Thursday, May 16, 2013

Jason goes to SFIFF--The End

Okay, SFIFF ended a week ago, and I've finally gotten a little rest and it's time to finish this up. I skipped the closing night gala of BEFORE MIDNIGHT. Not only is it coming out soon, but I haven't seen the previous films in the series (BEFORE SUNRISE and BEFORE SUNSET). I was assured that seeing the first two was not necessary, but I'm kind of hoping one of the awesome theaters in the Bay Area will do a marathon of all three. That seems like the right way to see them.

Instead I went to the Kabuki for two films, staring with THE KILL TEAM, the winner for Best Bay Area Documentary Feature. A troubling account of a rogue (or is it typical? There are allegations but no details) platoon in Afghanistan. It focuses on Adam Winfield, a bright-eyed all-American kid who wanted to join up and serve his country. He found himself serving with a sergeant who kept a necklace of fingers as war trophies, and he certainly didn't expect to get used to that. Turns out his platoon has a bit of a thing for capturing and killing Afghans...maybe without really finding out if they're actually enemy combatants or not. As Adam is going to trial, interviews with himself, his family, and other members of the platoon (not the sergeant, unfortunately. But then what would he say other than insisting they were legitimate enemy combatants?) bring up the question of whether he was an active participant, a reluctant participant who gave into peer pressure, or a whistle-blower who is being unfairly punished. The movie--or rather Adam and his parents--make a compelling case for the latter. But there's more to it than that. Could he have done something to stop it or report it earlier? There's plenty of evidence--or at least belief--that if he had there would have been retaliation up to even the possibility of him 'accidentally' being killed while out on maneuvers. But is his fear of retaliation evidence of cowardice that warrants a court-martial? That's eventually what he plea-bargained to. And the movie...leaves that a little unresolved. In fact, as much as it focuses on Adam it actually shows more about the military culture, and how little we really understand of it.

And that reminds me of something I've said before. I will never understand what it's like to be a soldier. I haven't been one, and I don't want to. I respect the people who volunteer to fight so I don't have to. I admire them. And the one thing I think they truly deserve--my understanding--is something they will never get. This all still holds true. But please guys, stop being dicks, so I can at least still have respect and admiration for you.

And finally, I ended the festival with BYZANTIUM, a late-added program of Neil Jordan's (INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE) new vampire flick, told from a woman's perspective. Young Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) and her older companion Clara (Gemma Arterton) are vampires. In fact, while Eleanor looks 16 and Clara looks just old enough to be her mother (spoiler aler: because she is) they've actually been around for 200 years, hiding from the patriarchal vampiric authorities (it's a strict brotherhood, no females allowed). It's kind of hard to conceive of how exactly they survived so long, since they have a bit of a habit of making huge messes (like burning up their flat). Mother/daughter strife (apparently although they've had 200 years together they have only just begun working on their relationship issues), survival, romance, etc. It's about 80% tedious, with flashes of brilliant, beautiful scenes. Although the biggest, most beautiful scene is re-used so often that by the end I was just thinking 'Oh, this again. Whatever.' Anyway, a bit of a disappointment for the ending of the festival, although that's probably only because my hopes were so high (I do love me a kick-ass lady vampire flick.)

Total Running Time: 192 minutes
My Total Minutes: 327,732

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