Thursday, March 9, 2017

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 9

Cinequest has been pretty darn generous with the press screeners this year. So that alleviates a lot of the complications of trying to see as much as possible in a split-location festival. So first off on Wednesday, on the most exclusive screen at Cinequest (my living room wall) I saw the short SUBCULTURE. A very funny short about a guy who goes to his therapist and it takes a very dark and twisted turn. Okay, it's about BDSM. But it goes even further than traditional sessions. Very funny, and featuring big baby Jed Rowen (THE GHASTLY LOVE OF JOHNNY X, Cinequest 2012, DRILLER, and ZOMBIE FARM, Holehead 2007)

SUBCULTURE plays with the feature THIS IS MEG Thu, Mar 9 6:15 PM in Santana Row and Sat, Mar 11 10:50 AM in Redwood City. So inconveniently, locations I don't plan to be at those days. But hopefully I'll also catch the feature on the most exclusive screen in Cinequest.

Then it was time for another full, rewarding day in Redwood City

The first show started with the short GLOWWORM, directed by Laina Barakat, producer of ONLY DAUGHTER, Cinequest 2013.) A beautiful little film about loss and what's important in life. Emma's grandfather passed away, and left her the family farm in New England. She goes there just to see it before paying her respects and then selling it. Which is a shame, because loyal farmhand Pedro was hoping to stay on, but it looks like he'll be out of a job. That is, unless he convinces her to stay. Nicely done.

And that was the lead-in to THE HONEST STRUGGLE. Darrell Davis was a promising young musician. He just got involved with the wrong type of people in Chicago and wen to jail--3 times, totaling over 20 years. There he converted to Islam, changed his name to Sadiq, and as he's released form jail, is moving into a re-entry home of Muslims with a determination to make the right choices and stay out of trouble. Thing is, as a 3 time offender, as a black man, and as a Muslim...it seems like he has to make 100% right choices and even then, it's hard to stay out of trouble. People hassle him. Guys from his old life contact him, try to convince him to go back to the gang life. An "honest struggle" is right, both in that it is honestly a struggle and a struggle to stay honest. A powerful personal documentary, that makes my own privileged struggles seem so easy. I've made some bad choices, but in my situation, I estimate I only need to make the right choice about...60% of the time to avoid totally fucking up my life. Sadiq has to make 100%, and that might not even be enough.

GLOWWORM and THE HONEST STRUGGLE play again Sat, Mar 11 10:30 AM in Santana Row

Then some tasty libations at another fine Redwood City establishment, this time Margaritas and back for another show.

EXILED is easily the darkest film I've seen this year at Cinequest (I know someone will point out a darker one, but my schedule is biased in terms of films with filmmakers I drink with, which tends to cut out the really dark stuff.) In World War I, shell-shocked soldiers were kept in mental hospitals. When Dr. Ulrich arrives at one in Latvia, the inmates start screaming when they see his uniform. To keep a modicum of peace, all reminders of the war must be removed. These people are in really bad shape, and live in really bad conditions. And that's before all the horrible stuff starts happening. A feral kid, an approaching, abusive unit of their own army. It all unfolds like some terrible nightmare which you can't wake up from. Very well made, but I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

That was the last screening of EXILED. Sorry, it's getting to be that time in the festival.

Then I had another leisurely break between films, so I sat down for a little vino and a little dining at Donato Enoteca with Robert E Kelly, an associate producer of GLOWWORM. Lovely man, lovely place.

Then I caught a work-in-progress screening of QUEEN ANNE'S LACE. As a work in progress, the sound definitely needs some touch-up, and I don't know how close this is to the final edit. But it's enough to tell a compelling story. Jane...needs a little bit of time away from her husband and daughter. Or at least her husband. She's a poet, and sees herself as that. He loves her, but sees her as a wife and mother, and poetry as a hobby. That's probably not the only problem they have, but in any case she needs a little break and decides to go spend some time at her aunt Jackie's house in the country. Which is all well and good, until she falls in love with someone else. That someone else is the local kayak instructor, and she's a woman. Jane had experimented with women in the past, and maybe this is her real orientation. Or maybe it's a fling, and she's just hurting her daughter. Is it selfish? Is it what she really wants? It's never quite answered. It's more about how unanswerable and painful some of these question can be. It's shot in a low-res, Dogme 95 inspired style, with an often voyeuristic eye peeking at the characters through trees or porch railings. It's kind of like the conversations are so intimate that we're kind of breaking a taboo by watching and listening in.

That was also the last screening of QUEEN ANNE'S LACE, but maybe the finished version will come back next year?

And finally, I ended the night with THE DUNNING MAN, by some of the funnest drinkers at Cinequest 2017. To "dun" is an old term for collecting a debt. Early on, our hero Connor Ryan approaches a door with loud meowing inside, and opens it to reveal a room of furries watching a guy dressed as a bear fucking a woman made up like a cat. Then we rewind a bit. Connor Ryan, after failing in New York, is back home in Atlantic City, trying to make a go of it. All he has left is a few apartments he rents out in a shitty condo complex. We will soon find out those furries are renting one of them. Except they're not paying. And they're connected to some illegal business. In his other apartments, there's a lovely single mother with an abusive on/off boyfriend and an upstairs neighbor who parties too loud (and too explicitly sexually) for her or her darling daughter to sleep. That upstairs neighbor is a rap star, working on his second album (his first was huge, so it's a little weird he's renting from such a shitty complex, but he's got his reasons.) Connor's life is kind of a hurricane, as he's just trying to collect the rent so he can pay off a few debts and maybe fix the air conditioning...but they won't pay rent until he fixes the air conditioning. So he's got to use his few connections and his fuckin' Irish stubbornness to become a hero 'n shit. A fun, wild ride. One of the funnest films I've seen this year at Cinequest. 

THE DUNNING MAN plays again Fri, Mar 10 2:20 PM

Total Running Time: 343 minutes
My Total Minutes: 422,104
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