts presented at that screening.

Messages
Directed By Gabor Tarnokl



The first one, “Messages”, was a foreign film about a young Hungarian girl’s persistent imagination. It was short and sweet, but nothing too exceptional – I felt direction detracted from the message (hurr) of the story.

Get On The Bus For Mother’s Day
Directed By Jennifer Farmer



The next entry “Get on The Bus for Mother’s Day” was a short documentary about a state-sponsored program to promote visitation between children and their incarcerated mothers. Frankly I found it boring and in need of some heavy editing. That and Carol Potter introduced and closed the documentary – man, 90210 was that long ago?

The Colony
Written and Directed by Steven List

“The Colony”, however, was an excellent short thriller that, of all things, has its basis in reality. The script is tight, employs flashbacks in a refreshing fashion, and focuses on the characters’ emotional hardships rather than the conspiratorial nature of a Chilean quasi-Nazi colony – I was impressed. The dialog needed some work and Sarah Clarke (the only billable name in the piece) phoned in her performance, but overall an indication that Mr. List definitely has some talent.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

BRILLIANT LIGHT FILM FESTIVAL

Brilliant Light Film Festival
By Rowan Harrison



Being relatively new to the independent film festival market, it has been rather exciting covering festivals at various venues throughout the So. California area. Such is the case with the 2nd annual Brilliant Light Film Festival, which takes us to the hub of the film making industry, Hollywood. Located on Melrose and N. Van Ness Ave across the street from the Paramount lot and the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, sitting on an 11 acre lot is the Raleigh Film Studios.

The 12 sound stage studio, one of the largest independent film studios in the nation and a leader in promoting and assisting visionary artists in film, television and commercial production, is the host to this years event. Having a rich history in the film industry the studio first established itself in 1915, with renovations in 1979 it has since become a studio preserving the best of its Hollywood traditions.

Screening a wide range of features and shorts, most of the action during the weekend, I was able to catch the Friday night, North American Premiere of Yai Wanonabalewa – The Enemy God. After a brief sign in at the security gate, a little stroll through the studios lot, and a pleasant greeting from festival hosts, I casually made my way to one of two screening rooms. Now, these are the lavish, modern screening rooms that Hollywood execs, producers, film makers and big name press affiliates congregate to view the most current productions, before being released to the mass market, accommodating to say the least.

Yai Wanonabalewa – The Enemy God
Written and Directed: Christopher Bassett



On with our review, living in almost complete seclusion in the Amazon rainforest located in parts of Brazil and Venezuela, are the Yanomamo people. The pre Columbian forest footmen commune in small bands or tribes, having little contact with the outside world, their numbers continue to thrive as well as their cultural and religious practices, which is the primary subject matter in the new film, The Enemy God.

With a very limited film crew and support from surrounding tribes people other then the Yanomamo, writer and director Christopher Bassett tells the true story of Bautista a Yanomamo shaman. Well, it’s not actually Christopher’s story, its more Bautista’s story, and in a much broader sense, an account of his people, and a fascinating story it is.

The film wonderfully photographed by John Petrella is deeply rooted in religion and shamanism, which for many indigenous culture, there everyday lives are based and dictated by such practices, which for many of us we often forget or overlook this one aspect of humanity. Superstition, theism can be the basic foundation is determining the daily living and the fate of its believers.

“The trails of my memory are stained with blood” a revenge killing on the red blood village, “we will attack at dawn” these are the opening sequences narrated by Bautista himself. We find a small group of men from Thriving village, carefully and meticulously trudging through the thick green moist dense Amazon jungle. Like a clandestine covert operation the men armed with spears, slowly trek their way to the unsuspecting village, guided by forces beyond the cosmos. No one is spared and the village is burned down, like prized trophies they capture a few women and bring them back to their village.



The film with its narrator moves back and forth between the past and the present, it is the 1990’s and the people still have large memories and stories being told. Since he was small, the spirits have had a profound impact on Bautista’s life, calling out to him and guiding him into becoming a shaman leader. It is these same good and malevolent spirits that guide him and his people on a daily basis. The spirits as beautiful as they are can be just as evil causing calamity, illness and death to its yielding followers.

Beyond all the shamanism and tribal warfare Bautista’s story thickens like the jungle, as a young woman from a neighboring village named Yellow Petal, begins a relationship with one of his villagers. Divided over traditions and customs, tensions boil over as Yellow Petal wants to stay in Thriving Village and leave her abusive husband.

In the confrontation between the two villages which is in the present, different parties emerge out of the green thicket, one being the government. The other an American family that has taken residency with the Yanomamo people, dedicating their time and their lives in helping the Yanomamo carry their way of life in the Amazon jungle.

By no means is The Enemy God a national geographic, anthropological study or approach on a large native tribe in South America. Instead what we have is a well developed plot involving character change and confrontation as it explores the Yanomamo’s domestic relationships, tribal customs, and beliefs.

On the surface The Enemy God, runs on similar ground as the 2001 release of The Fast Runner a story regarding the Inuit people in the Canadien Artic. Yet, unlike The Fast Runner, which their story is developed and centered around an Inuit legend, The Enemy God is rooted on the actual true life story and events that shaped and characterized a shaman’s life and his people.

Coming from southwestern Native American cultures (Navajo and Pueblo of Isleta) it was easy to gravitate and relate to all the different aspects of the Yanamomo’s religion, some based in animalism. These are aspects that are explored in the daily routines of the indigenous people, and this element was well manifested through out the film.

Even as the last frames, brings the film to a conclusion, there is definitely a palpable feeling that this story doesn’t end, and it doesn’t it. There are many parties and characters that surround and support Bautista’s experiences, take for example the English family, the Dawsons, their fifty year residency with the Yanamomo, is a story worth exploring all on its own. Thanks, to film maker Christopher Bassett and most of all Bautista, for bringing his story out of the jungles of the Amazon and into the conscious platform of the American movie going audience.

Rowan

17th PHILADELPHIA FILM FESTIVAL Part 3

Philadelphia Film Festival
Written By Camryn Hansen

Darling
Directed By Johan Kling



A quietly heartbreaking film by Swedish director Johan Kling, Darling tells the story of two very different characters who, simultaneously forced by circumstances off of their chosen life paths, each struggle to find meaning, and comfort, in compromise. Eva (Michelle Meadows), a gorgeous but icy young clerk at a Gucci boutique, is a rising star of the Stockholm social scene until a one-night stand (perhaps the most nonchalant in the history of cinema) puts an unwitting end to her relationship with her popular boyfriend at the same time that her unsolicitous attitude at work gets her fired. Bernard (Michael Segerström), an impossibly sweet sixty one year old who has been struggling financially ever since his wife left him for a younger man, is having a terrible time finding an employer who will agree to take him on. When both of these characters, lost, lonely and desperate for money, ultimately decide to work at McDonald’s, their lives connect, and gradually, the two form a delicate friendship that allows them to find unexpected joy in an otherwise bleak situation.



It is difficult to give enough praise to Darling, a film which has garnered much deserved recognition in Sweden, winning, among others, the Swedish Film Institute’s awards for Best Actor (Michael Segerström) as well as Best Cinematography (Geir Hartly Andreassen). In its combination of pitch-perfect writing, inspired acting, lush cinematography and visionary directing, Darling at once revels in artistry and brims with humanity. In his infinite dignity as a neglected but loving, even doting, father, the character of Bernard evokes a sympathy irresistible to even the hardest of hearts. His fledgling friendship with the seemingly hard-hearted Eva is thus alternately inspiring and devastating to watch. The backdrop of the story, a modern Stockholm where McDonald’s is the only place a hard working, over-qualified, older man like Bernard can find work while more or less unskilled beauties like Eva float in and out of the work force on looks alone, also provides a valuable commentary on the nature of employment (and unemployment) in contemporary European society. Johan Kling is most definitely a director to keep watching, and Darling, for anyone interested in experiencing dramatic cinema at its finest, is an absolute must-see.

Bad Habits (Malos Habitos)
Directed By Simon Bross



The worst rainstorm in Mexico since The Flood sets the somber, surrealist mood for Bad Habits, director Simon Bross’s sumptuous debut feature which peers at the elaborate rituals and devastating effects of eating disorders among three interconnected female characters. A film with very little talking—out of the 104 pages of script, only 21 contain dialogue—but lots of eating, and not eating, and eating, and not eating, Bad Habits crafts together bite-sized episodes of obsessive behavior that, when taken together, make for a picture of contemporary women’s relationships to food that is as stomach-churning—literally—as it is tragic. Through an emphasis on religious imagery and symbolism, it also says a cryptic thing or two about the influence that faith and devotion (and/or the lack thereof) might have on social attitudes towards eating in the modern world.



We first meet the character of Matilde as a child, when she believes to have saved her father from choking on a fish bone by reciting the Lord’s Prayer. As an adult, Matilde goes on to earn her medical degree, but immediately after graduation, decides to join a convent. Convinced that the violent rainstorm is God’s punishment for humanity’s sin of gluttony, Matilde covertly takes it upon herself first to consume inedible food, and then to quit eating altogether, as penance for the wrongdoings of those around her. In a somewhat parallel scenario, one of her young communicants, a pudgy girl named Linda, struggles with a ballooning food obsession that her control-freak mother, Elena, is powerless to reverse. Self-starving in her daughter’s place, the already svelte Elena adopts an anorexic’s regimen of water, cigarettes, and exercise that slims her down to meticulously manicured skin and bones—and sends her fed-up husband, Gustavo, clandestinely into the ample arms of a young Peruvian gourmande who shares his appetites for indulgent food and sex.



With its fantastical food montages, its moody, watery settings and its sensual focus on bodies of all kinds, Bad Habits makes for a luscious visual experience. In its artistic interpretation of eating disorders, it also introduces into serious film a subject more typically relegated to cloying teen magazines and after school specials. On a psychological level, however, I don’t believe that it succeeds at going much further beyond this introduction, to explore what actually makes his characters tick. The film spends so much time watching people interact with food that we are led to believe that their inner lives consist of nothing else; that the scope of their every desire and disappointment begins and ends with the way they eat. There is little humanity left to empathize with; little reason to care why these otherwise anonymous women are hurting themselves. While Simon Bross has created a beautiful film about eating disorders, it does not quite succeed at being a film about people with eating disorders.

Camryn Hansen

Saturday, April 12, 2008

MALIBU FILM FESTIVAL

Ninth Annual Malibu Film Festival 2008
Friday April 4, 2008
Written By: Linda Overly

The Run
(87m, United Kingdom) Dir. Tania Meneguzzi



Young, beautiful, and in love, Amanda and Rowly have big dreams. She is an aspiring musician and he is a student/ bartender content as a working class stiff. On the opposite of the spectrum, Amanda is frustrated with the roadblocks in attaining fame and fortune. In an attempt to get there more quickly, she convinces Rowly to traffic cocaine from Costa Rica into the United Kingdom.

After a few smooth runs and deals, the couple rapidly becomes addicted to their new found flow as well as snorting up their profits. Soon their reality becomes so sick and twisted that it leaves them hanging on by the skin of their teeth instead of the having the world at their fingertips.



Mentally beaten and physically worn and left with no choice, the two are forced by their distributors to do another run. Finally, both Amanda and Rowly realize the rock bottom lives they have created for themselves.

The feature film draws audiences into the dark, horrid underworld of drugs and dollars signs. Many may find it shocking while others may find it right on the money. In either case, after all the couple has been through, even the most cynical of viewers will find themselves hoping that Amanda and Rowly will come out clean from their downward spiral.

Some say hope burns eternal and everyone deserves a second chance, while others believe that poor judgment deserves punishment to the full extent. The Run simply asks the hard question: How much humanity are Amanda and Rowly worthy of?

Friday, April 11, 2008

HD/DV FILM FESTIVAL -LA

HDDV FILM FESTIVAL-LA
Written By Kim Jindra

GARRISON
Written and directed by Kerry Valderrama

Garrison follows two soldiers as they search for their AWOL superior. Valderrama, who served with the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan, got the germ for his movie after his father sent him clips of happenings at Fort Bragg, NC. Valderrama said he had seen a lot of war movies but none had ever gotten it just right especially when dealing with Post Traumatic Stress. He admitted he made the movie for his fellow soldiers. He said he hopes the movie is well received at the G.I. Festival in July.

Garrison takes place over three days with a few occasional flash backs within flashbacks for relationship purposes. The use of black and white is effective. I admit I am not a military person, so the chain of command stuff was a bit confusing but maybe for a military audience it makes the film more realistic. Another quibble is giving too much plot information too soon. The audience knows what happens before the military. It would have been more suspenseful if the audience and soldiers, McManus and Cain, discovered the clues together. There is only one twist at the end.



The movie wasn’t sentimental or gung ho. Plot wise the movie covered old ground, i.e. spousal abuse, recruit hazing, soldiers looking after their own etc...

The locations seemed authentic even though Valderrama admitted finding old hospitals, classrooms etc... to shoot in San Antonio was a bit of a challenge. He had no access to actually military sites. The film was shot on a Canon XL2 and scored by Douglas Edward. I didn't care for the songs over the credits but the score accentuated the movie.



This was not an easy film for me to watch since I have two family members who have either been to Afghanistan and/or Iraq and another nephew who leaves in June. But I'm sure Valderrama knows his audience.

DEPLOYMENT STRATEGY
Written/directed by Mark Cheng



For me this film was a cross between Plan 9 From Outer Space and a poor imitation of the television series La Femme Nikita. It is set in 2055 but the look was cheesy sometimes and downright 2008 at others. It was especially the latter in the big end scene. The plot is the age old man versus machine and for me the most interesting character was the Sex-bot. There were too many characters and the conflict between the humans was overwritten, trite and at times overacted. But, I felt the Major was winking at the audience during his scenes.

AFTERBIRTH
Directed by Scott Belyea

On the surface, Afterbirth appears to be a lab mistake gone even more wrong when the stuttering, and belittled janitor is left to dispose of a beaker of mysterious blue liquid and a fetus from a back room abortion. The end result is murder and mayhem in the standard horror mold.
In a running time of nine minutes, AFTERBIRTH, takes a stab at abortion and stem cell research or does it? See it and decide.

THE HOUSE
Written/directed by Douglas Elford-Argent

The House, revolves around a brother/sister burglary team and a dead body. The pair is interrogated separately but the police has a hard time convincing each of them to give the other up. Not much new here, not even the twist. It felt like the eight minutes it lasted. The script wasn't exciting but the actors gave it their best. The camera work was good though!

Monday, April 7, 2008

17th PHILADELPHIA FILM FESTIVAL Part 2

17th Philadelphia Film Festival Reviews
Written By Camryn Hansen

American Teen
Directed By Nanette Burstein



Set in the small, one high school town of Warsaw, Indiana, Nanette Burstein’s documentary American Teen explores the lives of four very different Midwestern teenagers as they each make their way through the last ten months of high school, negotiating the harrowing social struggles of day-to-day suburban life while making the important decisions about what to do after graduation that will either solidify or sever their hometown ties. In quick succession, we meet Hannah, the spunky, stylish social outcast with artistic aspirations; Megan, the all-American Homecoming Queen with a hidden inner rage; Colin, the eager-to-please basketball star whose only hopes for college rest on a sports scholarship; and Jake, the video game-obsessed geek who, despite his most fervent efforts, can’t seem to keep a girlfriend for ten minutes together.



Herein lies what seems to me to be the primary allure of American Teen: in its up close and personal look at the dreams, disappointments, romances, triumphs and embarrassments of each of these teenagers’ lives, it allows us access to the inner workings of social circles that to the average American, aren’t particularly exotic or unfamiliar. For many of us, becoming a fly on the wall of the Homecoming Queen and the star of the basketball team fulfills a real-life fantasy that at one time, back in those better-forgotten pimply-braces-glasses years, we actually had ourselves. As far as juicy tidbits go, American Teen doesn’t fail to disappoint. When Hannah’s boyfriend of two years dumps her unexpectedly, she falls into a depression so debilitating it may get her kicked out of school. Colin appears to be buckling under his Elvis impersonator father’s pressure to get recruited by college coaches, and may fail to get a basketball scholarship altogether. Though Megan’s entire family has gone to the University of Notre Dame, she’s not sure she has what it takes to get in. Jake, who in his own estimation, “sucks at life,” might do a lot better with women if he just stops hating himself. It’s difficult not to get wrapped up in these stories, to the point where we’re biting our nails at Colin’s sectionals game; tearing up as a bright-eyed Hannah imagines her future at film school; clenching our fists when Megan’s Notre Dame letter arrives in the mail; and cringing when Jake says to the girl who’s breaking up with him across the table, “This table’s covered with grease…because I had my face on it.”



This being said, it is worth asking whether despite its narrative intrigue, this film is really bringing anything distinctly new to the table. As though to suggest that technology has somehow overhauled the high school experience in recent years, it not only liberally quotes text messages and emails on screen, but occasionally plays out characters’ fears and fantasies in animated sequences reminiscent of contemporary comic books and video games. Overall, however, it is not my impression that anyone who actually went to public high school in America in the last thirty years would feel like he or she learned anything new about the current generation from American Teen: for the most part, it felt pretty much the same as I remember it.

Stuck
Directed By Stuart Gordon



In Stuck, an agonizing black comedy by writer/director Stuart Gordon, one character’s bad luck unexpectedly collides one night with another’s bad decision-making to produce the most unrelentingly gruesome story to hit the screen in a long time. It’s a typical Friday in Providence, Rhode Island, and Brandi (Mena Suvari), a young, hard-working nursing home attendant, has just been offered an important promotion—with the one condition that she prove her dedication to the job by coming in early on Saturday morning. Both to celebrate and to unwind, she makes plans for a night out with her co-worker/friend Tanya (Rukiya Bernard) and drug-dealer boyfriend Rashid (Russell Hornsby). Over the course of the same day, the recently laid off Tom (Stephen Rea) not only gets kicked out of his apartment, but loses a crucial job interview and is forced to spend the night on a park bench. Ordered out of the park in the middle of the night by the police, Tom, complete with newly acquired shopping cart, makes his way on foot across town to the homeless shelter. At a dark, quiet intersection, the now thoroughly soused Brandi, driving home alone, hits what she believes to be a homeless man with her car. Tom’s head crashes through her windshield and blood drips liberally onto the seats. Brandi screams, and panics. And then she drives home…with Tom still on top of the car.



In the farsical aftermath of the accident, Brandi attempts to cover up her irresponsible behavior and still earn her promotion by hiding her car, and with it, the brutally mutilated Tom, in her garage…eventually planning to kill him with the street-wise Rashid’s help. When Tom, far from dead, realizes he’s a prisoner and tries to escape, a battle of wills ensues. As it progresses, it becomes one of the bloodiest, grossest, and ultimately most ludicrous battles of will imaginable, as Brandi develops progressively sicker and more elaborate ways of taking revenge for the accident on her victim, Tom, who simply refuses to die. While the sheer audacity of these two characters sometimes affords a laugh, the film seems much more hell-bent on making the audience sick to their stomachs in a way that does not, contrary to various claims, teach us about the nature of humanity vs. inhumanity. I was not particularly thrilled to be stuck in the theatre for 94 minutes.

17th PHILADELPHIA FILM FESTIVAL Part 1

Opening Night Film Philadelphia Film Festival
By Camryn Hansen

I Feel Nice. Like Sugar and Rice.


Young@Heart
Directed By Stephen Walker


At first, it was hard to know what to make of the ninety two year old woman in a tuxedo shirt and jeans whose deadpan rendition of The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” made up the opening scene of Stephen Walker’s courageous new documentary, Young at Heart. I had heard of the film only as a charming, feel-good piece about a chorus of quirky seniors who performed rock and roll songs with the implicit message that growing old doesn’t have to keep a person from pursuing her dreams. For me, however, the reality of experiencing a ninety two year old woman singing “Should I Stay or Should I Go” was instantly more complicated than that. It was a little bit morbid. It was a touch uncomfortable. It imbued me with a sense of impending doom. And then I laughed. And laughed again.



Indeed, Walker’s debut film, which documents the lives and co-operative efforts of Young at Heart, a chorus of twenty four seniors aged sixty nine to ninety two, to prepare for their upcoming “Alive and Well” concert with the help and encouragement of chorus director Bob Cilman, does not hesitate to embrace the darkly humorous side of this group’s unusual and oftentimes insurmountable-seeming enterprise. At moments it also appreciates as well as dignifies the daily struggle of many of the chorus members to simply show up to rehearsal three times a week, let alone master the diverse and challenging pieces that the charismatic, rigidly un-patronizing Cilman prescribes. (For “Alive and Well,” these include James Brown’s “I Feel Good,” Sonic Youth’s “Schizophrenia,” and Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can,” a song containing a daunting 71 iterations of the word “can.”) When shortly before their concert, two key chorus members die unexpectedly of health complications, the film strikes a remarkable balance between mourning the group’s losses, and finding honest inspiration in the resolve of the remaining members to carry on with the show in spite of them…or, as we discover, perhaps because of them. For this reason, it is difficult to unequivocally condemn the occasional off-notes of what seemed to me to be ill-placed humor, chiefly in the film’s collection of MTV-style videos featuring clownish, caricatured performances by the chorus of such hits as “I Wanna Be Sedated,” “Staying Alive,” and “We’re on a Road to Nowhere.” All told, this is a film which explores a way of growing older that most of us didn’t realize was possible. Like most things worth doing, it doesn’t always feel good. It does, however, feel real.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

DC INDEPENDENT FILM FEST PART 4

Pop Foul
Director: Moon Molson
USA 2007 Run time: 20 min.

When a young boy heading home from Little League game sees his father take a "beat down" from a local thug, the pair enters into a secretive pact designed to hide the disturbing incident from the boy's mother.

DIRECTOR: Moon Molson
WRITER: Moon Molson
CAST: Danielle K. Thomas, Keith Bullard, Sekou Laidlow, Steven Clark
PRODUCER: Moon Molson
cinematographer: David R. Jones



“You dropped the ball…deal with it.” It is fascinating to see the relationship reveal itself between Lavonte and his father, and then the added dynamic between Lavonte and his mother.

Pop Foul opens with Lavonte venting his rage from a baseball field error onto a fence. His father, who was there to support him, cuts to the chase, and has very direct and logical advice for his son.

Issues quickly arise, however, when we see that Bobby, Lavonte’s father, literally cannot walk his talk.

How much issue burying can one boy take? We wonder just how much this young man has had to deal with before the film even opens that he reacts to simply missing a pop foul by needing to release his frustration with such physicality.



One cannot bury secrets in the backyard…they only fester, and erupt with a vengeance. One cannot hide the truth, without it eventually needing to free itself, and one cannot continue to absorb violence without it needing to find a release and expel itself onto a new target.

The direction that Pop Foul heads is not unexpected…but that should make it all the more shocking. Pay attention.

The Sculpture
Director: Rodgers Dameron
USA 2007 Run time: 2 min.
http://www.scad.edu/



The Sculpture is a stop motion animation that depicts the surreal transformation when man alters stone to fit his image.

DIRECTOR: Rodgers Dameron
WRITER: Rodgers Dameron
PRODUCER: Rodgers Dameron
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rodgers Dameron

“When a stone is made into a sculpture, it ruins the stone forever….”

Point taken. Dameron makes a valid one. Who are we, as mere transient occupants of the planet, to take something that nature (or God, depending upon one’s belief system) has taken millions (or thousands) of years to lovingly create and destroy just because we call it our art? Just because we make it into our image?



The execution of the waxy stop-motion animation, however, was so crudely put together it reminded me of nothing so much as the California Raisins commercials from the 1980s and made the film’s theme a challenge to take seriously.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A398VraSBwY

The Good Mother of Abangoh
Director: Nadine Licostie
USA 2007 Run time: 22 min.
http://www.abangoh.org/



The Good Mother of Abangoh is the story of Sister Jane Mankaa, a woman who defies her family to join a contemplative religious order then leaves that community to care for the orphaned children in her village. The inspiration, dedication and willpower of this amazing woman sustains her family of 43 children. Shot on location in Abangoh, Cameroon, this film captures just how Sister Jane helps her children recover from their suffering and flourish in their newfound lives.

DIRECTOR: Nadine Licostie
PRODUCER: Nadine Licostie
cinematographer: Daniele Marracino
composer: Salvadore Poe

It is often said that the camera picks up thought. Filmmaker Nadine Licostie has done a stunning job of carefully designing an environment where her cameras can pick up the thoughts of some extraordinary individuals.

Before Licostie arrived in Cameroon to tell the story of this miraculous orphanage in Abangoh, there was Sister Jane Mankaa. This exceptional woman began a home for the neediest of needy children in Cameroon out of a specific kind of emotional empathy. She says that “Love is such a powerful instrument to make people feel at home.” Having experienced cruelty in her own home in early life, blended with her willful personality and unconditional love upon entering a religious order, Sister Jane somehow developed the genius-level skills necessary to save these children.



It is so lovely to see her share the children’s joy. That joy is the success of her project that we see on the children’s faces. In turn, it is heartbreaking to see her agony: that she is limited to only 40 children in her “family” at one time.

How can one not be completely absorbed in the personal accounts of the children of Good Shepherd: Gilbert, Mirabelle, Kelvin, Juliet, Kevin, Petee, Divine, and Doreen? These are children who literally did not consider themselves to be people before they arrived to live with Sister Jane. Through the lens Licostie has provided us, we are able to share their stories of the new home they are a part of as they can at last let their pasts begin to fade.
Carolan

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

DC INDEPENDENT FILM FEST PART 3

Volcanic Sprint


USA 2007 Run time: 53 min. Director: Steven Dorst & Dan Evans

The sleepy town in Buea in the Southwest Province of Cameroon hosts Africa's most grueling footrace: the Mt. Cameroon Race of Hope, a marathon-length sprint 10,000 feet up a live volcano and back down again.To conquer the mountain, racers must overcome some of the cruelest conditions in sport: temperatures fluctuate 50 degrees, altitude sickness claims the weak, and loose volcanic stones can cause serious injury and even death as runners fly back down the mountain.For a select few, the rewards are lucrative: the top runners earn more in five hours than the average Cameroonian earns in four years. But nearly half of all runners will quit the race conquered by Mt. Cameroon.

DIRECTOR: Steven Dorst & Dan Evans
WRITERS: Dan Evans, Steve Dorst
PRODUCER: Steve Dorst
cinematographer: Ryan Hill
composer: Steve Steckler

http://www.volcanicsprint.com/

Volcanic Sprint is a compelling film that shows us how much is possible when means are truly limited. How else would a farmer from Southwest Cameroon become a revered extreme racing icon?

The fact that this film was a low-budget endeavor even speaks to that. The filmmakers suffered altitude sickness right along with the athletes while in production.

We live in a global society where affluent world citizens regularly pay in the neighborhood of $100,000 to challenge Mt. Everest (not to mention the added gratuity of their lives should she so require it.) They climb for the challenge and love of climbing.

On Mt. Cameroon, the majority of the people who annually run the Race of Hope are driven by a completely different force. Most of them are citizens of Cameroon who race for the prize money. They see it as a type of job opportunity, as the financial reward for a first place finish can equal five years’ salary toward family survival. There is a very specific sense of greater purpose to the race participants, a conscious superobjective.

There is no thought to high tech footwear for the locals, and rehabilitating an injured knee for a regional athlete is unheard of. They race with only what little they have, as we watch shoes fall off on the mountain trail, and knees give out while runners somehow continue….Magic happens on screen before us.

While reflecting upon Volcanic Sprint, I have started fantasizing about a dream Celebrity Deathmatch: Five-time Female Division Champion Sarah Etonge (did I mention she accomplished most of these as a grandmother?) vs. Mt. Everest:Beyond the Limit athlete Tim Medvetz. http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/everestbeyond/climbers/tim-update.html

Sarah Etonge would kick his ass, I have no doubt.

Dorst and Evans do a beautiful job of weaving into their film that this community is anything but a sterile “sporting” environment. This race doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Singing, dancing, and libation ceremonies are interwoven into the fabric of preparation for this race along with a rigorous training schedule. We see how the people of Mt. Cameroon lead whole, integrated lives whether they are rich with material possessions or not.


Testing Hope: Grade 12 in the New South Africa
USA 2007 Run time: 40 min. Director: Molly Blank


Testing Hope: Grade 12 in the New South Africa's chronicles the lives of four young people in Nyanga township, South Africa, as they work towards their crucial Matric exams, which one student calls, "the decider". These students began school in 1994, the same year apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela became president. While this is the new South Africa, many vestiges of apartheid persist. "Testing Hope" follows the students as they prepare for the exams which they believe will determine their future. It explores what hangs in the balance if students pass Matric and what awaits those who do not. How do they achieve their dreams in a country where so many obstacles remain?

DIRECTOR: Molly Blank
PRODUCER: Molly Blank
cinematographer: Kristin Pichaske
composer: John Keltonic

http://www.testinghope.com/

Filmmaker Molly Blank introduces us to South Africa’s Matric exams through the lives of four remarkable students: Babalwa, Noluyanda, Mongamo and Sipho. These students take nothing for granted and treat every day and each sliver of opportunity as a blessing. This documentary is remarkably personal as we see just how high the stakes are for each of these students. We know that they represent an entire generation fighting for opportunity and denied a fighting chance.

Striking details include footage of students preparing for school doing things like shining their shoes. Do American students even know how to do this? Have we, as a culture that has become accustomed to such a high level of ease and comfort sacrificed a high level of drive as well?

One constantly wonders during this film what the next step will be for those who pass the MATRIC. What will South African society offer them next?

See Testing Hope, and then try to look at education in our country the same way you did before your experience.

Carolan

Thursday, March 13, 2008

DC INDEPENDENT FILM FEST PART 2

NAKED BRANCHES
Director: Will Kim
USA 2007 Run time: 5 min.



http://www.willkim.net/animation.html



And the plot synopsis:

While a male peacock and a female peacock (peahen) exchange a spiritual, love talk, a snake makes his own journey to connect the two lovers and to take away the peacock's desire till the last moment of the peacock's life. Emptiness is what the snake leaves behind after he accomplishes his wants in this film, 'Naked Branches.' The filmmaker Will Kim uses watercolor to explore his one hope that's vanished into air.

DIRECTOR: Will Kim
WRITER: Will Kim
PRODUCER: Will Kim
composer: Kirin Kapin



Naked branches are, of course, without leaves. They are a foundation without that which they support. In our contemporary Western culture, we often strive to impose a linear plot upon any film we experience, whether there are spoken words or not. Will Kim has given us a reprieve from that with the lyrical Naked Branches, which is an experience much closer to that of dance.

The warm realm of recognizable characters, an almost Eden-like world of peacock and peahen flows through a life-altering encounter with a snake that is violently depicted through negative space…all seamlessly and liquidly woven together with Kirin Kapin’s music so that what Kim shares with us isn’t just a visual experience. Instead, it is able to seep in through our ears and pores, bypassing our intellects, and affecting us on a very emotional level.

RUBY BLUE
Director: Jan Dunn
United Kingdom 2007 Run time: 112 min.



And the plot is:

At 65, Jack (Bob Hoskins) is consumed by past guilt and regret. His strained relationship with his son is severed on the death of his wife. Jack is lost and alone in his self loathing, and spirals into decline. Hope arrives in the unlikely form of eight-year-old, Florrie, a soft-natured girl who moves in next door and delights in his long neglected racing pigeon Ruby. When his glamorous French neighbor, Stephanie (Josiane Balasko) takes pity on him, Jack cannot help but fall for her charms. Encouraged by Stephanie, Jack helps a local hooligan by giving him his prized Ruby. When an innocent friendship with Florrie is thrown into question and Stephanie reveals a well kept secret, Jack’s life is thrown into turmoil once again. Jack finally cracks, consumed with sadness and humiliation, until tragedy forces him to confront his prejudices, face his fears and challenge those around him in a bid to win back Stephanie’s love.

DIRECTOR: Jan Dunn
WRITER: Jan Dunn
CAST: Bob Hoskins, Josiane Balasko
PRODUCER: Elaine Wickham
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ole Bratt Birkeland


http://www.rubybluethefilm.com/


Most of us love to play detective. Just look at the popularity of shows like Law and Order. All versions of Law and Order. We love to put together the clues in the comfort of our loungewear and accuse strangers daily and feel good about how we solved the crimes brilliantly. It is a powerful feeling. I’m as guilty as anyone. With Ruby Blue, Jan Dunn taps into that very human tendency. This tendency can lie where it is in our loungewear, progress out of us to a bit of gossip with another, or steamroll into to a full on slander fest in the true spirit of The Children’s Hour where law enforcement is involved and peoples’ lives are literally at stake. Ruby Blue has us on the edges of our seats, and seeing ourselves everywhere we turn.



There are four pivotal characters: Grumpy Jack (Bob Hoskins, who has never been better), the glamorous Stephanie (Josiane Balasko), Ian the hood (Jody Latham), and eight-year-old Florrie (Jessica Stewart). Three are fronting…the world knows them only by façades. In reality, the three fronters have so much more on the inside than their façades let others get away with thinking they are.

The fourth, Florrie, is the key to unlocking all of them. Florrie is beautiful on the outside, beautiful on the inside. With Florrie, what you see is what you get. She keeps it real. She doesn’t ever see the façades to begin with because she doesn’t have one of her own. She sees that Jack is a sweet, if lonely man in need of straight talk….She tells him that he smells because he smells. She tells him that if he were nicer, people wouldn’t call him “Grumpy Jack.” Her attitude is infectious. The characters start to open their eyes to one another.

Likewise, Jack gives Ian some plain talk, probably the first he’s had. Ian springs to life almost magically, at the opportunity to take some responsibility with the prized Ruby Blue. It might, in fact, be hard to believe his 180º turnaround had we not heard earlier from his little sister that he’s actually nice...he just fronts. Most of all, it is Ian that eventually gives Jack the key perspective on what is important with Stephanie, who starts out good and just gets better the deeper you dig. One just has to accept her issues. See Ruby Blue just for Josiane Balasko’s performance, if for no other reason, by the way. She is a powerhouse.



What is so fascinating in this film are the clues that Dunn sprinkles for us as viewers along the way. We start piecing together Jack’s past…what has he done that is so horrible that his own son kicks him to the curb the very day of his wife’s funeral…that he won’t let him see his own grandchildren…ah…he resists the temptation to go into the pub…and again he leaves a bottle of whisky untouched with great effort…and is quick to lose his temper….

We also play detective with Stephanie…did her daughter just say she was talking to her mother? The daughter just mentioned a secret that her mother tells people and they always leave afterwards. Jack comments to Stephanie about how strong her hands are….

We are not alone…most of the neighborhood has been playing dime store detective just like we have. They have been whispering in their loungewear, piecing together their own clues about Jack, and they have decided that they sum up to him being a dirty old pedophile, instead of being happy at being given a second chance by fate and his own goodwill at becoming a decent human being.

How ironic that due to the neighborhood whispering, Florrie’s mother leaves her with her friend’s neglectful mother, who in turn runs off to the pub leaving the two unsupervised to wander off and get into trouble.

Dunn does a beautiful job of utilizing juxtaposition in a scene where Ian’s mother is judgmentally griping about her erroneously drawn conclusions about Jack’s supposedly inappropriate behavior. She rants on and on while swearing in front of her 8-year old daughter and halfheartedly forbidding her to watch violent cartoons.

There is more than one prize in this film, more than one Ruby Blue. One just has to have Florrie’s perspective to see who it is.

Carolan

DC INDEPENDENT FILM FEST PART 1

DAY ON WHEELS
Director: Ari Selinger
USA 2007 Run time: 13 min



http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4608279972861780145

Plot synopsis, because everyone loves them…..Based on Cheryl A. Davis's short memoir about her life as a paraplegic, 'Day on Wheels' follows Chet Davies, a 30 something paraplegic who hates dealing with incompetent jerks who rudely confront him about his disability. During the course of two days, the audience sees how poorly Chet is treated and his struggle to cope with such situations. When a fellow paraplegic named Nick shows Chet that all he has to do is to tell people to 'piss off', Chet begins to use this new strategy. After several tests, the new and improved Chet becomes even more assertive and aggressive to the point where he gets himself in trouble by accidentally telling off a blind woman.


DIRECTOR: Ari Selinger
WRITER: Ari Selinger
CAST: David Harris, David Ressel, Harrison Davies, John Haggerty, Kate Kuen, Kyle Argenbrite, Marlise Garde
PRODUCER: Ari Selinger
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rogier van Beeck Calkoen


I thought of Day on Wheels as The Day Chet Became a Bitch on Wheels. Don’t we all have days like that?? At least -- don’t we all have days where we really, really want to just let it fly like he does? We get so tired of being judged by others based on a singular external quality. People take one look at us, make a quick decision, sum us up, and don’t bother to go any further. There is so much to feel in this film.

Chet calls the film we see his “true life sitcom.”

What bothers Chet most is how the average person analyzes him with a single glance that says “thank God I’m not him”.

“Thank God I’m not him….” There’s a man in a wheelchair living in my building and I don’t think I’ve ever had that thought about him. It’s because of the attitude he projects. I guarantee he’s a happier person than 70% of the people in our building. Many people know him. A lot of folks talk to him, I would imagine far more than talk to me. I see him hanging out in the cigar bar across the street, and down in our internet café. He puts it out there.

Ironically, what Chet does at the end of this film is exactly the same as what everyone else does to him, and nearly misses a vital connection as a result…a connection with someone who can truly understand him and empathize with him.

Isn’t a lot of what Selinger’s message is that you have to find your own healthy balance between taking everyone’s judgmental shit and absurdly, over sensitively telling everyone to fuck off and driving the good ones away? This is useful no matter who you are or where you live….

I’m more inclined to think “Thank God I’m not him” about litigation attorneys, actually….

Carolan

Monday, March 3, 2008

INTERNATIONAL FAMILY FILM FESTIVAL

I have been looking forward to this festival for a few months, and lo and behold..... The flu season has struck most of my LA based writers. LOL! Lara Berman was able to pull herself away from family and a graduate school exam to attend part of the festival for us. Thanks Lara!

2008 International Family Film Festival
Short Film Reviews by Lara Berman
03.03.08

Many of the short films at this year’s International Film Festival, although filled with heart, were regrettably forgettable.

Just Breathe
Directed By: Julie Rappaport & Joy Langer



Just Breathe, a series of short films that focused on a failing marriage, attempted to show that just because a marriage comes apart does not mean the family must cease to exist. This message was eloquently conveyed to the audience after the screening by Julie Rappaport, the film’s producer, co-writer and star who was in attendance. But, the message grew muddied in the execution. Unbelievable acting, a creepy ending and corny interjections of self-help made the film off-putting and kept the viewer at a distance.

Masterpeer Theatre
Directed By: Anny Slater



Over before it began was Masterpeer Theater, a 2-minute film answering the question of what would a dog’s version of “Masterpiece Theater” be like. Amusing graphic work made our master-mutt-of-ceremonies entertaining, but the quick delivery, thick English accent and unsynchronized lips left many jokes incoherent. Nevertheless, second and third viewings of this whimsical romp would undoubtedly reveal clever quips and nuances imperceptible to first-time watchers. Any dog lover will appreciate this pup-ular version of an American classic.

Generation XXL
Directed By: Teresa MacInnes



The stand-out piece of my evening at the festival was a Canadian documentary about overweight teenagers called, Generation XXL, directed and written by Teresa MacInnes. Unlike many films about obesity, there is no underlying agenda or implicit disapproval conveyed. Instead the viewer meets young men and women who are smart, sensitive, self-aware but challenged by food. They choose to attend a “fat-camp,” but when they arrive there are no drill-sergeant exercise instructors or food police monitoring the dining halls. Instead, the teens are taught “mindful eating;” they face hurtful comments people said to them in the past and are taught that they can choose whether to agree or disagree with those statements.

The cast of adolescents is exceptionally wise, articulate and honest. That vulnerability allowed intimate access to the characters and, matched with the film’s superb editing choices and poignant selections of scenes and sound bites, involved the viewer immediately. It’s no wonder that this film won the documentary category at this year’s film festival. Instead of basing all success on pounds lost, viewers cared about the participants and felt invested in their journey to address the true root of their food problems.

Dietitians and studies spout reasons why young people today face obesity issues, but audiences will gain compassion and understanding by listening to this thoughtful piece featuring the exceptional members of generation XXL.

Thank You Lara Berman. It is always a pleasure to have you on board!
Shane

TRUE/FALSE FILM FESTIVAL PART 2

HOLD ME TIGHT, LET ME GO
Directed By Kim Longinotto



As apt a title as you'll ever find, "Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go" is a fully absorbing, often traumatizing insight into Mulberry Bush, a (boarding) school in England for troubled kids. Attending the school with 108 teachers are 40 boys and girls between the ages 9 – 12, each of whom has experienced severe emotional trauma and has been unsuccessful in "typical" school settings.

During the film, we witness the teachers practicing more patience and enduring more suffering than most of us would likely be able to manage. The teachers are often kicked, hit, cursed at and spit upon as they try to reach the students in a way that no one else has been successful. It was quite obvious that these children had never previously been shown how to react to everyday difficulties and to make appropriate decisions.

This film, directed by Kim Longinotto, was incredibly compelling, though certainly not a feel-good movie. I found myself feeling frustrated with the students' parents for not having given their children the loving home environments that may have allowed the behavioral issues to be avoided altogether.

The teachers in Mulberry Bush are trained to gently restrain the students when they are becoming violent toward themselves and others. While it is difficult to watch the children being held down by the teachers, it was a profound symbol of the love these children have most likely never experienced. I wondered, "Have these children ever been held out of love and concern before?"

In one scene we see Alex, one of the children with terrible anger issues, saying goodbye to his mother and sister. Throughout an entire year, Alex only gets to see them five times. Alex is clearly distraught at having to let them go, and his 2 year-old sister runs back to him to give him one last hug. His sister's concern and affection so far outshone his mother's that I can only wonder what will become of his sister in the future.

"Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go" is a film that clearly portrays what happens to children who witness horrific events and experience abuse and neglect. At times it was funny and poignant, at other times heart-wrenching. Sadly, at the end of the film, I wasn't left with a sense of hope for the children in the school, the society in which we live, or in humanity as a whole.

Stranded: I've Come From a Plane That Crashed in the Mountains
Directed By Gonzalo Arijon



In "Stranded: I've Come From a Plane That Crashed in the Mountains", directed by Gonzalo Arizon, the audience is transported to a different time and horrific place following the plane crash of the Uruguayan rugby team in 1972. On their way to a weekend trip in Chile, the passengers and crew of Flight 571 found themselves crashed in the frigid Andes Mountains. The weekend was to be a fun-filled vacation for a group of young men, a coming of age of sorts, but turned into a nightmare that lasted over two months.

The days that followed were a hell beyond anything most humans could comprehend. The survivors of the crash had to witness the dead bodies of friends and family and of those who were dying. Over the radio they heard the news that the search and rescue had been called off due to terribly inclement weather.



Upon receiving this news, the men were forced to attempt to save their own lives, not knowing if they would ever be found. They struggled to survive in the massive and freezing Andes mountains, and were forced to do things that many would consider inhuman, such as eating the flesh of the dead. They considered the spirituality behind this cannibalism, referring to Christ as having given his body and blood to save the rest of humanity.

The cinematography of this movie was spectacular, and the story couldn't have been told more clearly. I had had a preconceived notion that the cannibalism aspect of the film would be too disturbing and too chilling to watch. However, all I could think was how absolutely necessary the cannibalism was in order for the rest of the men to survive. The subject was handled so gracefully that I perceived this act as a truly beautiful one in which the dead were able to give the gift of life to the survivors. What struck me most about the film was the amazing strength of the human spirit.

Meredith Julian

TRUE/FALSE FILM FEST PART 1

True/False Film Festival
By Meredith Julian

We would like to welcome Ms. Meredith Julian to our list of festival bloggers. Ms. Julian is a highly accomplished actress and we are excited to have her as a part of the team!
Shane

MAN ON WIRE
Directed By: James Marsh



There's no doubt that "Man on Wire" was the most compelling of the documentaries I had the pleasure of seeing at the True/False Film Festival. The story behind Phillipe Petit's tightrope walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center was at times frightening and fantastical and at others inspiring and even quite funny.
Petit's lifelong motivators have been entertaining, living on the edge, defying the rules. He did all three when he succeeded at his 45-minute walk between the two tours without a safety net. He walked back and forth between the buildings eight times, and even lay down and kneeled in the middle of the rope for a more dramatic effect.

The execution of this stunt required a team of accomplices. One wonders from where these characters came but their account of this event, and of Petit as a human being, added a great deal to the storytelling in "Man on Wire". I was saddened to discover at the end of the movie that Petit and his "team" are no longer in contact with one another. In a question and answer session following the film the director, James Marsh, explained that after this huge feat and with his first taste of real fame, Petit cut off relations with his friends and cohorts.

Though fame seems to have played a part in harming the relationships and friendships behind the act, Petit himself proclaimed it wasn't an option not to attempt this feat. He knew he was teetering between life and death, as a mere puff of wind could have led him to his inevitable death. Petit explains that he would rather die in the middle of the pursuit of his passion than to not pursue it at all. One can see the slightly crazed joy that this man finds in his passion, and it is truly inspirational, if a bit uncomfortable, to watch.

Monday, February 11, 2008

PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL PART 1

Portland International Film Festival

Portland is a bohemian town that loves its art, music and festival's! It always seems that there is one going on all the time, but the Film Festival, now that is something that people actually take their vacations to be a part of.I have had a fantastic time seeing the excitement of all the movie goers, it's like we are all part of the same family! We buzz from coffee and chat with each other while we wait in line. People dart their heads back and forth, hoping to see an actor or director. And can I tell you... opinions??!! Oh my God it's like the sun rises and sets around this Festival.My only wish? I could see every film...


The White Silk Dress
Director: Luu Huyna

This beautiful film hails from Vietnam. The stunning features, grace and poise of its people fill the screen a melancholy longing that left me speechless. This film actually broke my heart.

The subject shows the painful path of a mother who desperately wants to provide for her daughter, actually, all her children... no matter what the cost. Something as simple as a "White Silk Dress" becomes paramount, something she would sell her soul for and in a sense... did.

Then, a marriage and all will be well right? That opens another can of worms... I'll stop here, as not to give the ending away. This is a must see and believe me, you will be moved!

The Portland Int. Film Festival website has this to say…

Winner of the Audience Award at the Pusan International Film Festival and this year's Vietnamese submission for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, The White Silk Dress is a sweeping drama that portrays how one poor and oppressed family manages to maintain its pride and dignity and overcome adversities. The setting is the picturesque town of Ha Dong in central Vietnam, immediately prior to the collapse of French colonial rule in the 1950s. Dau and Gu, who have slaved for a landlord all their lives, are finally able start a family. However, the unrelenting cycle of war and poverty results in numerous tragedies. Even after losing everything, they still maintain their faith in the Ao Dai, a symbol of the lofty and pure willpower of Vietnamese women.


Kings
Director: Tom Collins

This film comes from Ireland. It's lush green countryside adds a stunning contrast to the poor life these boys lead.

They leave Ireland to seek their fortunes in London, convinced they will return home men of the world! They will be rich and successful and the old neighborhood will love them!

Many years later, the story does not change, only the town... and the worst part for all, their "leader" doesn’t make it back alive. As they all sit in their hometown Pub during the wake and reminisce of their lives, it is a sad account. But at the same time, they remain hopeful in the company of friends.

The Portland Int. Film Festival website has this to say…
A universal tale of disenfranchisement and the search for identity, Kings tells the story of six ambitious young Irishmen who leave the west of Ireland in the early 1970s to seek their fortune. Thirty years later only one, Jacki Flavin, makes it home—but does so in a coffin. Jackie's five friends reunite at his wake, where they are forced to face up to the reality of their alienation as long-term emigrants who no longer have any real place to call home. This year's Irish submission for the Best Foreign Film Oscar and the first Irish-language film ever entered.

Di Agee