Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Jason goes to SFFILM--Closing Night

Three movies on Sunday, April 15th, including the closing night party...although the festival continued for a couple more days.

THE NEXT GUARDIAN is a touching documentary about tradition, modernity, identity, and a generation gap. Gyembo and Tashi are siblings in Bhutan. Gyembo, as the eldest son, is expected to take over and maintain the family monastery. But he's more interested in soccer and social media. Tashi, his little sister, is even more into soccer. In fact, a lot of the movie is about her attempt to make the national under-14 girls' soccer team. But then she identifies as a male in a female body. Gyembo, meanwhile, is genial and funny, just not all that interested in taking over the family business. In fact, he's kind of aimless, not really interested in anything. But the two of them have an easy, teasing sibling vibe, and the movie is pleasant and never tries to push the drama, just lets it happen. There's something very Buddhist about the attitude of everyone involved.

And then BISBEE '17 is...I guess a documentary? Director Robert Greene (KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE) likes to make movies that bend the documentary/narrative boundaries. This time he takes on the story of Bisbee, Arizona, both in 1917 and in a historical recreation in 2017. Bisbee is--or was--a mining town. But in 1917 the miners went on strike for better pay and working conditions. And the strike was put down by rounding up all the striking miners, running them out of town, leaving them in the desert, and telling them to never set foot in Bisbee again. The history is explored through interviews with locals (many of them descendants of people on both sides of the deportation) and through a recreation held for the 100th anniversary. Which is pretty remarkable, because this isn't a part of their history that they talk about, much less celebrate. But this is a way to confront and deal with their history, and people get into it...to greater or lesser degrees (some to frighteningly high degree.) It's impossible to watch this and not think about the partisan divide in the country today. The fact is, rounding up your own countrymen, driving them to the desert, and leaving them for dead is horrific. But it's also something that's not too hard to imagine...or at least fantasize about.

And finally, the closing night gala was Gus Van Sant's DON'T WORRY, HE WON'T GET FAR ON FOOT. Joaquin Phoenix stars and practically disappears in the role of John Callahan, an alcoholic, a quadriplegic (by way of a drunken car crash) and a famous cartoonist with a wicked sense of humor. Jonah Hill, Jack Black, and Rooney Mara also give wonderful supporting performances. The story focuses mostly on his drinking and his journey with Alcoholics Anonymous--the stresses and the successes. For my taste, it doesn't feature quite enough of his sharp, anti-political-correctness humor. But you can get that online. And while he has passed away, I have a feeling he'd appreciate that I was drunk enough that I dropped my flask of whiskey during the film and needed help from the guy behind me to retrieve it.

 Anyway, after a Q&A with Van Sant and composer Danny Elfman, it was off to Public Works for several more drinks and a few snacks before I took public transit home--I was in no mood to follow in Callahan's metaphorical footsteps (wheeltracks?)

Total Running Time: 306 minutes
My Total Minutes: 477,334
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