Monday, March 7, 2016

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 5

A huge 7 program Saturday, so lets just jump right in. It was a long rainy day, which makes it a perfect time to watch movies. Of course, I also think it's perfect to watch movies when it's sunny. Or when toads fall from the sky. Or when hail falls from a cloudless sky and turns to fire when it hits the ground. I like movies.

First up was Shorts 8 - High School Student Shorts. Some pretty talented kids making movies.
AMERICAN HEROES: Soldiers back from war, pay one last tribute to the Sarge they lost. With a twist.
BARRIERS OF SEPERATION: Part of a workshop with Syrian refugee girls in Jordan, this is a personal story of 18 year old Raghad and how she wants to find and reconnect with her father.
DREAMS WITHOUT BORDERS: Another part of the same workshop, this one is about 16 year old Muna, adjusting to her family's new life in Jordan.
FALLING: A girl and her best friend, a girl who kinda looks like a boy. Her father was already kinda mad she had a boy over. When he realizes she might actually be more interested in girls, he has even more problems with it.
FOR SALE: Umm...it's entirely possible I slept through this movie. I don't remember anything about it.
THE GIFT: Even in the zombie apocalypse, those little tokens of undying love are important. Ha, get it, "undying" love? I'm so funny....
THE GIRL, WHOSE SHADOW REFLECTS THE MOON: Another of the Syrian refugee girls in Jordan. Walaa recounts her journey and the power of filmmaking. By the way, kudos to Cinequest for programming these, they're very powerful stories.
LILLY'S BIG DAY: In simple paper animation, a big, orange, hairy monster gets a fabulous makeover.
NEW NEIGHBORS, OLD FIGHTS: From Peru, a man and a women, living next door, fight over everything. But when she's gone, the old man is lonely he has no one to fight with. Funny, and a little touching.
PERPETUAL WOODS: Huh, another one I had trouble staying awake for. I remember the images of the woods and the young lovers, but the description says "A lover leaves a girl dead inside and out." I...don't remember the death part.
SWIMMY: A boy buries his pet goldfish. Then thinks about the life Swimmy must have had, confined to his bowl the whole time. So he does something for the other fish.
WONDERFUL WORLD: A stroll through a post-apocalyptic world, while the last survivor dreams of a green, beautiful, natural world.

Shorts 8 plays again next Saturday at 11:15 am 

Then back to the VIP lounge for a quick beer with the director of the next feature. Hooray for morning drinking!

But first, the short MOOM, a cute computer animated film about stuck memories and learning to be free.

That was the lead-in to THE GREAT SASUKE, a documentary of wrestling and politics in Japan. Drawn to wrestling, and taking his inspiration from Mexico's Lucha Libre, The Great Sasuke was a superstar. He never takes off his mask (there's not a scene in the movie that shows his face, and a few wear he changes masks without showing his face) and was a champion who brought aerial moves never before seen. He also wanted to give back to his community, so he became a politician and even won a seat as a prefecture legislator (and yes, he attended and gave speeches with his mask on.) But now, things are different. He's older, his body is failing, and he lost his campaign for governor. And instead of a champion, he's kind of an embarrassment. But he's still fighting, and he runs a new campaign to get back into the legislature. It might be easy to just laugh at him, but there's something very appealing about his refusal to ever give up. And there's something very genuine in his belief that he was called by God to be a wrestler and to use his powers to improve the lives of others (such as when he visits and helps out with earthquake/tsunami victims.) He might not be the hero we want...he might not even be the hero we need anymore. But he is, in his own way, a hero.

MOOM and THE GREAT SASUKE plays again Tuesday at 12:15 pm and next Satuday at 5 pm

Next up was THE OTHER KIDS. Director Chris Brown worked with real high school seniors in Sonora, CA, and let them improvise and develop their own characters, and created something truly remarkable--funny, real, and moving. These seniors are stepping up to a great transition to adulthood, but in many ways are already dealing with pretty adult issues--ranging from love, relationships, college, immigration status, sexual orientation, suicide attempts, even being the new kid in town. This is without a doubt the kids' story, and that's a good thing. It lets them explore issues that they care about, beyond just the goal of graduating. In fact, it's very easy to forget that these are high school seniors and instead just see them as young people dealing with the drama of life. To the point where the final scene at graduation is  kind of jarring--a reminder of where society places these kids, and how the graduation ceremony is hardly going to change the issues that they will still have to deal with. Excellently done.

THE OTHER KIDS plays again Monday at 7:15 and Thursday at 11:45 am.

Then the next program started with the short BIRTHDAY, which I had also seen at Indiefest. But this time I was actually more awake, so I could follow the wounded marines progress in physical rehab much better. A very moving short. 

And that was the lead in to the feature JOSEPHINE DOE. Shot in glorious black and white (there's something I still love about black and white movies every time.) Claire works in a bookstore with her father and has a new friend, Jo. Jo is a charming free spirit that helps Claire enjoy life. Which is especially important when her father passes away, her sister inherits the bookstore, and she's left with very little. So one night Claire and Jo break into a roller skating rink for a little after-hours fun. Nothing too bad. But the cops catch them, and back at the station Claire tries to explain they were just having a little fun, and it was all Jo's idea. But the cops can't see Jo, even though she's sitting right there. Spoiler alert (not really, it's described in the program guide)--Jo is a figment of Claire's imagination. And there's history of this in the family--namely her mother. So this becomes a story of coming to grips with her mental health issues, but also about how Claire's hallucination helps her as much as she causes distress. In fact, I may be completely missing the point (possible give how exhausted I was by this time) but I was rooting for Jo to stick around. Even as a hallucination, she was more fun and more supportive than anyone else in the movie. Which was pretty cool. And like I said before, I love how beautifully it was shot in black and white.

BIRTHDAY and JOSEPHINE DOE plays again Monday at 9:30 pm and Friday at 4:45.

Next program started with the short, I AM GOOD. A new mother out for a walk meets a model who has had a bad day. They share and commiserate over their lives and how they envy each other. A short and sweet story about the power of good simple human interaction. And carbs.

And then the feature, MY FERAL HEART. Luke doesn't let his Down's Syndrome slow him down. He still gets up every morning, shaves, makes his mum breakfast, does the shopping, does the laundry, helps bathe his mum, etc. He's her main caretaker, and he does a fine job at it. But nothing lasts forever, and mum is old. So when she passes away, he's sent to a care home for the disabled. And while the staff there are kind, it's too little freedom for him. So he doesn't stay, he simply breaks out. And he meets some new friends, but I won't say too much about that to avoid spoilers. It's really amusing and heartwarming to watch so many people go from viewing Luke as disabled to viewing him as a strong, heroic character who takes care of people a lot more than he needs taking care of. There is so much warmth and love in this movie, it's just beautiful.

I AM GOOD and MY FERAL HEART plays again Sunday at 11:15 am (sorry, didn't get this written in time) and Tuesday at 4:30 pm.

And then I was over at the beautiful California Theatre for LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED? (The question mark is part of the title.) The feature expands on the premise set up in the short film of the same title. It starts with the high-concept premise of sexual politics being reversed. What if homosexuality was the norm, and heteros were mocked, bullied, beaten, killed, and driven to suicide? It's really interesting how quickly that premise goes from a joke to being taken very seriously, which is a tribute to the filmmakers' world-building ability. The major story is taken from true stories, with a healthy dose of artistic license. The star quarterback is outed as a 'ro, her boyfriend is attacked and beaten, and a junior high girl mercilessly teased just for being friends with a boy. Meanwhile a preacher is spewing hate sermons lifted directly from the Westboro Baptist Church. And the teachers, coaches, and parents--the ones who are supposed to be protecting these kids? They're often doing as little as they can, pretending it's not an issue. Or when they do stand up, they get smacked back down (one of my favorite side plots features Jeremy Sisto as a drama teacher who is scandalously teaching Shakespeare's original version of Romeo and Juliet--not Julio.) It's a powerful, moving story, and while it might be mostly preaching to the choir, at least her in the progressive, gay-friendly Bay Area, that question mark in the title becomes awfully important. Because at least at this point, you do need more than love--you need strength, courage, allies, hope. And I hope this movie helps.

LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED? plays again Sunday at 4:00 (same apology as above) and Wednesday at 5:15.

Shorts 5 - Mindbenders. Hooray for late-night mindbending shorts.
DEATH IN BLOOM: It bent my mind when a personalized death agent went the extra mile to please a very wealthy, and very picky, customer.
HOW DEEP CAN I GO?: It bent my mind when Hairy Soul Man (possibly NSFW) was back, and more sick and twisted than ever.
MANOMAN: It bend my mind when a man got in touch with his naked, primitive id. And went a little crazy with it. Cool stop-motion animation.
MONSTER: It bent my mind when this little boy faced off with the monsters in the night.
MONSTER: It bent my mind when this artists creation came to life, due to just the right (or wrong) combination of glue.
MONSTERS: It bent my mind when Cinequest played three straight movies with (almost) the same title. Also when the little girl hidden in the underground bunker escapes and finds what horrors are on the surface.
ORANGES DON'T GROW ON TREES: It bent my mind when I found out where oranges actually come from.
THE PUPPETEER: It bent my mind when these kids wondered about the strings around their wrists, and who is controlling them. And how grown-ups can't see them.
THE SITTER: It bent my mind when the babysitter realizes she's in for more than she can handle. From Cinequest veteran Rory O'Donnell (AUTODRIVE)
THE WOOLLEN BUTTERFLY: It bent my mind when...shit, I think I fell asleep in this one. Gimme a break, it was a really long day, that started with not nearly enough sleep.  

Shorts 5 - Mindbenders plays again Monday at 9:30 and Wednesday at 2:30.

Total Running Time: 652 minutes
My Total Minutes: 422,026

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