Our feelgood closing film was the opposite of Sirens, which claimed not to be a “rock doc” but was one. Castro set out to make a rock doc, but the subject dropped out, so she followed pop star Cuco’s jilted manager Doris instead, as Doris discovers a possible new star in Jacks. None of this was my kind of music, especially when played “live” (as in Sirens, we only get one concert before the pandemic hit), but the story goes to interesting places. The inter-generational immigrant experience brought back The Namesake, and Doris’s dad getting his green card was the fest’s biggest moment since the kidnapping, and the second time we heard mid-film applause. Opener Andreas Kapsalis plays classic covers on fancy acoustic guitar – I remember him from previous fests, and had the same reaction: annoyance at the Pink Floyd song, then warming up to his captivating style.
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Gullah culture, netmaking and baskets. “I wanted to weave with images.” Too sleepy and abstract for me post-lunch, a a hodgepodge of media and ideas, though it came together in the second half. Kind of an American The Territory as the whites terrorize and murder then grab land. The director’s dad had been a minister who survived a mass shooting at his Charleston church – it gets around to this gradually across its abstractly-named chapters. Susan Alcorn opened on pedal steel.
A Danish student film concerning some friends of the director, a couple in a long-term but stagnant/sporadic relationship. The couple identifies notable moments from their time together, each telling their own side, then watches these moments re-enacted by actors playing them (cast gender-blind based on the kinship they feel to each scene from their own relationships). I thought the couple would stay together and in that context didn’t think the scenes they chose were especially impactful, but in the end that’s the point, that they keep staying together in a noncommittal way because he wants to avoid direct conflict. One of the actors finally gets it after performing a scene, says he realizes he has to go home and break up with his girlfriend, which is what our two stars (Malik & Laura) also do after these performative therapy sessions.
Zoé Samudzi for Film Comment:
Eventually — so named, the director said, for the rock band Tame Impala’s elegiac breakup song from their 2015 album Currents — made its international debut at the festival … In the Q&A, Nørgaard revealed each person’s reasons for participating in the project: Laura, always the more invested of the pair, needed closure, and Malik, whose subsequent relationships fell into the same pattern, needed something of an intervention. As the two of them try to articulate what their love actually means, Eventually reminds us that love is not just a sensation or a noun but an active verb, requiring introspection and movement.
Nazarbazi (Maryam Tafakory)
Wow, opening short played clips from Iranian films over 40 years. Onscreen poetry from different sources, showing artistic strategies around the political repression which forbade human touch in film. Before the short, Zap Tura played solo bedroom pop on vox, keyboard and tapes.
Best music (theater organist Travis McFarlane) and doc of the fest. Interrogating images and media coverage, avoiding easy/familiar archival riot footage by turning the images abstract. Centrist government commission released a report saying people were being repressed and cities needed massive funding, the gov’t’s only takeaway was to call for more police protection. Avoids the Dem convention in Chicago 1968 to show the jocular media coverage of minimal protests outside the Rep convention in Miami, and the protestors’ attempts to talk with local leadership. Nice archival ad for TV news sponsor Gulf selling a bug spray to rid yourself of unwanted abstract black dots, connected with footage of a private company selling a riot buggy to spray tear gas on crowds. Great abstract music and voiceover, writing and research. Would make a good double feature with All Light, Everywhere (or possibly with a fest feature we missed, 2nd Chance).
The opener was… Nerenai? That’s what I wrote down, though it’s not listed on the fest schedule… two women with two guitars, mic and drum machine.
You Can’t Stop Spirit (Vashni Korin)
Portrait of the Mardi Gras “Baby Dolls” shot like a Beyoncé video with dialogue loops and callbacks, fun. This came to mind again during the Big Ears festivities.
In Flow of Words (Eliane Esther Bots)
My fave of the bunch, though I remember it the least well now. Widescreen stories of translators who work on genocide trials.
The Last Days of August (Robert Machoian & Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck)
I knew the Killing of Two Lovers guy was going to be in this program, and recognized his style from the first frame… portrait of dying Nebraskan towns.
Our Ark (Deniz Tortum & Kathryn Hamilton)
3D models and simulationism. Our second Deniz collaborative short.
Nuisance Bear (Jack Weisman & Gabriela Osio Vanden)
Katy gave this a thumbs-down. Widescreen gliding camera discovers creatures on the outskirts of Canadian towns: snow rabbit, dogs, foxes, and the bears, who are caged and deported when they dare to involve themselves in the human civilization that has encroached on their territory and now comes out to gape at them as they migrate.
We showed up for the feature Dos Estaciones (Juan Pablo González), a re-enactment about an extremely buttoned-up woman running a failing tequila factory, but we ditched to get food and rest – it’s a lot of movies to watch over a long weekend.
The opener was Little Mazarn feat. Thor Harris, a 3-piece with xylophone, keyboard, banjo, accordion, saw and loop pedals. A Personal Journey movie, gradually revealing the director’s own youthful voyage paralleling his current one. On reaching Bamako, Young Ike decided Morocco and Algeria sound dangerous and diverted to Gambia, but this time he pushes through to Morocco (Thor drumming his feet on the wood theater floor in time to the Moroccan music) and meets two women determined to cross over to Spain. The voiceover is usually plainly descriptive – he aims for poetry and time-collapsing poignancy and doesn’t quite get there.
Begonia opened with a big voice and a full band on keyboards and drum pads. An Issues Doc, invaders killing the indigenous people and the rain forest. Brief time is spent with the invaders themselves, poor misunderstood white supremacists who feel entitled to the land because it’s “undeveloped,” very easy to root against them even though they’re victims of the same government/capitalist system that has repressed the others. The main story follows the young new leader of a Brazilian indigenous community, educated and tech savvy, using cameras and drones to document the destruction and fight back, leading missions to peacefully arrest the invaders and destroy their settlements. A woman in the nearby city is a supporter who has fought alongside them for decades. Marvelous extreme close-ups on local creatures. Our screening got a rare burst of mid-film applause: after covid hits, the local media wants to come film the native community, breaking quarantine – but they say we have our own camera equipment, just send us your shot list.
Saturday began with Starbux breakfast, then we stopped at Shortwave for tea after the movie. Quiet Takes opened the morning screening on solo keyboard, appropriate mood. We could have watched this from the theater balcony but did not, a missed opportunity. Pawel films from his own balcony for months, getting some good one-off reactions from a variety of neighbors and passers-by, and finding some regular characters. His building’s caretaker speaks of the husband who died 20 years before, calls him a useless drunk. Robert gets the most screen time – Pawel gives him clothes when he’s fresh out of jail, we see him trying to get his life together, and he’s still struggling at the end, says he doesn’t want to end up as trash, a drunk, a criminal, but the straight work he’s found is hard and unrewarding. Time also passes via a regular woman showing up with her newborn baby, and Pawel’s own dog having puppies. Some memorable appearances by a very shy woman opening up to the camera, some shitty nationalists stopping during a parade, and a gay man who’d just lost his longtime partner.
Despite technically being a Sundance premiere, we were the first in-person audience for a movie made to be seen on a big screen with a big soundsystem. I should look up whether the archival footage even had sound, or if this was a foley fest. It puts together a good heroic narrative, the volcanologist couple turning their studies from gently predictable “red” volcanoes to dangerous “gray” volcanoes, and after authorities ignore warnings in Colombia and thousands die, they make a scare film about those deaths, which convinces people to evacuate next time. Filmmaking saves lives. A slick movie, not as personally troubling as others today, despite all the deaths. Kyren Penrose opened, solo acoustic, and we got beer and pretzels at Broadway afterwards.