A rapper named Sloppy moved with his friends to rural Colorado to grow weed and live in a utopian community. We missed the True/False premiere of this, so caught its online 4/20 screening. Katy thought it did not engender empathy… I thought there wasn’t much of interest going on, and the guys aren’t actors so you can hear in their voices the moment true turns into false. Sloppy hasn’t posted a new song in a year, and I forget the other guys’ handles, but maybe that Crestone bologna life hasn’t been good for productivity.

Along with Talking About Trees, we’re catching up with movies we meant to watch at this year’s True/False. We had tickets to see this (plus two shorts) at 10:15pm on Saturday after four other screenings, but ran out of energy. It’s a mid-length movie combining three different kinds of things:

1. Modern news footage of police violence mixed with classic Black Panther film mixed with colorful HD shots of the director herself, posing and walking through the titular garden. This is sometimes set to music by Nelson Bandela (Random Acts of Flyness), and is overlaid with thin strips or entire areas of Mothlight flicker.

2. Concert film of Nina Simone in 1976, playing a rambling but wonderful song called “Feelings.” Incidentally, it seems like her entire persona was copped by Cat Power.

3. Street interviews, the director stopping women in Harlem to ask if they feel safe. The rest of the movie worked beautifully for me – I’d watch those sections all day long – but the interviews weren’t as enlightening. Of the True/False movies we’ve seen in the last 15 months that involve asking New Yorkers about their anxiety, I preferred Hottest August.

And since this was supposed to run at True/False with a couple of shorts, here’s something: a SXSW 2020 selection which moved onto vimeo instead. SXSW was the first fest to be canceled, and it happened while we were at True/False, the last fest to not be canceled. T/F got a last-minute premiere from SXSW on its final night, and I assumed everything else would move online and I’d hold a Quarantine Film Festival, but it turns out, after working hard for years to make your feature film and then getting accepted into fests, nobody wants to premiere on vimeo instead. Amazon’s doing a SXSW thing with only seven features, Mailchimp got all the shorts, and I watched this one then decided to focus on catching up with older films.

Blackheads (2020, Emily Ann Hoffman)

Stop-motion with 2D animation on top is pretty much my favorite thing… relationship-talk with zit closeups is about my least-favorite, so this short is gonna have to meet in the middle. Pretty fun example of displaying your influences – where Gaspar just stacked up his favorite books and movies for the opening scenes of Climax, Hoffman made miniature models of Persepolis and a Miranda July book for her character’s nightstand.

The five members of the Sudanese Film Group in Khartoum reenact scenes from classic movies, pretend to film each other, hold public screenings of Chaplin’s Modern Times – and almost Django Unchained, until the authorities find out.

A warm little movie, slow-paced but engrossing. Played this year’s True/False with director in attendance, but it didn’t fit into our schedule.

Opening musician was Ada Lea, a mumbly solo acoustic guitarist, who may have been missing some instruments or equipment in transit. Opening short was Distancing by Miko Revereza… talking with family about flying direct to Philippines on a one-way ticket, after the events of No Data Plan, which I tried to watch on the flight to Columbia, but it’s hard watching a slow film about transit, while in transit, while on dramamine. In prep for the move, Revereza makes a show of ripping his discs of Casablanca, Chungking Express, a Chantal Akerman, while film clips play on the soundtrack. When the picture glitches out and the A-G tendencies take over, the sound succumbs to the standard practice of taking ugly electric noise and letting it buzz and fuzz for way too long. After this, I was delighted to discover that our feature had the best sound design of anything we saw this week.

Our final screening so we stayed for the Q&A… Hopinka was not trying to manage equal representation and balance between all genders and types of people, but not not doing that either. He’s being opaque about his intentions on purpose, for instance telling us there’s more to the fable he quotes, but he cut it off on purpose, because this is as much of the story as should be told in regular circumstances. “People think that just because knowledge exists, they have the right to know it.” Fighting back against anthropological history with his storytelling methods, long takes as unprivileged participant, brightly saturated colors. I got exhausted with some shots/scenes, but unlike the rest of today’s movies, I felt like I could live inside it for a while, and never wanted to nap. Instead, the Ben Russell-ish handheld camera made me want to go shoot something while playing with the contrast setting… I thought of Katy and drawers, Jonas Mekas (mentioned a couple times this week, including in this film), Shorts Club, diary films, haiku video. Someone lend me a gimbal.

I took no notes on this one, and am starting to forget it, but I take exception to the stills and description playing up the connection to recycled Bollywood film reels, incorporated into the toys produced by the village where this film is set, and into the film itself in quick colorful segments, since this accounts for about a minute of the runtime. Besides producing toys, they prepare for an eclipse, and make a sort of viewing tower. Lovely to sit in Big Ragtag again, beer in hand, happy flashbacks to The Grand Bizarre and Distant Constellation. James Tillman opened, on keyboard, guitar, and dying laptop.

Denoise (2017, Giorgio Ferrero & Federico Biasin)

After the feature, we finally visited the VR-cade, dodged the Kevin Lee thing about terrorist propaganda, and slipped into the dark room where I got randomly assigned this experience, a 360+ degree but position-locked, fixed-duration selection of scenes about industrial work. My first-ever VR experience – I was impressed by the overall feel, but not by the resolution of the goggles, which felt not at all like real life, but like a video, sitting too close to the screen. Impressive sensations: after a scene cut, a man on a catwalk talking to me, and I wondered “if he’s on the catwalk where am I,” so I look straight down and I’m hovering in space. Our physical selves are standing in the dark room at retro arcade consoles – I’ve got a steering wheel to orient myself in the real world, and at one point I look down at my hands, expecting to see them grasping a steering wheel, but visually, my hands don’t exist.

Another observational doc, no interviews, though the subjects address the cameraman asking if they’ve seen any more mice around the house – all very Grey Gardens. Backstory comes in the form of archival TV coverage of the now-aging artists’ works – his outdoor rhino sculpture, her teaching art to kids. A few conversations between the lead couple, and twice she goes out and talks to others, but mostly it’s action, not talk. Our screening at the Blue Note was mainly memorable for the ending being interrupted by a medical emergency, and the very great Axon Orchestra as opening band.

Very observational doc of exams week at a university in Argentina – the same school Solaas attended. Some students do alright, some completely space on the works they were supposed to study or memorize, and some get caught trying to bullshit their way through a debate, their better-prepared colleagues caught on camera smirking at their attempts. A few perfectly opportune shots, students having an emotional moment, or swaying in and out of frame while calling parents on cellphones. Opening short Partial Differential Equation (Kevin Jerome Everson) was well suited to the feature – straightforward doc in a higher learning facility, observational to the point that you start focusing on the mathematician’s fingernails instead of the work. A morning screening, so the very ambient 3-piece Saltbreaker opened.

Braced myself for Time to be this year’s Quest or Primas, the deeply felt personal story of injustice and eventual healing, but it ended up feeling more like an advertisement for someone else’s cause, something they’ve believed in so strongly for so long that they think you’ll believe it too after a few simple words. Fox Rich’s husband gets out of jail after 20 years, and while our director was producing a short for the NY Times, she brought out boxes of videotapes from the entire prison sentence and beyond, and a feature was born. Black and white film to smooth out the time jumps, perfect piano and string score tying it all together, decades flashing by in single edits. Today, Fox is a speaker, writer, advocate for prison reform, broadcasting facebook live streams while running her own car dealership and raising a bunch of sons – a documentarian’s dream. Time goes by, forgiveness is found, but the legal system is impersonal and indifferent. Garrett couldn’t come, so she sent two producers for the Q&A, which we stayed for. Black Bear Combo opened, a good time. Hampton (Kevin Jerome Everson) was an unexpected pleasure, a few-minute short spotlighting the vocal talents of a student and/or bus driver, direct to camera.

Jesa (Kyungwon Song)

Personal/family connection to a religious food ritual. Dad is into it, keeper of tradition, while mom is dismissive of its spiritual benefit, and daughter irreverently documents with a stop-motion food layout.

The Spirit Keepers of Makut’ay (Yen-Chao Lin)

More dreaminess about ritual, so this ties into the program well. But I was focused on the aging treatment of the film, and the registration holes visible on the side. If they’re supposed to be registered, why are they moving around so much?

Dadli (Shabier Kirchner)

Antigua. I know Khalik Allah is in town, wonder if he’s seen this.

Spit on the Broom (Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich)

History lesson from an odd angle, literally dancing their way into the story. All I know is I felt weird when watching this, then after the dance scene (reminding me of Charleston (the city, not the dance)), I felt especially weird, and turned to Katy (in front of the director sitting behind us) and said I’ve seen this before, and she said yeah, we watched the trailer. Anyway, would recommend.

Aurora (Everlane Moraes)

Gorgeous photography of three women from different generations. The middle one is a singer, whose song runs over images of the other two, as if a memory or a dreamed future. I was still a bit freaked out from Spit on the Broom, but this was cool and had a good ending.

Opener Yasmin Williams played something soft, and I think there was a saw, or was that a different musician?