Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Jason goes to Jewfest North--Day 4

A big day, 5 movies. So let's cut the chitchat and jump right in.

First up was a fascinating semi-experimental documentary KINGDOM OF SURVIVAL. The Jewishness of the movie is marginal, but it has Noam Chomsky so I guess that's good enough. In fact, he's the first step on director M.A. Littler's journey to learn more about freedom, capitalism, anarchy, survival, and attempting to make the world a better place. Particularly, how to make the world a better place by challenging authority. He visits a series of radical thinkers and throws so much radical thought and split-screen visuals at you that I'm not sure if it really answers anything (which is something Littler confesses near the end of the film.) I do know it overloaded my brain and I'd have to watch it again to unravel the points I agree and disagree with. But I do know my favorite part was the visual juxtaposition of people wearing gas masks and 3-d movie glasses while talking about Huxley's idea that concentration camps of the future will be voluntary. That kind of has the potential of re-contextualizing my entire adult life.

Next up was a very moving documentary from Israel and South Africa, ONE DAY AFTER PEACE. It's the story of Robi Damelin, a mother in Israel who's son was killed 10 years ago by a Palestinian sniper. He was fulfilling his military service at a checkpoint and when the sniper fired he raced out to try to protect others. Now ten years later, the sniper has been caught and is serving consecutive life terms in prison. And she decides she wants to contact him and try to start a dialogue, perhaps find the capacity to forgive within herself, and work towards peace. This is where the South Africa part comes in. You see, Robi was born in South Africa and moved to Israel when it was still under Apartheid. Returning to South Africa the movie examines the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was set up to move the country forward. The obvious question, of course, is whether this is a possible model for Israel, a way to break generations of revenge. Well, the movie leaves that answer to the audience, although for myself I'm pretty much a fan (although I think there would need to be a state of peace before such a system could be implemented in Israel and Palestine.) Of course, when talking about atrocities no system is going to erase all of the pain. We see a former South African police commander who applies for amnesty and apologizes, but people still think his apology was "too glib." (important point, the TRC does not require an expression of remorse. Just a confession and all the relevant details and you get amnesty.) But we also see him delivering food to the mother of one of his victims, and it's pretty clear that actions speak louder than words. We also see a white South African mother meet with the men who planned the bombing that killed her daughter (who herself was against Apartheid, so they actually killed someone who could've been a friend and ally.) Ultimately (spoiler alert) Robi has not yet met with her son's killer, and she is very honest about her conflicting emotions. But it makes for an interesting and moving exploration of what it takes to forgive.

Next up, another documentary, GYPSY DAVY, a personal journey by director Rachael Leah Jones about her father and famous flamenco guitarist David Serva Jones. See, he left her and her mother when she was just a baby. And in this movie we discover that he did this to a series of families (he's on his fifth wife and child, if I remember correctly. And all of them admit they thought it would last forever.) Well, he's apparently  a very charming man, although when confronted with his past families he gets a little evasive/glib. He truly was in love with each of the women in turn. He just has a wandering heart, or as Rachael puts it, "[His] true love is the flamenco, and his favorite child is his guitar." But over the many years of making this movie (it feels like it kind of grew out of home movies) we get a good look at a man...and ultimately a father who we can accept even if we find it hard to respect him (or, as Rachael said in the Q&A, a large percentage of the women in the audience probably fell in love with him, even given the rather negative view the movie gives of him.) Oh, and maybe most importantly there's a lot of great flamenco music.

Next up was the drama RESTORATION, which I had forgotten I had seen last year at Jewfest South (aka Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival.) Here's what I wrote back then:
Next up, a rather difficult drama RESTORATION. The title refers to furniture restoration, but maybe also to restoration of family and life. When Max dies, that's bad news for his friend and business partner Yaakov. Even worse, he finds that their furniture restoration shop is in bad financial shape. Worse yet, Max has bequeathed his half of the business not to Yaakov, but to Yaakov's estranged son, an ambitious attorney with no interest in the shop. But when an antique Steinway is discovered, it might just be the key to saving everything. Or not. It's a tricky, subtle thing, and honestly I was so tired I struggled to stay awake. The acting, cinematography, score, etc. were all well done (especially acting), but I'm just not sure I "got" the film. Perhaps if I saw it again when I wasn't exhausted (like that will ever happen) I can get more out of it.
Wow, ask and ye shall receive. Not that I wasn't exhausted last night (it was the fourth of five movies, after all) but I was definitely more engaged. I completely forgot to mention Yakov's recently hired assistant Anton, or Noah's (Yakov's son--the lawyer) very pregnant wife. Or, without giving away spoilers, how the ending that confused me the first time made perfect sense and was beautiful this time. I can now proudly say I "get" this film.

And finally, I ended the night with another repeat screening, one I liked the first time but still won't swear that I really get, THE EXCHANGE. Here's what I wrote when I saw it at SFIFF earlier this year:
And finally, I ended the day with THE EXCHANGE. I loved that this movie opens with a brief reference to E.P.R. and that non-scientists have read way too much into it regarding objective reality. There's never any explanation of what E.P.R. is, so it's a reference only physicists will get. And how many physicists would watch a movie like this? It might only be...me! Has he (director Eran Kolirin) really made a movie for me and me alone?
 Then I get into an explanation of EPR that I won't bore you with here but I encourage you to read. I continue...

Oh yeah, back to the movie, how does all this EPR rambling tie in to the movie? Well, I really wish I had seen it when Eran Kolirin was still here, because I would've loved to quiz him about it. But I can say that festival programmer Rod Armstrong introduced the movie by saying in previous Q&A's some audience members wanted to ascribe mental health issues (anything from depression to schizophrenia) to the protagonist, and Eran was adamant that he's not crazy in any way. Well, that's easy for me--he's not crazy, he's just a physicist. And his class ends one day when he's right in the middle of discussing EPR. So he goes home with all this at the front of his mind, keenly aware he's collapsing Wave Functions all around him. Well, as a guy, what's the one thing that is most profound to collapse by observing. That's right, his own penis. So he takes a second, whips it out, and looks at it in the mirror. Then he notices another guy watching him. And wacky hijinx ensue.
So the movie is an examination of how by observing the world around you, you create it (or at least change it.) But that's not to say the world is subjective. There is an objective reality to it, and it is described by the Wave Function. Sure, you can collapse the Wave Function, but that collapse is the same for everyone. You can't collapse it one way at the same time as someone else collapses it another way (i.e., you can't get around the Uncertainty Principle by measuring a particle's position at the same time as someone else measures its momentum. The collapse of the Wave Function happens the same for everyone.) It's a subtle distinction between subjective reality and objective reality that you are a part of and influence.
At least that's what I got out of it. I don't know what the heck other people could get from it.
Okay, a few corrections the second time through. He doesn't whip out his penis and look at it immediately after his EPR lecture. And actually, that's not where the weirdness begins. It begins when he goes home during the day to get a binder he left at home and he sees his apartment in a new light (and his wife, as she's sleeping.) He then becomes obsessed with observing the world in different ways than before. Also, the man he meets after whipping his dick out and looking at it in the mirror is into similar sorts of observational weirdness (and is even interested in popular science) so they become sort of partners in crime. Often one will observe while the other does something to annoy or harass someone the observer knows. It actually becomes pretty cruel. I still maintain he's not crazy, he's just a physicist. But seeing it again I can see what non-physicists could get out of it, too.

Oh yeah, and I liked how every time the protagonist enters his apartment, either the camera angle or the lighting is dramatically different, like he's stepping into a different space each time. It really emphasizes the theme of looking at the world in different ways.

And that was my day at Jewfest North. I'm off soon for another four movies today.


Total Running Time: 475 minutes
My Total Minutes: 293,093
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