Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Jason goes to Docfest--Day 12

Aka, the penultimate night. And for those paying attention, that's right I didn't go to Docfest day 11. I'd already seen the movies playing Monday so I stayed home, wrote up some of my reviews, and got a good night's sleep.

First up was the music doc program, starting with "A Skin Too Few" about British cult musician Nick Drake. This movie uses his music, interviews of family and colleagues, and long, lyrical shots of the English countryside to tell the story of his short, depressed life. Honestly, I didn't know anything about him beforehand, and to some extent he comes off as a spoiled, sensitive kid who OD'ed on his antidepressant medication (officially ruled a suicide, though some of the interviewees question that interpretation). I can't say that the movie made me any more interested in him or his music, but I do think it was well done and I especially was impressed with the cinematography.

This played with the concert film, "Building a Broken Mousetrap". The EX is a band from Holland who make unusual noises on their instruments--drumming on the double bass that's part of their act, or playing the guitar with a nail or a transistor radio. I'm sure there's an interesting story to be told about them, but this is just a concert film with no such perspective. It's interesting how they make their unusual sounds, but as a result they're purposefully unmusical and at a full hour it was more than could keep my interest.

So next I went next door to the Little Roxie for a short and a feature of extreme behavior (at least, that's what I came up with to link them). "Day of Fire" is about the sugar fields of Florida, where the large sugar companies burn the fields as part of the harvest process, to scare all the wildlife out. Locals (most of whom are impoverished), take the opportunity to hunt the fleeing animals. Specifically, they hunt bunny rabbits with sticks. This could be an interesting look at the harsh circle of life and what people do to survive and our primitive hunting nature. Instead there was just way too much of thumping bunnies with sticks and squeezing their guts out. It made me sad, then just queasy. I can take it once, but I don't need to see it a dozen times. Come to think of it, slaughtering animals is a bit of a theme in the festival. At least, I can think of this, "Off the Grid" and "Living Goddess" as featuring graphic animal slaughter scenes.

Then a hilarious but kind of confusing feature, "Cowboys and Communists". In an apartment block in East Berlin, the bottom floor had been a restaurant but was then empty for a while. Then Wally Potts, a chef and artist from LA rented it, opened White Trash Fast Food and served cheap food and drinks from 9 pm to 6 am. This obviously upset Horst, an old East German man who has lived upstairs for decades. So a war started, with Horst trying to get them to either move out or at least keep the freakin' noise down. The director Jessica Feast was actually a waitress at White Trash, but gained close access to Horst and his neighbors (and obviously had access to the crowd at White Trash). The interesting thing is how your loyalties shift throughout the movie. It seems easy to sympathize with Horst, but occasionally he'll say some rather bizarre pro-communism things that just made me shake my head, like his defense of the Stasi as a "necessary evil". Then the White Trash people will actually make articulate statements that frame it as a legitimate fight for freedom against oppression (it's particularly interesting how many Americans feel freer in Berlin than in America). But then you realize their actually arrogant jerks who don't give a fuck about anyone else, and all sympathy disappears (dude, pissing on the columns of the building is not fuckin' cool!) But the really confusing thing is why would they let this stay in an apartment building? It seems like a great place, but it should be in it's own non-residential building. There's an easy solution! And, sorry for the spoiler, but after the movie that's exactly what they did. I'm just confused why no one in the movie talked about that as a possibility. Anyway, the place still exists, in a new location, but according to their website the hours have changed to midnight-noon.

And the third show of the night was "A Walk Into The Sea: The Danny Williams story". Danny Williams was a Harvard grad and award-winning film editor when he joined Andy Warhol's factory, becoming the main lighting man and Andy's lover. Then he disappeared. His car was found by a rocky New England beach, and speculation is he walked into the sea--perhaps to commit suicide, perhaps just a refreshing midnight swim, and was washed away. There are problems with that theory (there's a >90% recovery rate for bodies at that beach, it doesn't wash bodies away), but no one has a better idea. Danny's niece Esther Robinson made this movie as an homage to him, interviewing various people who were at The Factory at that time. She also makes use of the few films Danny Williams shot at the factory (including some fascinating footage of Warhol) which were all in black and white and made an interesting use of editing and shadows. Pretty interesting.

And that was almost all of Docfest. Just one more to go.
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