Thursday, June 2, 2016

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 11 (plus one bonus film)

Sunday was a long, exhausting day. I might actually be getting too old for this. I'm starting to sympathize more with the people who go home early instead of staying up for the last show of the night. Maybe in another 10 years, that'll be me.
 
Anyway, I started bright and early at 10:00 a.m. with the special members' screening, A MONSTER WITH A THOUSAND HEADS. Taking a concept that would feel right at home in the U.S. a middle-aged Mexican woman's husband is gravely ill and the insurance company is blocking the necessary treatment to keep him alive. She tries to navigate the labyrinth of administrators who give her the runaround. But when that doesn't work, she takes the logical step of grabbing a gun and getting things done her own way. For a slow-build, tense thriller, it's remarkably short and efficient (74 minutes) and completely satisfying both as a dramatic social justice thriller and a melodramatic revenge fantasy. I'll admit I was a bit too sleepy that early in the morning, so I'm sure I missed some of the finer points of the film, but I'll be happy to watch it again when it gets released into general theatrical distribution (I don't know when that will be.)
 
And then I played hooky for one film. The film I've heard the most about isn't actually playing in the festival, but is playing at the new home of the festival--The Alamo Drafthouse New Mission. GREEN ROOM is the latest from Jeremy Saulnier (MURDER PARTY and BLUE RUIN...and I'm very happy we didn't need six years between features this time.) A punk band is on a not very successful tour. But through a friend they get booked into a pretty...unusual place. Specifically, a skinhead white supremacist bar. And they are ballsy and punk enough to sing a song that's entirely a "fuck you Nazis" message. But their show still goes...more or less okay. Until they kinda sorta accidentally witness a murder, and then are help captive. They're probably gonna be killed, but for the moment they're just held in check until the leader of the skinheads, Darcy (Patrick m-fuckin' Stewart!) decides what to do. Stewart is obviously relishing his chance to play an absolutely evil guy, and he's great at it. And once again, I'm very happy Saulnier has made a new film so shortly after his last one. Can't wait to see what he'll do next.
 
So then back to the festival, with AUDRIE & DAISY, a powerful hot-button documentary about schoolgirl sexual abuse, and the aftermath. Teens go to parties. Teens drink too much. Teen girls sometimes pass out. And, unfortunately, sometimes the boys who they thought were friends, take advantage of them. And, worse yet, sometimes that gets posted online, and the victim is re-victimized with cyber-bullying and slut-shaming. Sometimes this even drives them to suicide (that was the case with Audrie.) But lest you think this is a completely depressing film, let me assure you it's only mostly depressing. Because it also showcases the courage of survivors who do speak out (that's Daisy's story) and the support network that comes from that. If there's one big message I could give to anyone who has been in any sort of bullying situation (sexual or otherwise) it's this: it's not the taunts of your enemies that hurt, it's the silence of your friends. Actually that's especially directed and anyone who knows someone who has been bullied. Please keep that in mind.
 
Next up was a very different kind of documentary, PETER AND THE FARM. Peter Dunning is a very interesting man. He has a past that is...well, let's say it's "mixed." He now lives alone on a farm, with his animals. And at times it's like he's found his own slice of paradise. And at other times, he goes on about how this movie should climax with his suicide. He's a funny, prickly, philosophical man. Also a recovering alcoholic who suffers from depression and is convinced his now grown children wouldn't even pick up the phone if he called. He's also getting too old and frail to successfully operate his 187 acres at Mile Hill Farm, so even the one thing that brings him joy and peace is slowly slipping away. But don't mistake this for a depressing movie. He's still a quick-witted, funny guy and the movie is full of gorgeous shots of the farm and the surrounding wilderness. He just has a lot below the surface, and will freely let you know that, without telling you exactly what it is.
 
And finally, I ended the night and the weekend with VERY BIG SHOT, a Lebanese crime thriller comedy. Allegedly inspired by true events (namely, a coked-up filmmaker) it's the story of a small-time drug dealer in Beirut who learns from a director about an old legendary scam where they hid drugs in film cans to sneak them past customs. And so he becomes an independent film producer just to make this scam works. And it turns out...he's got a knack for filmmaking, and wacky hijinx ensue! What a cool way to finish the weekend.
 
Total Running Time:  463 minutes
My Total Minutes: 428,623
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