Sunday, February 21, 2016

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 10

A five film Saturday, the longest day of the festival, and it was pretty great. Love that feeling of utter exhaustion at the end of a nice little marathon.

The first show started with a couple of shorts:
TOUCHING THE UNTOUCHABLE explored the lives of an Indian Dalit (untouchable) community, and their desire for clean drinking water. They had to walk miles to a well they weren't even allowed to use. Once there, if no kindly upper caste person helped them, they'd have to go home thirsty. So they sought out the help of an African-American Buddhist nun to help them organize and dig their own well. There's some pointed commentary about how as an African American, she knows a little something about being treated as sub-human.
SANDORKRAUT is the story of fermentation and expert Sandor Katz.  How a connection with food--particularly how death and microbial activity turns into something wonderful--changes your moral relationship with the world.

And then the feature, CHANGING SEASON: ON THE MASUMOTO FAMILY FARM, goes further along the connection-with-food line. Food and family, in fact. Following a year on their family farm, the film explores their family history, from the WWII internment camps to buying a hard 40 acre patch of ground, to working that into a sustainable farm, to passing it on to future generations. The central relationship is with current patriarch David “Mas” Masumoto and his daughter Nikiko. Fresh off graduating from UC Berkeley (with a women's studies major) she decides she really does want to return home and work the farm with her partner. Oh yeah, she's a lesbian, and while that's no big deal in the progressive Bay Area, that still can be a problem in the central valley. But she seems to be getting by fine with a strong family and her sharp wit. Really, after some mentions of the social issues, the bigger issue becomes the ongoing drought and how to keep the farm in business. The film is a tight 60 minutes (a requirement, as they're showing on PBS sometime in the future) and as a result they had to cut a lot, so it focuses on the family dynamic more than the farming, which is ultimately a good choice, I think. I wouldn't mind a longer cut (maybe DVD extras) that shows a little more of the farming side.

Next up was an 80 minute Coke commercial, THE JOURNEY WITHIN. Okay, it's supposed to be a documentary about Pakistan, and how a music show called Coke Studio is bringing hope to the war-torn country, giving musicians a chance to make a living at their art, and introducing a new generation--who prefers Western style music--to experience their traditional culture, with a western twist to it. But they never do much to address the fact that this is all prominently sponsored by Coca-Cola, and that "Coke" and the red and white logo is splashed on everything. In the Q&A, the question was asked and answered--that of course Coke sponsored, but they were very good at leaving the creative team alone to do the show they wanted. Just because it's funded by a giant multi-national company doesn't mean it can't be good (I'd like to take a moment to thank Toyota for sponsoring the festival.) And if a little bit of that was put into the movie, it would be much better. As it was I was tired and struggled to stay awake. But every time I woke up I was impressed by the music and annoyed by the Coke logo.

And then it was back to the Alamo Drafthouse for some more Far-Out Flicks, starting with THE SIMILARS (LOS PARECIDOS) from Isaac Ezban, who also directed EL INCIDENTE. This guy is one to watch, and I told him afterwards that I want to buy a ticket now to whatever he makes next. In a love-letter (homage is too weak of a word) to The Twilight Zone, the film starts on a dark, rainy night in 1968. A bearded man is trapped in a bus station, trying desperately to get into the city where his wife is giving birth to twins. Another woman is there, 8 months pregnant and desperate to get to the hospital after a fight with her husband. More people show up--a medical student on his way to a protest, a mother with her sick child, a native woman. And of course, the man behind the ticket counter. And they're all trapped in there--not just the rain, not just the warnings on the radio to not go out, but physically trapped--the doors won't open. And then some extreme strangeness starts happening. They all start growing beards and looking like that first man I mentioned. Paranoia sets in, as they all start setting against each other, and some final twists add up to another brilliant little mindbender from one of my new favorite directors.

And then it was LADY PSYCHO KILLER. With a title like that and a promise of a "feminist slasher flick," how could you go wrong? Well, they found a way--mostly by making the female slasher the product of her father's psychotic genes, a twist that adds nothing and detracts heavily from the feminist aspect. In any case, Ella is a good girl and an even better student. When her psychology professor assigns the entire class to "break a sexual norm" she goes to a strip club and is immediately creeped out by the owner (Ron Jeremy.) So she kills him...and she likes it. So she does it again, and again, and again. But it just never reaches its potential. I don't want to say it's a bad movie, because I liked a lot of it. It's just that it could've been something more. I mentioned that the father-was-a-psycho angle didn't work for me, and a few of my friends preferred to believe that her mother was actually the psycho who killed her dad. I like that idea, but want to take it one step further--that there was no dad. Mom was a psycho killer and she was immaculately conceived. After all she does say the Ella means Goddess. Anyway, is it a spoiler to talk about what I wished a movie had been instead of what it actually was? If it is, then don't read the previous few sentences.

And finally, I ended the night with the horror anthology LATE NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE. It uses the framing device of a crappy late night show Dr. Nasty's Cavalcade of Horror. Dr. Nasty is an alcoholic pervert, and his assistant Nurse Nasty does all the work to keep the show going but gets none of the credit. Tonight they're showing a cannibal flick, DINNER FOR MONSTERS. A chef is called upon to cater a fancy dinner party, where the hosts have provided their own roast. Of course it's human, and if he doesn't cook and serve it, he will be next week's main course. Grotesque wackiness ensues. Next up is the art-house S&M movie SLIT, about a man who is paid to cut people--carefully and with sanitized blades. But one girl is unsatisfied with his services. And finally, the behind-the-scenes antics and abuse of Nurse Nasty get to be too much, and framing device is of course the third horror film in the double feature. With a most satisfying ending, to the film, and to the longest day of Indiefest.

Total Running Time: 418 minutes
My Total Minutes: 419,245
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