Thursday, February 26, 2015

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 2

After an epic after-party on Opening night, I was up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the opening of the VIP lounge and a few free beers promptly at 10 am. My first movie started at 2:45.

The first feature of the day was preceded by the Picture the Possibilities short, OUT OF THE CLOSET. Three youngsters reveal secrets about themselves, then come together to form a band. Pretty cool.

Then the feature was an award winning Israeli film, APPLES FROM THE DESERT, a beautifully sensitive drama about a religious orthodox family and their strong-willed daughter Rivka. She's determined to have more from life than the pre-set path of marrying whoever her father chooses (especially when he chooses a 35 year old widower who already has kids) and raising a family. She wants to do crazy, free things...like dance. So when she meets a nice boy from a kibbutz who is in Jerusalem studying, she has a very chaste affair with him, meeting and talking but not even touching. That is, until her father finds out, drags her back home, and locks her in her room. So she runs away and joins the kibbutz. And this causes no small amount of heartache and scandal back home, but she soon she blossoms from a conservative fish-out-of-water on the secular kibbutz (full of ham-eaters!) to an active and popular member of the community. A generational struggle and a conflict of lifestyles, what's most remarkable is the sympathy the story had for both sides. It would be very, very easy to label her father as the villain of the story. But there's a great line in it--while talking to her boyfriend--where he reveals that "everything is always the same--the husband works, and the wife makes fun of him behind his back." In that moment he stops being the villain and reveals that he's as much of a victim of the expectations of the system as she is. And that's the start of reaching some understanding that his daughter's happiness is the most important thing, and to really live by what he constantly says--that he doesn't care what other people say.

APPLES FROM THE DESERT plays again March 6 at 7:00 pm and March 7 at 7:15 pm. And unrelated to Cinequest, SVJFF will be hosting two screenings at 6:00 and 8:30 March 15th at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto. Good, this film is awesome and should have a chance to be seen by as many people as possible.

Then I had time for just a quick two beers before the next film, which was again preceded by a PTP short, this time UNEXPECTED WONDERFULNESS. When all of humanity suddenly loses their voices, petty squabbling turns in to understanding and actually paying attention to each other. With a funny twist ending.

And then the documentary feature, CHILDREN OF THE ARCTIC. Set in Utqiaġvik, which us white guys call Barrow, Alaska, it's the story of a small group of native teenagers just coming of age, and balancing their native culture with western education, globalization, and of course the north slope oil industry. For those who are squeamish about such things, the film opens with one boy hunting and butchering a caribou (and talking about first going hunting when he was 3 or 4.) Later you'll see more caribou butchering and the butchering of a whale. But that's just one aspect of their culture. We also get to see star students go off to college and then decide to come home and put college off to spend more time with their culture and their elderly grandparents. We see another star student and aspiring politician go off to work on the oil fields. We see a spirited school debate for and against offshore oil drilling. And we see the making of seal skin boats, the hunting of a whale, and community celebrations. And we see the effects of global warming as a spring whale hunt is cancelled. It's a really fascinating slice-of-life look into a culture that is rarely seen, and if the young generation doesn't preserve it, might never be seen again.

CHILDREN OF THE ARCTIC plays again Feb 28th at 2:00 and March 3 at 2:30.

And then it was time for shorts, specifically Shorts 2: (Dis)connection
HOME: A Chinese family is seen over a decade through a hole in their wall. From global events like the millennium, Iraq war, and SARS to personal events like opening a restaurant, moving to a bigger home, having an affair, getting a divorce...
THROUGH THE BREAKING GLASS: The adventures of Alice become a connection for a little girl and her mother struggling for life after a car accident. With some beautiful special effects it's easily the most visually impressive film in the series.
CONEY ISLAND DREAMS: Maggie is down on her luck and needs money to return to Ireland. A bad man convinces her to lure a man into a certain spot at a certain time. But after a lovely time with this man, she has second thoughts. And then third thoughts, after a twist ending.
STRANGE MEN: Abby is a drifter, just released from jail after the police let her off early with just an open container citation. She's on her way back home to Washington (from L.A.) when she sees a strange man following her. This leads to an odd confrontation and maybe the start of a reconciliation.
THE BADDEST PART: Two lovers take a road trip, with a goal of robbing a gas station. And there are unexpected results. (You know, I've realized that unexpected results/twist endings are a theme of this series.)
CUPCAKE: Lena and Karin are very, very close. Like soulmates...or cell mates. Until forces beyond their control tear them apart. Powerfully emotional performances.
BARRIO BOY: A pale, young Irish man walks into a Latino barbershop in Brooklyn. The barber has to act all macho, although he's really attracted to this man. Like anyone would believe a hairdresser could be gay.

Shorts 2 plays again Feb 26 at 7:15 and March 3 at 4:30

Shorts 1: Life Constantly Changes Us
LIFE ENDING SPECIALIST: A man with a very stressful job learns how to relax with a bubble bath and the right music.
AUSSI IOIN: Two lovers on the run after a political attack.
CAMELOT: Tracking down a Ford Capri that was her birthright, a young woman learns a few things about hard times.
HAPPY FUN ROOM: In a police state, a woman who lived through the revolution tries to teach children how to be safe, but they can't stop laughing.
LA PRINCESSE DE LAMOUR DAMOUR: The Princess of the Love of Love lives in a world where everyone falls in love. But she hasn't yet. Until she falls in love with a hot salsa dancer...and the princess Lezzy from the neighboring kingdom...and a few more and has a wonderful multi-amorous happy ending. What a beautiful story for children!
LITTLE COFFINS: A man stabs himself, but cannot die. In a diner, he and the waitress talk about their shared past, loves, and loss.
NEWBORNS: A harrowing look at the survivors of acid attacks. Seriously, this is a thing in other parts of the world--to throw acid on the faces of women. That's just fucked up, but this movie was a good, sympathetic look at them.
SAERTO ENA: In 2008, Russia and Georgia had a little conflict. Civilians feared the military on both sides. Seriously, it didn't matter if the soldier was Russian or Georgian, nor did it matter who the civilian was. Threat of death was just always there.

Shorts 1 plays again Feb 27 at 1:30 and March 2 at 10:15 pm.

And that was Cinequest 25, day 2. More films today. Lounge opens in less than an hour!

Total Running Time: 423 minutes
My Total Minutes: 385,201
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