Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 13

Two more programs last night (Tuesday) starting with the shorts program Cults, Manholes & Slide Rail Riders, which of course means the local shorts ("local" stretches the Bay Area as far as Scotts Valley.)
KINGMAKER: A music video for Tremor Low, featuring a psychiatrist, a patient, and some very literal inner demons.
THE BEGINNING: Just the cutest, gayest love story ever, as Daniel and Richard in a post-tryst afterglow discuss their shared fears, frustrations, and passions and decide--very intentionally--to fall in love.
BAGGAGE CLAIM: Based on the true case of Winnie Ruth Judd, a somewhat crude animation explores the differing accounts of the terrible murder of her two friends.
THE MUPPETLESS MOVIE: Cashing in on the popularity of the Muppets, Vincent Garuglio presents this trailer for his movie about Kermit and the gang having to raise $50,000 to save their bar--with human actors playing all the Muppet roles (Vincent himself plays Kermit.) Very funny. 
MANHOLE 452: There are 452 manholes on Geary St. Our narrator tells us that as he rides the Geary 38L to an from work every day. He once was the victim of a manhole that blew sky high and landed on his car. His sense of dread and calculating the odds of catastrophes permeates this somewhat meditative, experimental film.
LIFE INTERNAL: Religion and conformity collide with curiosity and dreams, as Gene escapes the Vault--first through the magic of cinema, and then...through more magic of cinema.
SLIDE RAIL SUPERMAN: The adventures of Joe Pizzetti, San Francsico champion of Slide Rail. You know, the competitive sport of sliding down rails on your butt? We follow his training, learn from his "sherpa"  (mostly about the proper pants selection) and face a slide-off with the mysterious Red Hood. Funny, although at  20 minutes it could be trimmed a bit.

And we also--although it wasn't in the program--had an extra screening of the short MY NAME IS YOUR FIRST LOVE from Innocence Bursting program. It holds up to multiple viewings.

And then the centerpiece feature, DAYS OF GRACE (DÍAS DE GRACIA) about Mexico, drug wars, and the World Cup (note to self: find out the ticket lottery for Brazil 2014.) Taking place against the background of 3 consecutive World Cup tournaments, it jumps among them so quickly it's important to know (as I assume all Mexicans and few Americans know) that Korea-Japan hosted in 2002, Germany in 2006, and South Africa in 2010. That is typically the cue that the film has crossed into a different timeline. Drug gangs, cops (both corrupt and not), family, and mostly futile attempts to escape the violence rule the days. As, of course, does soccer (one of the best moments is in 2006, when a kidnapped man asks about the Presidential election, "Who won?" and the kidnapper answers the score of the game...and in fact doesn't know the results of the election.) But even with my ability to know the timeline based on what games were playing, I found it pretty impossible to follow the story. Just too many characters and too many twists to follow. I found myself too often just remembering the games, thinking of where I was when USA eliminated Mexico in 2002, or when France eliminated Brazil in 2006, or when Zidane head-butted that guy in the 2006 final, or when Spain won it all in 2010. Great memories, but I think I was supposed to be thinking about the horrible drug war violence in Mexico City, instead.

And when I did focus on the drug violence, I found it uneasy and distasteful. And not just because it's violent, but because the violence was so beautifully shot. A couple of years ago I was talking with some friends who offered up Fernando Meirelles' CITY OF GOD as an "aesthetically immoral" movie. That no matter how well made it was, not matter how seriously it took the story, no matter how beautifully it was shot, it was essentially "poverty porn." In fact, making a beautiful movie about such a subject is what was offensive. At the time I defended CITY OF GOD with a weak, 'But I liked it!' and the fact is when I saw it (in it's release in 2002) I thought nothing of how its beauty might be improper, I was just grateful for what window it could provide into that world. But things have changed since 2002. At least, I have changed...but the world has, too--especially in terms of how we receive media of horrible, shocking scenes. In 2002 there was no Youtube (or similarly widespread  but less censored alternatives) to easily share shocking cellphone videos For that matter, there weren't that many video-equipped cellphones. The immediacy of such videos nowadays is so prevalent that news programs will show lo-fi, pixelated videos on a regular basis. And in such a world, seeing brutal violence in such a clear, controlled, well-lit, etc. manner just makes it obvious that it's staged and someone is presenting it to you as entertainment. And that's what I found distasteful about DAYS OF GRACE--it was morally ugly because it was so physically beautiful...to the point that by the end I felt a little dead inside.

Or maybe I'm overthinking it. Maybe it's supposed to be kind of an adventure, in the mold of a 1990's Hong Kong police action/drama/thriller. Or maybe I'm underthinking it. Maybe my distaste is exactly what I was supposed to feel and it's at least in part a commentary on the portrayal of violence in movies. Either way, I would have to watch it again to figure that out (along with the more mundane questions of the actual plot.) I just don't know if I'd be up to watching it again.

Total Running Time: 217 minutes
My Total Minutes: 316,571
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