Saturday, September 24, 2016

Second Dallas

Massimo Mazzucco's film on the Robert Kennedy Assassination is a retelling of the events surrounding the controversial event. Was the killing the work of a lone gunman or were there more people involved?

Mazzucco's film is a breezy 54 minutes (the 75 minute run time on the DVD case is because the DVD includes a selection of RFK speeches). The film hits all of the major points that have gotten under people's skin over the last 47 years, from there being too many bullet holes, angles that make no sense, people overheard claiming responsibility and the destruction of evidence BEFORE the trial, this is a film that will make you wonder what exactly happened in that kitchen pantry all those years ago.

While Mazzucco has made a great primer on the conspiracy he has done so by reusing tons and tone of old footage. Being a conspiracy nut for years I've seen most of this footage before. Some of it is so familiar that it was used in several other documentaries. That doesn't make the film a bad one however it makes it less interesting to anyone who has been delving into the RFK murder. On the other hand if you don't know anything about what happened or may have happened this is a good place to start- or reaquint yourself with the details.

Friday, September 23, 2016

In Brief: Dark House (2014)


Nick DiSanto always believed his dad was dead, but his mother finally tells him that he's not. When she's killed Nick is given a file that gives him clues to where he might be and to the location of a big mansion that has haunted his dreams.

Well done horror film travels down well worn paths but manages to give us enough twists and some characters we can care about so that the film ends up being a solid little horror film. I suspected how chunks of it were going to play out but I didn't care because what I was seeing was entertaining.

Definitely worth a look.



The Undertaking (2016) BAM Next Wave Fest 2016

The Civilians meta look at death has a fictional Steve Cosson interviewing his friend Lydia about death for a play about death where we will hear the actual words of the people he interviewed. Its an examination of the things that happen as we die, after and why we are so afraid of it.

Largely intriguing play mixes actual interviews with projections and sections of Jean Cocteaus's film ORPHEUS in order to chart Steve's exploration of death. Its a show that frequently has great power when recounting the words of those who have confronted  death in one way or another.

The problem with the show is that some where just past the half way point the script which is largely designed as a conversation between two people with illustrative interjections, becomes a spirit quest as Steve makes a journey to the land of the dead in order to confront his fears. It works up to a point but begins to unravel as they build a pillow fort and what felt real (I'm guessing due to much of it being transcriptions of real conversations)  suddenly feels contrived as the dialog structure disappears into navel gazing. The show recovers in the end but not enough to stir the emotions.

I talked with Unseen Films contributor Hubert Vigilla about the show for almost an hour afterward and in the end I came away feeling that the show is one more draft away from being where it should be. There is so much there that works that if something could be done with the vision quest they could have a truly great piece.

That said- I recommend the show because it gets your brain going.

THE UNDERTAKING plays through Sunday though only standby tickets are available.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Soul Mate (2016)

Anseng's life is upset when a a journalist asks her questions about an online serial- "isn't she the Anseng of the popular story? Wasn't July, the author, he best friend growing up?" The journalist has talked to people in her old home town and everyone seems to think so.  Anseng says "no", she's not the girl, and she doesn't know July. Soon after Anseng meets Sui Jia-ming, a man who knew both girls on the subway. "How is July" he asks? I don't know she replies we drifted apart three years earlier...

Thus begins SOUL MATE the story of Anseng and her friend July. From there Anseng begins to read the story and suddenly everything that happened between the girls/women comes rushing back. Its a great little film that will almost assuredly have you wiping tears from your eyes somewhere along the way.

Opening in the US a week after it opens in China, SOUL MATE is a super little drama.  While not exactly the sort of film that is high on my must see list, I hate weepie films, I found that as I watched the film I quickly fell under it's spell. This is beautifully acted, perfectly made film that hooks you and pulls you in. I found I actually wanted to know what was going to happen to the characters.

Normally my dislike of these time fragmented romance/dramas is low because more often then not they hinge on a big revelation in the third act. While that is the case here, the promotional material tells you as much, it's not quite what you expect and by the time it happens you won't care because you care about the characters on their own terms.

Recommended, especially for those who are interested in sudsy romance/friendship films ala BEACHES.

SOUL MATE opens in NYC at the AMC Empire 25 on September 23rd. It will also be opening in 20 other cities. For a list of cities and more information on the film go the the film's website.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Dressmaker (2015) is a lot of fun

Jocelyn Moorhouse's THE DRESSMAKER is a great deal of fun. You have to get on it's twisted vibe, but if you do its a funny romance, revenge film with a very dark side. It's Sunny Came Home meets HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER in fabulous clothes.

Kate Winslet plays Myrtle 'Tilly' Dunnage who returns to her jerkwater town after 25 years away. She's the title character who is returning home to try and piece together why she was sent away, could she have murdered someone? The ton thinks she did, and they don't ant here there until her dressmaking abilities begin to change their minds...of course the sins of the past are lurking and things are not going to be rosy.

Gloriously off kilter with crazy characters, Tilly's mom (Judy Davis) is believed to be mad and a raging drunk, the local cop (Hugo Weaving) is a closet cross dresser, the school teacher is a sadist, the druggist is cruel hunchback and so on. You know early on that all is not well with the good people as we see or have inferred rape, spousal abuse and just human cruelty. They also love to wear Tilly's clothes all day every day.

The film walks that fine line between should I be laughing or not and it takes awhile before you realize it's okay. Even when things turn bleak towards the end there are still some laughs to be had. I'm not sure the audience I saw this with got the joke since many were deadly quiet while a few of us laughed happily.

The film itself is bittersweet with a dark turn in the final third, which I know bothered some friends who had seen earlier screenings. I don't think being warned helped me as much as being tuned into the cruelties happening under the surface. Even some of the gags hid a nastiness underneath.

I absolutely loved the film to pieces- way more than I ever expected.

The film hits theaters Friday and I expect it to hit Amazon Streaming soon after since they are part producer of the film.


1000 Rupee Note (Ek Hazarachi Note) opens Friday

This is a version of a review that ran when the film played the South Asian International Film Festival

An older woman whose son committed suicide due to mounting debt is given a some 1000 rupee notes by a politician. The note then brings a its own troubles to the woman and a neighbor who is a kind of adopted son.

Echoing, in a way, Steinbeck's The Pearl, 1000 RUPEE NOTE is about the trouble we have with getting the thing that will change our fortune.Wealth brings its own troubles. When we have something that other people think they should have these other people often will try to work out why that is, and then work out how to get it for themselves. Its seems inconceivable that this woman would have such a large note...and as for the explanation-out right corruption and vote buying- which is of course an open secret-but one no one should talk about.

I hate to call the film charming, but in its way it is. This is ultimately good time with good people despite the fact that the people in the film are in ultimately dire circumstances. Life isn't great to begin with but there is humor. And even when things turn darker there is a sense that life isn't that dark.

I really like this film a great deal.

Recommended

The film opens in select theaters Friday

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Desert Cathedral (2014)


DESERT CATHEDRAL | OFFICIAL TRAILER from Travis Gutiérrez Senger on Vimeo.

Haunting as all hell DESERT CATHEDRAL is the sort of film that make you wonder why the hell this film hasn't made it to theaters sooner. This is one of those times where an excellent little film has been kept off the radar for no good reason. Thankfully Random Media and The Orchard are releasing the film on Sept. 27th, as well as holding special events before that in LA Seattle and New York.

Set in 1992 and based on a true story and using some of the actual video footage, the film tells the story of real estate developer Peter Collins who disappeared from his life, leaving behind a stack of VHS tapes that form a kind of video diary. His wife suspects that something is wrong and hires a PI to track her husband down.

Beautifully shot, with a haunting score and a truly perfect use of voice over, DESERT CATHEDRAL gets under your skin from the opening moments. By no means a thriller or horror film this is simply a story of a man lost in his own head who wandered off  kind of unaware of  what he was leaving behind. We know early on this is not going to end happily, but we are still compelled to ride it out to the end as we see Peter on his quest, his life before and the search by the people who loved him. Its a beautifully modulated tale that leaves you kind of broken at the end.

I would love to single something out to pick on or praise,but there is nothing to single out. This is quite simply a great film from top to bottom. The cast is perfect, the score heartbreaking, the images are worthy to be hung on a museum wall. Everything comes together to form one of the most haunting films I've seen in 2016. If had to pick one thing that really surprised me it would be how the actual video tapes blend into the film. Yes its clear that the voice of Collins changes, but it doesn't really matter  because how its handled it  just blends perfectly.

An absolute must see film.

Truly this is one of the films that Unseen was set up to highlight and help find an audience. See this film on the 27th when the film is released to everyone. Trust me you will thank me.

Jazz Loft According to W Eugene Smith opens Friday at Metrograph

The excellent  documentary THE JAZZ LOFT opens friday at New York Metrograph. I saw te film last year at DOC NYC and it knocked my socks off.  Here is my review from last year

Portrait of W.Eugene Smith a photographer for Life Magazine who recorded both on film and audio tape all of the goings on in the loft and building he called home on 6th Avenue where the greats of Jazz came to jam and rehearse.

Not so much a portrait of the music but of the man, JAZZ LOFT is a glowing portrait of a man who was not only one of the best photographers of his time but a man who loved music. As his son says about his dad music was playing in his house pretty much 24 hours a day.

The film is filled with lots of talking heads, thousands of photographs and seemingly endless audio recordings of the music and conversations that were happening in the building on 6th. There is so much here that I want to see the film again just to catch everything I missed. I also want access to all of the surviving recordings just to see what sort of goodies are contained on them. There must be days worth of killer jazz recordings. This is one of those rare films that actually transports you back to a particular place and time because it has actually has recordings of that place and time.

I really don't know what to say other than this is a treasures and a must see (again and again)

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Milwaukee Film Festival opens Thursday


The Milwaukee Film Festival starts this week and if you can get there go.

A couple weeks back I got an email with information on the festival and I was so impressed I ran a piece on the festival. The selection of titles so impressed me that despite being tied up with the New York Film Festival press screenings, I decided to put in for credentials.

Those of you who know me, know that last statement says a HUGE amount since I almost never leave the New York metro area so my saying that I would actually consider getting on a plane and travel to a festival says a great deal.

As I waited for my credentials I sat down and started to make a list of the films that we had covered at Unseen and I suddenly was shocked because unlike most other film festivals where we’ve seen a handful of films, with Milwaukee we covered 41 films previously. That’s a large chunk of the festival. What is more amazing is that with very few exceptions the films are really good. It’s as if the programmers went to every major festival from the last year and cherry picked the best films. Seriously some of the best films from Tribeca, New York International Children’s Film Festival, DOC NYC, New Directors New Films as well as several other festivals are here. Trust me Unseen Films has covered in one form or another over 50 film festivals in the last year so I’ve seen a lot of slates and many of the absolute best films from all the other festivals are playing in Milwaukee.

The pull quote for the festival would be “if you can only go to one film festival a year and want to see the best films that have played at all the others go to Milwaukee”.

It’s a statement I stand behind- if you want to see the best stuff go. I mean after 50 other festivals we have an idea what the best films are. Looking at that many festivals for several years now you get a sense if something is well programmed or not. This is a festival that is extremely well programmed and the programmers should be carried around the city as heroes. (no really they should- it is that good)

Unfortunately for me having seen so many of the films already it makes covering the festival difficult. The way the schedule shakes out I would have too much dead space in the short time I would be in the city. It wouldn’t be fair to people who could use the tickets so I emailed the extremely nice press people and told them to keep the tickets and that if they could help me get some screeners I would try to cover some of the festival remotely- which is what they did so closer to their screenings I’ll have some reviews.

If you're free and can get to Milwaukee it would behoove you to get to the festival any time between Thursday and when it ends October 6...

And if you’re looking for something good to see at the festival and aren’t sure where to start below are the links to all of the films we’ve covered previously. I’m sorry that it’s so long but we’ve been busy beavers. On the other hand there are some absolute winners here including some of the best films I’ve seen this year so it’s worth hunting through to find some film that’s going to be your new favorite.

Here's reviews of the films we've seen:

ALMOST SUNRISE
AWOL
BURDEN OF PEACE
BY THE NAME OF BOSTON
CHECK IT
EMBERS
FASTBALL
FIVE NIGHTS IN MAINE
FROM MASS TO MOUNTAIN
HOOLIGAN SPARROW
IN PURSUIT OF SILENCE
KAILI BLUES
KEEPERS OF THE GAME
LAMB
LAST LAUGH
LEGEND OF SWEE PEA
LIFE ANIMATED
LIZA THE FOX FAIRY
MISS SHARON JONES
MOTLEY"S LAW
MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART
MY FATHER WAS A CHERRY TREE
NATIONAL BIRD
NEITHER HEAVEN NOR EARTH
NUTS
OBIT
OCTOPUS
OVARIAN PSYCHOS
PEGGY GUGGENHIEM ART ADDICT
PERFECT HOUSE GUEST- this is a charming is a film about a very clean mouse.
PHANTOM BOY
RIGHT NOW WRONG THEN
SPEED SISTERS
STOP MAKING SENSE
TALE OF TALES
TEENY WEENY FOX
UNDER THE SHADOW
UNTOUCHABLE
VIVA
WOMEN HE'S UNDRESSED

The Milwaukee Film Festival runs September 22 to October 6. For more information and tickets go here

My Blind Brother opens Friday

When I saw My Blind Brother at Tribeca earlier this year I thought it would have been one of the best films of the year except that Robbie, the blind brother played by AdamScott is such an incredible dick that I didn’t want to write it up. Robbie was such a turd that I wrote a paragraph and went on to the next thing.

Now the film is coming out and I kind of have to say something

My Blind Brother is for the most part a winning, charming, romantic comedy. It’s actually one of the best you’ll see all year. The problem is that one part of the romantic triangle at its center is the sort of person you’d lead to an open elevator shaft and let them fall to their death and never have an ounce of remorse about it.

Robbie is a champion swimmer despite being blind. His brother Bill is his aide and because of his help Robbie can do the wonderful things he does. Bill lives in his brother’s shadow. Robbie is thought to be great and wonderful but is really a boorish prick running rough shod over everyone especially his brother. When Rose appears Bill thinks he finally has found someone to love however, his brother gets involved and a romantic triangle forms.

As I said the problem is Adam Scott is much too good playing a terrible individual. Yes we have a person we can root against but he’s so terrible you don’t want to have anything to do with him. I wanted to slowly drop him into a chipper shredder and stop periodically and squirt lemon juice in his wounds. He’s one of the great screen villains.

My dislike was so strong that I got up and walked out of the theater the first time I saw the film- I simply wanted nothing to do with him.

Seeing the second time I found that my hatred for Robbie softened slightly but I still really hated him. In fairness Adam Scott gives one of those performances that Oscar should recognize but won’t partly because he is so terrible and second this is a light weight comedy…

…and there is nothing wrong with it being a light weight comedy- I mean it’s entertaining-more so than most of the big films that Hollywood has turned out. It’s a warm and fuzzy rom com that feels right. It’s the sort of twisted situation I could see happening in a less intense chain of events.

Dspite my dislike to for the blind guy, I highly recommend this film. This is one you’re going to be watching evey time it hits TV

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Nightcap 9/18/16 Thank you Harlem FF and the small festivals for proving film is alive, Film Comment, INTO THE INFERNO at Toronto, and Randi's links

Captain America out side the Barclays Center in Brooklyn


I want to give a huge thank you to the Harlem International Film festival for reminding me the most interesting films are not at the big name festivals but the smaller ones like Harlem, Portland, Milwaukee or Oxford.

I would take deference to the current Film Comment which ponders the health of cinema and says that certain great filmmakers are going to save it- no the small festivals will. It is at these smaller fests that you will find the entire garden of the glories of film and not the currently in vogue bloom. With several big fests effectively killing my desire to ever see a film again I’m delighted when I’m invited to cover some festival I never considered only to find I’ve walked into a some secret garden of extra-earthly delights.

One film by one filmmaker isn't going to save anything- seeing many films by many filmmakers is. Knowing that so many talented people are out there is what is going to keep audiences coming back. Additionally having so many talented people out there gives us a wide variety of voices to listen to instead of the same old same old artsy voices that that Film Comment tends to choose.

Film is alive and vital just ask the Harlem International Film Festival which had films of all types from all over the world- not just ones culled from the major serious and important film festivals. Films like A NEW COLOR, WEST COAST H.O.M.E., THIRSTY FOR KIBERA or RAIN THE COLOR BLUE WITH A LITTLE RED IN IT truly show how film is alive and being used by people all over the world to do and engage people in a way most cineastes would never consider.

Film is a live and well and living at the smaller festivals like Harlem, the writers at Film Comment need to get of their ivory towers more and see it.

Support the smaller festivals by attending and you will be delighted.
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As for the new set up of Film Comment- its nice but it is really just a version of the old magazine with different writers, a few features dropped and basically a new look that allowed a new graphic designer to get paid.
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Just a quick note to say that the new Werner Herzog film INTO THE INFERNO, which played Toronto, is a hypnotic film. For the most I think its part one of Herzog’s best films. Aside from an out of place side trip to pick up bone fragments it is a wonderful mediation on volcanos and their effect on the people live near or climb them. Side trip aside one of my favorite films of 2016.

A full review will run October 21 (I’m embargoed by Netflix until then) and it will run on Netflix October 28
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I know you’re wondering why I’m covering so many new films and festival films when I said in no uncertain terms I was going to let Unseen run until December on its own- well- while I have not been covering new films the chance to do the festivals appeared so I jumped at a few titles and well one thing lead to another and I’ve ended up giving you a ton more extra titles.

While it may not look like it to you I have cut back to the point I don’t know what December or after is going to look like

My advice is just sit back and enjoy
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Apologies to the Harlem Film Fest and to you readers concerning the scattershot way the coverage of the festival went up. It was the result of things happening and my just main lining films.

I had no plans on really covering as much as I did but I was given the chance to see a large number of the films and so I did because one good film made me want to see the next. I saw them randomly and I put the reviews up more or less the same way

I actually saw two other films THE SISTER  a film from the Philippines about trying to retrieve the body of a sister who died in Saudi Arabia, but it instantly struck me as the sort of film I dislike so I gave up on it because I would not give it a fair shake.

I also saw some of the documentary I GO BACK HOME about Jimmy Scott. I liked what I saw but stopped watching it because I was in exactly the wrong place mentally to appreciate it and so I stopped watching it figuring to go back. I never did and simply ran out of time. (NYFF press screening start tomorrow)
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As festival season heats up a few notes

I just discovered that The Hampton Film Festival over laps the NYFF and NY Comic Con making it a dead certainty that short of a miracle I physically can’t go because I have films that weekend. For those playing the home game I’ve missed everyone except the first The festival runs October 6 to the 10th

DOC NYC announced its opening film CITIZEN JANE: BATTLE FOR THE CITY about Jane Jacobs clash with Robert Moses over the shape of New York. DOC NYC runs November 10-17
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And now Randi's links

The PRISONER in Pictures
For the serious Bat-Fan
Nighthawk replacing Park Slope Brooklyn's hellish Pavilion Theater
Winners and Losers in Movie Marketing
007 by Erich0823 on DeviantArt
Best James Bond Fan Art
Those wonderful moments when Star Trek Lost its mind
The heroism of a Scottish missionary is rediscovered
An F1 champion who lost his legs wins a gold in Rio
More Captain America pictures
The Use of music in the Marvel Films

Harlem Film Festival Capsule Reviews: JONAS AND THE BACK YARD CIRCUS, HEAR THE SILENCE and SWEET DILLARD

JONAS AND THE BACKYARD CIRCUS
Documentary about 12 year old Jonas who loves circuses and struggles to keep the circus he runs in his back yard with his friends going.

Charming, at times heart breaking and frequently unexpected, Jonas is a lovely little film that is like it's subject something that goes it's own way. This was a film that had me expecting one thing and then went in another direction. Its a lovey portrait of a boy who doesn't want to grow up and who wants to stay at the circus he's created for himself.

Recommended.

HEAR THE SILENCE (aka HORE DE STILLE)
Unit of German soldiers behind enemy lies in the Ukraine take over a town, who at first see them as liberators from the Soviets. However tensions rise and soon the two sides are at war, egged on my one of the villagers who fears what will happen if the Soviets return and they don't resist.

Solid small scale war film is gripping to a real sense of place and of life. There is something more here beyond than the typical black and white images or big Hollywood productions and it gives a real sense of life and death.

As small inde war films go this is one of the best I've seen recently to the extent that I'm actually taking the time to write the film up.

Recommended.


SWEET DILLARD
Excellent portrait of Christopher Dorsey  the head of the jazz band at the  Dillard Center for the Arts in Broward County. Doresy has shaped the band into something that helps the musicians in the band achieve a level of perfection that makes them able to play with the best in the world as well as come together to be young people able to go out into the world and make a difference.

What can I say the film is full of great music and great characters. A wonderful film that is one of the best films at the Harlem International Film Festival.

A must see

Harlem Film Festival Capsules: DOGTOWN REDEMPTION,GOOD FUNK and FROM MASS TO MOUNTAIN


DOGTOWN REDEMPTION concerns three homeless people who earn money by bring in scrap, recyclables and garbage to the title business in Oakland California. Heartbreaking tale that is one of the best portraits of being homeless I've seen. There is a raw intensity to the film that knocks one's socks off and forces you to sit up and take notice much more than any other film I've seen.


GOOD FUNK- Very good little film about the intersecting lives of several people in Red Hook Brooklyn. I'm trying to sus-out what the interview segments are during the end credits other than filler to bring it up to feature length, Otherwise this is a touching little film


FROM MASS TO THE MOUNTAIN
Portrait of Father Wally, aka Padre Pablo, an American priest in Panama who is helping the locals redo their water supply system which has been compromised because of climate change, neglect, corruption. This is a good little documentary o a problem that we really don't think about.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

In brief: A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone (2015) Harlem International Film Festival

The Harlem Film Festival is closing with what may be it's best film- A NEW COLOR is a glorious biography of the lovely Edythe Boone an artist and community activist who did some amazing things and created some magical art. As Ms Boone works with some kids to create a mural we learn about her life and her art.

What can I say- a damn near perfect documentary works on so many levels- bio of an activist, bio of an artist, a look at the passage of culture to the next generation, a history of the civil right movement and the suffering of African Americans. Most importantly it a lovely portrait of a woman who refuses to break down and who struggles on and insists on making a difference.

I love this film. At a time when the world can make you feel hopeless Edythe Boone makes me feel hopeful. The world could use a great many more Ms Boones.

As high a recommendation as I can give. An absolute must see at the Harlem International Film Festival or wherever it plays.

For more information and tickets go here.

Monumental -BAM Next Wave 2016



What do you get when dance troupe The Holy Body Tattoo dances to live music from Godspeed You! Black Emperor?

You get something monumental or at least called MONUMENTAL.

Actually when it all comes together it is one of the most hypnotic things you'll see all year.

The promotional material says something about the piece being about the daily grind of existence, yes, on some level it is. I don't think that's completely the case since any sort of thread disappears for extended periods of time to motion, music and occasionally some form of projection- either text or motion picture.

I think the reason that the daily grind thing is latched on to is because the text seems to tie together as a commentary of events that occur during one's life. Is that really what the piece is about? I'm not sure because in this case the pieces don't equal the whole- the whole is something frequently and ultimately transcendent.

Nominally dancers dance on the stands that can be seen in the pictures. They are all separate. Eventually they end up off the stands and moving enmass around the stage. Meanwhile behind them, partitioned off by a scrim on which the text and film is projected the musicians play. The music is an amalgam of previous material from God Speed! re-purposed as dance tunes.

The effect is quite striking as the various pieces come together to work on the audience in a deeply visceral manner. We don't see it we feel it. We don't register it intellectually as much experience it as sensory overload as if dropped in to a tank where every nerve and every sense is forced to fire at full throttle.  The result is giddiness, a heightened sense of awareness and exhaustion- I wanted to curl up and go to bed when it as done- hell I was dreaming when I was awake wasn't I?

Sadly the piece is only getting two shows at BAM with last one tonight.

What can I say that was one of the coolest things I've seen all year and more proof that the BAM Next Wave this year is something special (as if THE LONER, BRIDGE OVER MUD and PHEADRA(S) Wasn't already)


Harlem Film Festival Capsule Reviews: TWO WORLDS and WEST COAST

TWO WORLDS
Award winning documentary about Laura, a 12 year old girl with deaf parents. Mixing home video footage with recently shot film of the families day to day life TWO WORLDS paints a portrait of  how people with a handicap and their families deal with the world.

Unsensational, matter of fact and deeply affecting TWO WORLDS makes it clear that life is rather ordinary no matter who you are. While Laura most definitely has to help her parents by acting as their ears and voice, she is ultimately just a regular young girl interested in music, boys and her friends.

This is a lovely film and a must see at the Harlem International Film Festival.


WEST COAST
Four white kids in Brittany in France identify with West Coast rappers and have formed their own posse When the leader of their group is dised right after he finds out that he is going to have to move away the group plots to get revenge as their last act together.

Good, but more interesting for the attempt rather then the actual execution film is like an old school coming of age film but with sweet white kids who think they are gangstas.  Its an odd mix of a film like KENNY AND COMPANY, STAND BY ME or to some extent GOONIES but with rap music and lots of four letter words. The sweetness is kicked in the balls by the profanity and it doesn't quite work as well as it should. I think the problem is that we never really buy the boys as gangsta wannabes.

Its not a bad movie, if you forgive its flaws its actually quite good, the problem it never quite comes together it's neither sweet enough nor gritty enough to amount to the great film it almost is.

Worth a look for the curious.

A non-review of THE REMNANT (2016) Harlem International FIlm Festival

Karmia Olutade's THE REMNANT is impossible for me to review. Watching it I was instantly struck that this musical is either going to be your favorite thing in the world or it's going to be a tough slog to the end. You either will fall in love with it's music and it's visual style that reminds one of Norman Jewison's JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR set in a barren dystopia or you'll get up and walk out of the theater.

The plot has bunch of orphaned kids living in an orphanage that is really a second hand water factory. They run off  to try and find the home that they always dreamed of.

Part Biblical allegory, part dystopian scifi tale, part off Broadway musical the film very much insists on being it's own thing. You have to give the film points for going it's own way, of casting all Asian actors, and simply existing.

The problem is that if you don't love the music, there are 18 songs, and the dance, there are 18 songs, then you're going to find this impossible to get through. I didn't care for either and had a tough time caring about anything.  For me the songs all sounded too similar, with the same deadly serious emotion behind them, while the dance was the sort of thing I point out as the reason I hate going to see modern dance recitals. The film also takes a sledge hammer approach to it's story and point. (remember I said the film is biblical in construction.)

I like it for what it's trying to do but I really dislike it for what it is...two hours I won't get back.

Friday, September 16, 2016

In Brief: Rigoberta Menchú Tum – Daughter of the Maya (2016) Harlem International film Festival

Portrait of Rigoberta Menchú Tum who won the Nobel Peace Price in 1992 for fighting for the rights of the indigenous people in Guatemala and South America.

This film was made as part of PeaceJam's Nobel Legacy Film Series the film is an okay look at a person most people have never heard of.  While informative the film plays more like the sort of film that you see in schools about famous people. Its full of talking points and information but it isn't the most compelling of films.

While the film is okay on it's own terms it's kind of puzzling as to what it is doing in a festival such as HIFF.  While the festival certainly is programming something for everyone, this is a film I can't really see as being drawing a either a big crowd or the crowd being thrilled by the film when it was finished. I would rather  have seen this film on PBS

One of the lesser films at this years Harlem Film Fest

Good Grief (2016) Harlem International Film Festival



With a score reminiscent of the Vince Guaraldi Peanuts  GOOD GRIEF is the story of a bunch of friends who return for the funeral of one of their number and are forced to consider the choices that they have made in their lives which had been turned into a successful comic strip.

Expanding his short Brandon Ford Green writes, directs and stars as part of a killer ensemble that muscles through the typical "whatever somethings come together to sort out their lives" plot. Yes you been here before. If you're a lover of inde film then no doubt you're like me and you've seen 14 variations of the plot this year alone. I know the friends come together in the description scared me to death to the point that I really didn't want to see the film...

...I'm happy to report that GOOD GRIEF surprised the hell out of me and is actually very good.

While there is no doubt that Green is a director to watch, his construction of the plot and his arrangement of scenes and shots make it something other than most other inde films, meaning it's actually not run of the mill, the film's main selling point is the cast. The ensemble is pretty much close to perfect and they lift even the least written character and makes them some one you care about. I would love to wax poetic about them individually but they are all great and are another case for why the Oscars should have an ensemble award.

Honestly, as much as I hate these sort of films, GOOD GRIEF is actually a film that I would watch again (by my own choice) and not just something I would recommend. That should be taken as very high praise for the film and a major dismissal of most other films with a similar plot line. (My only complaint is the inclusion of the comic thread since everything else is so good it didn't need to be there, especially since it forces thoughts that these are all grown up Peanuts. Its a comparison we shouldn't be making)

A really nice surprise at the Harlem International Film Festival- GOOD GRIEF is recommended when it plays tomorrow at the Festival or where ever you catch it after that because this is a film that is going to have a long life.

For tickets and more information go here.

In Brief: Redemption Song (2015) Harlem International Film Festival 2016

Portrait of refugee Cissoko, who left his home and ventured to Italy in the hope of finding a better life. However the struggle to become an immigrant was much more difficult and very different than he had been lead to believe. Frustrated, he decided to document the struggle so that he could show the people back home what it's really like. His quest to educate changed into a plea to end the violence in Africa that is driving everyone away- if everyone would put down the guns Africa could be a better place.

I was kind of blindsided by this film when what I thought was going to be a simple tale of the difficulties of emigration turned instead into a thoughtful and thought provoking tale with all all sorts of larger issues.

This is one of those films that really requires a a second viewing so that you can full appreciate what it's telling us.  To be honest I seriously considered not reviewing the film until I could take a second look at it but the film is much too important  for me not to tell you that you really need to make an effort to see this film.

Recommended.