Here are the films in Block 10, which is a wonderful example of the different kinds of short films that are at the film festival. The films are rated from 1-5, with 5 being the highest.
Preferably Blue is a hilarious movie about the Easter Bunny’s plot to kill Santa Clause, so that children will love him. The movie is told in rhymes, many of which are very clever, and the animation was also very good.
This movie really surprised me. It started out very slow, with simply a Middle Eastern father and daughter talking to each other. The father has a Middle Eastern (presumably Arab) accent, the daughter has a British accent. But the tension in the movie grows to a terrifying conclusion. A chilling and shocking portrayal of an honor killing, this is almost a perfect short film.
Jim and Frank
Jim and Frank is the shortest of the short films in this block, only 4 minutes long, and imagines the first meeting between Jim Henson and Frank Oz. The film is charming and clever as it gently moves these two people, reluctantly, toward a legendary partnership.
As an aside, I got to meet the director of this film, since he was there for the showing. He had never shown a film at a film festival before, and before coming, people asked him, “Are they going to show your film with other films that are similar?” He didn’t know the answer. When he saw that the film right before his film was about honor killing, he said, “I guess not.”
Sun City Picture House
I loved this film. Loved, loved, loved. It’s a haunting documentary about volunteers and locals in Haiti coming together to build the first movie theater in Haiti. There were many movie theaters in Haiti decades ago, but they were destroyed by the decades of violence and unrest, and then the earthquake. The people get together and build a simple movie theater, which is basically a plywood structure with a tin roof. Instead of a classical projector, it has a DVD projector and shows movies that are already on DVD, and overlooks a tent town. The townspeople and children gather on the dirt floor inside to watch The Mummy Part 3. But the joy and delight on the faces of people is unmistakable.
The film begins with a chilling story from a priest who works in Haiti. The priest relates that there are several different kinds of poverty, including poverty of concept. When his hospital, St. Damian’s in Port du Prince, receives a little red wagon, he recognizes it as a child’s toy. The Haitian workers at the hospital immediately decide that it should be used to carry the corpses of dead children to the crematorium.
The people in the film are working, not only to save the lives of the Haitians, but to ensure that they have hope, that they can imagine a better world for themselves, and have dignity. Every week, the priest and others go down to the morgue and bury the unclaimed dead. The priest, named Father Rick, and other volunteers stand in the morgue, wrapping bodies in plastic tarp, singing songs and smoking cigars to drive away the stench. Father Rick, wearing his cassock and stole, takes the bodies to a field, where he incenses them and chants the Kyrie. A band standing on a small hill plays trumpets.
I should point out that the posters shown in the picture above were drawn by a local artist in Port du Prince. These posters adorn the new movie theater.
The fim is a reminder that humans don’t only need food and water to survive, and that, even in a place as desperate as Haiti, there is always hope.
The film ends with the image of two children playing with a little red wagon.
This was my least favorite film, and yet I still liked it. There were no bad films in this block, lucky me. 🙂
This film takes place in 1950’s Japan, where a provincial wife and mother meets her friend, Yoshie, a woman who is the love of her life. Yoshie invites her to run away with her to Tokyo, where they can live. Tsuyako almost does, but decides that she cannot abandon her children. The film ends with Tsuyako’s grandmother meeting the elderly Yoshie after Tsuyako’s death.
This film was beautifully shot, and I mean beautifully shot! The landscape, the people, even the factories are gorgeous! The director has a wonderful cinematic eye.
That being said, the plot seemed implausible to me. I lived in South Korea for a year, and while Korean culture is very different than Japanese culture, it certainly has far more in common with Japanese culture (especially 1950’s Japanese culture) than 2010’s US culture. Plenty of my friends in Korea asked the Koreans about gay people in Korea, and the answer was always the same: “There are no gay people in Korea.” I have very little doubt that 1950’s Japan was much the same. The idea that two women would consider it possible to live together, even in the big city, seems a bit rediculous. Indeed, if the two women had run off together, I would have concluded that this film took place in some sort fo alternate universe Japan.
The film also shows the two women passionately kissing on the train. I don’t know about 1950’s Japan, but in Korea, it is considered inappropriate for heterosexual couples to kiss in public. I went almost a year without ever seeing Korean couples kiss. My friends and I did see one couple kiss once, and our jaws dropped to the floor. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing, and we couldn’t help but stare at them! The girl relaized that we were staring at them, and it was humiliating all around. The idea that two women would feel able to kiss on a train in full view of others seemed silly to me, based on my own experiences in Asia.
That being said, the story, as implausible as it seemed at times, was very well told, and the film was beautifully shot, and I mean beautifully shot.
Not Your Time
This is a musical, starring Jason Alexander, about how Hollywood nearly crushes a man’s creative dreams and drives him to consider suicide. The film is a hilarious look at life in Hollywood in its formula driven glory. The film also contains a wonderful pastiche of a Bob Fosse musical, and if you look in the background of the pictures, you can see the girls singing the show’s theme song.
The film has some wonderful satiric moments, such as young Jason Alexander’s character struggling at music school. He writes a chipper (if uninspired) musical number, and the teacher doesn’t like it because it’s tonal and melodic. That evening, he watches his cat walk across the piano, and writes down every note that he plays. The students grimace and cover their ears, and one student even throws up, but the teacher cries out, “Genius!”
I laughed so hard during this film, and I found myself wanting to skip out of the theater singing, “shit shit shit, fuck shit shit, fuck shit shit, fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!” I restrained myself, but just barely.
As an aside, the director’s friend and marketer said that most of the agents and producers in the film were actual agents and producers, and that the film was indeed based on his life, though he never tried to commit suicide. Unforunately, the director could not make the film, due to back surgery. He called during the Q&A, but she lost the connection! Poor guy, hope he ends up ok, and makes more short films for next year’s festival. 🙂