Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Jason goes to Docfest--Day 10

The big second weekend started with a 5-film Saturday

First up was the short THE CHAMPION. A Chicago taxi driver and family man challenges his passengers to guess where he's from. And that leads to his story as an Iraqi boxing champion. A Christian who refused to join Saddam Hussein's Baath party, he eventually fled, leaving behind his parents and brother. But always looking ahead he found his way to America with a beautiful wife and kids. Good story about a nice guy.

And that was the lead in to QUEEN MIMI, the story of an 88 year old woman who has lived in a Santa Monica laundromat for the past 18 years. She seems to be friends with everyone there, and has a pleasant, friendly demeanor. But that's masking some amount of trauma in her past that she doesn't want to talk about. When her famous friends Zach Galifianakis and Renee Zellweger end up pitching in and getting her an apartment and furniture, respectively, things start to change a bit. She still works in the laundromat every day (except for one interlude where she's hospitalized after a fall) but other secrets from her past come out...like she has a....nah, I won't spoil it. She's a very likable person, and her joy is as infectious as her obvious past trauma is heartbreaking. But this film gives some very nice things to a very nice person.

Then the next show started with LUCHADORA, which I had previously seen at Cinequest. A story of a Mexican female professional wrestler, her triumphs in the ring and her struggles as a single mother. Very cool.

And that led into DEAD WHEN I GOT HERE, the story of an impoverished mental hospital on the outskirts of Juarez, Mexico. In fact, "hospital" is not really the right term, with almost no medicine and mostly the inmates taking care of cooking, cleaning, etc. Particularly, the movie focuses on JosuĂ©, a former inmate who now practically runs the place. He showed up at the place nearly dead from drug use, got his shit together, and now...well, now because of his past he doesn't have a lot of other places to go, so he makes the best of his situation. The movie is shot in a verite, fly-on-the-wall style, which gets some good footage but also makes it frustratingly lacking in context. Which is helpfully filled in by a companion website and upcoming book. So...yeah, I suggest you check out the website first, and once you've digested all the information then you're set to watch the movie. Not that it matter, since there's no more screenings at Docfest. But it could always come back, or you could wait for the DVD release.

Then the next show was a duo of medium length shorts about art, starting with ABANDONED GOODS. From 1946 to 1981, patients at the Netherne psychiatric hospital created works of art as part of their therapy, under the direction the artist Edward Adamson. Now they are being collected in an exposition, with interesting questions about outsider art, patient privacy, and the overarching question of all art--what is art?

And the second half expands on the question of "what is art?" with an exposition of the works of famous contemporary artist Jeff Koons, JEFF: EMBRACE YOUR PAST. Shot at the 1992 retrospective of his work as SFMOMA, his work runs the gamut from brand new vacuum cleaners in plastic cases to explicit pornographic scenes of Jeff and his wife at the time Ilona Staller (famous as her porn star name Cicciolina, and also a member of the Italian parliament from 1987 to 1992.) But the highlight of film has to be the interview with Koons' father, which takes place in the men's room of SFMOMA, with people walking in and out, doing their business, washing their hands, and paying no attention (except for the one guy who kind of pushes the door into the camera.) Pretty fascinating look at what the "high art" world considers art.

And the next show was yet another take on art, with Juxtapoz Art Shorts, a shorts program curated by Juxtapoz magazine.
SLANG AESTHETICS: An exposition of the works of Robert Williams, founder of Juxtapoz, and his gonzo comic art.
GONE AGAIN: A tour through a bit of the Olympia, WA home of super-collector Long Gone John. An overflowing explosion of pop and kitsch art.
THE SUCKLORD: A profile on the art and commerce of Sucklord, purveyor of bootleg mashup action figures (among other works) that are available at Suckadelic.
THE MISSION COOL: S.F. ART IN THE 90'S: Like it says, the artist who lived in the Mission District of San Francisco in the 90s. So, of course, they've all been gentrified out of there.
OLEK COVERS THE WORLD IN CROCHET: A Polish artist who...crochets everything, and covers...well, if not the world, at least a lot of cool stuff like the bull statue on Wall Street.
NEIL YOUNG: SPECIAL DELUXE: The rocker and artist about his latest book and art show--all about cool cars.
CHEECH MARIN: DE COLORES DE CHEECH: Cheech Marin explains the origin of the term Chicano (originally a Mexican slur against Mexicans living in the U.S.) and his collection of Chicano art. Pretty cool.

And finally I ended the night with DANNY SAYS. I had never heard of Danny Fields, but apparently he was vital to a whole heck of a lot of rock and roll. A self-professed faggot who just wanted to have a lot of sex with beautiful people, he fell in with Andy Warhol's factory and Lou Reed. He worked briefly for the Doors until Jim Morrison fired him (granted, it was kinda for kidnapping him.) He managed the Stooges, MC5 and the Ramones, but never stayed around long enough to make a fortune with them. He talks a lot about how quickly he gets bored and moves on to something new. But along the way he kept an absolute treasure trove of recorded material (his audio cassette of Lou Reed reacting to hearing The Ramones is pretty fascinating) and through his archival material, his own stories, and the stories of famous people he has worked with, we get a fascinating portrait of a man who was an important part of getting a lot of rock bands started, and really did it for the love of the music instead of fame and fortune.

And that was last Saturday at Docfest.

Total Running Time: 430 minutes
My Total Minutes: 400,842
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