RiverRun 2017

Additional addendum:  I’m very excited! We are going to see a bunch of movies at the RiverRun Film Festival in Winston-Salem. We have tickets for 8 feature films and 2 shorts collections. And our AirBnB hostess has given us tickets to the gala Friday night. Hotcha!

Thursday 3/30

Lost in Paris “Fiona visits Paris for the first time to assist her myopic Aunt Martha. Catastrophes ensue, mainly involving Dom, a homeless man who has yet to have an emotion or thought he was afraid of expressing.”

Friday 3/31

Little Wing “Little Wing tells the story of 12-year-old Varpu (Linnea Skog), who’s quickly growing to adulthood, and about her mother (Paula Vesala), who doesn’t want to grow up.”

I Am Cuba.  “This sprawling vision of Cuba from 1964 was poorly received upon release and largely forgotten until the 1990s, when directors like Martin Scorsese pushed for its restoration. Alternatingly dreamlike and neo-realist, I Am Cuba attempts to characterize the Cuban revolution and the suffering of its citizens through an anthology of four varied vignettes.”

Our AirBnB hostess has given us tickets to the Gala.

Saturday 4/1

Pushing Dead, “When a struggling writer, HIV positive for 20+ years, accidentally deposits a $100 birthday check, he is dropped from his health plan for earning too much.”

Documentary Shorts 1

Strange Weather. “A poignant, lyrical drama about a mother (Holly Hunter), who, in an effort to deal with the grief over the death of her son, travels the back roads of the deep south to settle a score.”

Sunday 4/2

Cuban Shorts

Sacred. “Møre than 40 filmmakers travelled the globe to witness religious celebrations and interview people from all sorts of background.”

Thursday 4/6

First Lady of the Revolution  “the remarkable story of Henrietta Boggs, a Southern belle who takes a life-altering journey through marriage, civil war and audacious democratic reforms to become the First Lady of Costa Rica.”

Frantz. “In the aftermath of WWI, a young German who grieves the death of her fiancé in France meets a mysterious Frenchman who visits the fiancé’s grave to lay flowers.”

My son will be house/cat sitting on the weekend.

Addendum 4/3:

After seeing I am Cuba and the Cuban shorts, Chuck was intrigued by the other films in the Cuban series.  So, he’s going back while I’m working on Saturday, 4/8 to see Memories of Underdevelopment and, since he’ll be there anyway,  Purple Dreams.

Additional Addendum 4/17:

We both got sick and neither of us returned to see the Thursday or Saturday films.

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RiverRun 2016

Monday 4/11

My Friend’s Rubber Ducky  “In a tipsy fit, Joseph kidnaps an old friend who owes him $5,000, enlisting the aide of his hipster girlfriend and stoner roommate.”  This was hilarious.  Pot, tai chi and a kidnapping. Everyone involved did an excellent job.

Jacqueline (Argentine)  “This mockumentary follows an unnamed director and narrator (Wyatt Cenac) down to Argentina, where he’s filming Jacqueline, who claims to be blowing the whistle on a plot to assassinate an Arab politician.” Didn’t live up to my hopes.  The title character came off as a flake rather than an international woman of mystery.  And, if it was meant to be funny, it failed.

Francofonia “A history of the Louvre during the Nazi occupation and a meditation on the meaning and timelessness of art.” This was wonderful.  When it is available, I will watch it again.

Tuesday 4/12

Salero “When the future arrives to Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, one of the most secluded places on the planet, the destiny of this ancient salt flat is unearthed and one young salt gatherer becomes the last link between the old world and the new.”  We were moved.  It was thought provoking.

Thursday 4/14

Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers “…follows three women in an all female, predominantly Muslim unit of police officers sent to post-earthquake Haiti as UN Peacekeepers for one year. The mission challenges these women while shattering commonly held stereotypes.”  We liked this a lot.   Geeta Gandbhir and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy are names we should remember when looking for documentaries.

Cameraperson “Exposing her role behind the camera, Kirsten Johnson reaches into the vast trove of footage she has shot over decades around the world. What emerges is a visually bold memoir and a revelatory interrogation of the power of the camera.”  This was an interesting memoir.

(Dinner at Willow’s Bistro with 3 Sextons)

Friday 4/15

Heavenly Nomadic “A family of nomads live in the high, remote mountains of Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia…”  This is slow and lyrical.  I enjoyed it very much.

Chevalier “In the middle of the Aegean Sea, six men on a fishing trip on a luxury yacht decide to play a game. During this game, things will be compared. Things will be measured. Songs will be butchered, and blood will be tested. Friends will become rivals and rivals will become hungry. But at the end of the journey, when the game is over, the man who wins will be the best man. And he will wear on his smallest finger the victory ring: the Chevalier.”  This was very funny.

NC Shorts 1  (Oops.)

RiverRun Film Festival, 2015 – Part 2

Yosemite  “The lives of three 5th graders intertwine in the suburban paradise of Palo Alto circa 1985, as the threat of a mountain lion looms over the town. Featuring James Franco in a supporting role, the film is adapted from short stories in Franco’s collection ‘A California Childhood.’ ”

This wasn’t really what we expected.  We thought we were getting a variation on “Stand By Me” and instead it simply a week in the lives of 3 boys.  So, the 11 year old who went along was completely underwhelmed.

It was scary in an anticipating-something-bad-happening kind of way.  So much so that it was a relief when it finally did.

I like it better in retrospect than I did while I watched it.  Which isn’t uncommon for me watching that kind of film.

The Long Start to the Journey  “Filmmaker Chris Gallaway documents his own personal attempt to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail and to learn what the path means to individuals he meets along the way. This is a personal story of struggle and perseverance as well as a historical account of the origins and cultural relevance of the Appalachian Trail.”

I think this is probably the best film about the AT that has been made.  It has a little history, some gorgeous scenery and tons of information about what to expect.  I think anyone considering hiking it, sectionally or through-hiking, should see it.

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.

RiverRun International Film Festival 2014

This was our first year to attend the RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem and we had a blast.  We found an AirBnB apartment that is walking distance to 2 of the venues and each of us took a day off from work.  We started with a 2:00 show on Thursday and finished at 8:30 on Saturday.

Nightingale This didn’t have any unexpected plot twists, but it is sweet and we got to see some of China from a different angle.  We both liked it a lot.

Breathe In Not any surprises in this one either.  I did keep hoping one of them would have better sense.

Summer of the Flying Fish We thought this was muddled.

Expedition to the End of the World Gorgeous.  Magnificent.  Funny.  Breathtaking.

My Sister’s Quinceñera is similar in flavor to Ramin Bahrani’s films.  It is a perfect look at what keeps people with bigger dreams in a small town.  The family is Mexican-American, but the story is more universal than that.

Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory  This will make you cry, in a good way.  And buy iPod Shuffles for your old people.

Ida  This is about choosing your life.  It is truly excellent.  I didn’t always know where it was going.

We didn’t see any shorts.  That may be different next year because we are both fans of the form.  Walking to a/perture was handy, but parking was easy at SECCA and UNC-SA.  UNC-SA had us parking at the YWCA across the street and ran a 2 bus shuttle service.  We didn’t see any thing at the Hanes Theater venue and it was the closest to where we were staying.