RiverRun Film Festival, 2015 – Part 1

Anywhere Else  “Noa, an Israeli grad student working on her thesis in Berlin about untranslatable words, returns home to find her family less than enamored with her life choices and struggles to define her connections to both place and family.”  This is an interesting look at how families deal with each other and how other people see those interactions from the outside looking in.  A woman goes home to visit her large, loud family and her boyfriend, who has virtually no family, follows her.

She’s Beautiful When She’s AngryThe brilliant, often outrageous women who founded the feminist movement of the 1960s proclaimed that “the personal is political” and made a revolution–in the bedroom, in the workplace, and in all spheres of life. Labeled as threatening by the FBI yet often dismissed in history books, these radical women changed the world.”  There were a couple of places that made me tear up a little.  I liked the back and forth between the movers and shakers of the movement, then and now. I was frustrated when they were talking about the plaza full of women and there were men there, too.  But, men supporters went unnoticed and unmentioned, except for 2 young men in the present saying “This is what a feminist looks like!”  I recognize that this was about the women and their revolution.  But, I also know that if men don’t participate in change, it won’t happen.

The Tribe goes on the shelf with A Clockwork Orange, Pulp Fiction and Lord of the Flies. There were times when it dragged because sign language that you don’t understand doesn’t constitute dialogue.  It was shocking and brutal and sad. (“Winner of multiple Cannes Film Festival awards, The Tribe is an undeniably original and intensely jarring film set in the insulated world of a Ukranian high school for the deaf. Utilizing no spoken dialogue or subtitles, the film builds upon non-verbal acting and sign language from a cast of deaf, non-professional actors to a shocking conclusion.)

The Chinese MayorControversial Chinese politician Geng Yanbo demolished 140,000 households and relocated half a million people in order to restore ancient relic walls for the sake of the region’s tourism industry. The film investigates one mayor’s mission to save his city and uncovers the secret workings of China’s Communist Party.”  This is an excellent documentary about a man trying to make a positive difference with limited time.  I think it gives a good look into how modern China is working.  Or not.

Animated Shorts:  (Me without Chuck)

Animator vs. Animation IV  This is cute. A stick figure comes to life.
A Blue Room Surreal
Broken Face Lighthouse keepers and a creature from the Deeps.
Confluence
No actual story, but interesting to see. Would make a good screensaver.
Hopkins & Delaney LLP 
Wow.  I don’t even remember this one, because it is pointless.https://vimeo.com/104270416
Mend and Make Do
This is funThe animation is interesting and the story is good.  I won’t be surprised to see this nominated for an Oscar.
Mirage
Another screensaver
Numb
I nodded off
Tren Italia 
I nodded off, again.
Wire Cutters This is entertaining.  2 robots gem hunting for different corporations encounter each other.

Documentary Shorts: (Chuck without me)

A Day at School
First Lesson
Ozoners
Socotra: The Hidden Land
Vegas
Zima

Narrative Shorts:

Digits This light and brief.  The beginning of a love story, maybe.
Foreign Bodies
Liked this. An amputee coming to grips with his loss.
Jenny and Steph
There was no complexity here.  You know the outcome as the story begins.
The Karman Line
This started as a comedy, but didn’t end that way.
Marathon
This wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t particularly gripping either.  Abandoned daughter searching for her missing father. 
Sun Air Water
  Chinese single mother and her young son trying to cope.  Well done. You feel you know them.

Late Night Shorts:  This was awful.  Drunks out to see shorts and, then, technical difficulties.  Some asshole behind me hit me the head with his butt 3 times getting up to go get more booze.  Or to pee.  Whatever.  We won’t do that again.

Day 40 Twisted Noah.  Not interesting.
Dennis 
Not entirely obvious, but not particularly interesting.
Help Point
Vaguely entertaining,
Impact 
I do not remember this one at all.
A Mile in These Hooves 
This was stupid.
Once Upon a… 
YouTube material.
Pink Elephant 
I did like this one.
Rota 
This was horrible.  We think the RiverRun selection committee ran this because it was made by UNC-SA students and they felt obligated.  And the students were trying to shock for the sake of shocking not for the sake of a story.  It was dark and surreal and stupid.
Scrabble
Dark and funny. I liked this one a lot.
Sea Beach Local
This rambled aimlessly.

We were underwhelmed enough with the shorts choices that we won’t bother to include them again.  It wasn’t worth the price or time sitting through crap to see the few that we thought were worth seeing.  An advantage to shorts is that if they are bad, they’re over soon.  But, if there are several in a row, you’re screwed.

Poverty, Inc.  “From disaster relief to TOMS Shoes, from adoptions to agricultural subsidies, Poverty, Inc. follows the butterfly effect of our most well-intentioned efforts and explores the hidden side of doing good. Are we catalyzing development or are we propagating a system in which the poor stay poor while the rich get hipper?” This is excellent.  It’s a look at foreign aid from the perspective of the “beneficiaries.”  The producer who was there for Q&A said that it didn’t have answers, but he hoped it would begin a  conversation about what was really helpful to people in need.  And I think he was correct.  Clearly, the old way hasn’t been working.  A new way of addressing these issues is needed.

Heart of Wilderness  “Fleeing a local drug ring, Travis and Aimee must confront the secrets they keep while navigating the icy waters of the Minnesota wilderness.”  We were at the world premiere, sitting behind the row of producers, actors, director, writer and editor.  (One of the actors kept sneaking vape hits and it smelled like a cotton candy flavor.)  It kind of wandered, but I think it meant to.  It ended without knowing exactly where they would end up and that was fine.

Elephant Song  “A psychiatrist is drawn into a complex mind game when he questions a disturbed patient about the disappearance of a colleague. Adapted for the screen from Nicolas Billon’s play of the same name, the film stars Bruce Greenwood, Catherine Keener, Carrie-Anne Moss and RiverRun alum Xavier Dolan.”  This put me in mind of Equus.  It is dark and twisty.  It will probably make it to regular theaters.

Proud Citizen  “After winning second place in a play writing contest, a Bulgarian woman travels to small town Kentucky for the premiere of her play. Expecting southern hospitality, she instead finds an America full of dichotomy in this funny, heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking meditation on the comfort (and discomfort) of strangers.”  This was good.  She is lonely and brave and adventurous.

Patchwork FamilyChristian is a reeling divorced father who only sees his young daughter Vanessa on weekends. When a popular reality TV triathlon comes to town, however, he sees the competition as a chance for redemption and lets it all hang out–figuratively and literally–in this charmingly oddball French comedy.” “French comedy” kind of says it all.  Fun, light, lots of laughs.

When Under Fire: Shoot Back  “The Bang Bang Club were four fearless young photographers who set out to expose the reality of Apartheid in South Africa–a battle that changed a nation but wound up nearly destroying them in the process.”  I didn’t want to speak for an hour after seeing this.  There was no applause in the theater when it was over.  The photos the Bang Bang Club took were too awful and their lives were too shattered by what they saw for applause to be an acceptable reaction.  It is an excellent documentary.  But, it is also hard to watch.

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