Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Jason goes to the Santa Cruz Film Festival--Saturday, November 9th

Okay, I'm officially waaaaay behind on my blogging, so this will have to be unfortunately short.

First up on Saturday was a program of LGBTQ themed shorts collectively titled Genre Queer:
CHANGE OVER TIME: Genre - avant garde/experimental. Subject - sex reassignment. In an autobiographical, semi-animated poem director Ewan Duarte examines his first year on testosterone therapy and contemplates the changes ahead of him.
CONTRIBUTION OF A VERSE: The struggles of Jo, a genderqueer teenager who has been kicked out of her home. She lives in her car, showers in the school locker room before classes, and scrounges for whatever food she can find. A tough life, with almost no support, and invisible to the teachers.
PLAN√ąTE ROUGE: Two gay men in Los Angeles meet on grindr and go on a date. A look at a first date that's as sweet, tender, and (extra)ordinary as any first date.
STRAIGHT DOWN LOW: An adolescent noir film with a gay twist. A smart young man investigates a gang murder, with some surprising results.

Then the next show was the documentary MUSICWOOD, and it was a real surprise. Starting with the fine are of guitar-making, it gives a quick primer on the specific types of wood that are best for making guitars. And it specifically focuses on the spruce that is the best wood for the face/soundboard of the guitar. See, a lot of the woods used in making fine guitars are actually being rapidly depleted. And given that you need a pretty large piece to make a guitar face, you specifically need old growth spruce. So the film moves to southeast Alaska, home of the largest forests of old-growth Sitka Spruce in the world. The thing is, these forests are under the control of the Sealaska native corporation, and without a lot of other economic opportunity, they're being rapidly clear-cut. Just a tiny fraction of the wood goes to guitars, but the luthiers (did you know that's the word for guitar makers? I didn't, and I find that pretty cool) have a pretty vital interest in keeping enough old-growth trees around for their needs. So enter a three-way discussion between Sealaska (who wants economic activity), Greenpeace (who wants an end to clear-cutting, period) and the guitar makers (who want a sustainable source of spruce). Sometimes things get tense, sometimes they're downright cordial. To many natives, their visit is kind of a wake up call that they've gotten away from the land. On the other hand, they don't really have a lot of other opportunities. And on the other other hand (apparently this is a three-handed issue, at least) many of the natives complain that they don't see any of the benefits of the timber industry and the pollution has actually decimated their subsistence fishing. It seems like the obvious solution is to get Forest Stewardship Council certification, ensuring that the forestry practices are sustainable, and allowing them to charge more for their wood. But at least by the end of the movie, that's still not settled and negotiations were strained to the breaking point. I don't know if there are updates on this, but the movie gives you a good overview of the issue, from an interesting point of view, and full of gorgeous shots of Southeast Alaska forests (and illuminating shots of clear-cut forests.)

The next program started withe the short BARE AS YOU DARE: PORTLAND'S WORLD NAKED BIKE RIDE. Umm...that's exactly what it sounds like. The world naked bike ride is a (counter-)cultural phenomenon that takes place in several cities, and Portland's is one of the biggest. We get to briefly meet some of the participants--from long-time riders and organizers to first-time riders who are nervous not just about riding naked but about being in a movie about it. And we also get to see some of the audience and their reactions--from stunned, to amused, to wanting to join in.

And that was the lead-in to the feature, THE ORGANIC LIFE. Director Casey Beck turns her camera on her boyfriend, Austin Blair for a year-in-the-life look at the grueling, low-paid, but somehow rewarding work of being a certified organic farmer. Spurred heavily by his desire to eat good food, Austin starts working for Paul’s Produce in Sonoma, CA. Paul Wirtz proves to be an excellent mentor for Austin, and Austin's enthusiasm invigorates Paul. In fact, in the Q&A afterwards Casey and Austin revealed that one of the original ideas for the film was to focus on the relationship between Paul and Austin. Unfortunately, Paul simply isn't very charismatic on camera, and they wisely chose to focus the film on their own relationship instead. So we get to see the frustrating moments, the times when they (Casey especially) question the decision (did she really study film to live on a farm?) And it becomes more than just a story about growing organic vegetables. It's a story about growing a life, about creating a home, and about two people sharing their life. And that's pretty freakin' cool.

And then a real oddity, DIAMOND ON VINYL. Henry has an odd...hobby? Fascination? Quirk? I don't know what to call it, but he likes to record conversations, play them back, and study them. He's a big fan of the Safe at Home series--records of people having mundane conversations. The idea is you play them when you're out so that would-be burglars think people are home (what happens if you're out for more than 90 minutes? Umm....) Anyway, his latest recording--of him and his fiancee having sex--doesn't go over so well when she finds out about it. Even less well when she rewinds the tape and hears him practicing proposing to her...including him voicing his own doubts. Well, she kicks him out, he obsesses over her. He meets a fun, spontaneous young female photographer (the opposite of everything he is) who...fixes him? Not really? Breaks him? He was already kind of broken. But definitely dangerous, as they act out various imagined/practiced conversations and blur the line between fantasy and reality. Not said in all of this is what the heck is up with Henry anyway. It's never said, but I assumed he had some sort of high-functioning Aspergers Syndrome that made him unable to carry on a real, spontaneous conversation and so he was practicing every possible conversation in order to fit in.

Then I skipped the late movie to go to the Big Lebowski party instead. Interesting, Indiefest has done this party for ten years in San Francisco. This is the first year of doing it in Santa Cruz, and nearly everyone upon entering the party went straight to the screening room to watch the movie. I, instead, had an obligatory White Russian before moving on to "oat soda" and having...several of those. Hung out with The Dude and Walter for quite a while, somehow ended up at a vegetarian restaurant downtown at ~3 am before heading back to the hotel to sleep it off. Woke up with quite the hangover the next morning, but that's a story for a different blog post.

Total Running Time: 306 minutes
My Total Minutes: 342,016
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