The big first weekend starts, and so does my vacation! Now Cinequest gets really intense, starting with the VIP Soiree at Social Policy, the newest spot in downtown San Jose. A few tasty Tito's cocktails and some delicious food, and I was ready for a movie!
First up was MINE 9, the most unsettling claustrophobic movie I've ever seen. Set in West Virginia coal country, it's inspired by several elements of real coal mine tragedies but based on none specifically. Mining work is always dangerous, and the miners in this movie have some particular concerns about the high levels of methane and poor levels of safety systems. But in a brutally stark revelation early on, they talk about how if they die in there, at least their family gets to collect their life insurance so they're still providing; if they refuse to go in the mine, their family goes hungry. So they all agree, including the new rookie (and son of the most conscientious veteran.) Given the setup, you know tragedy will strike, and it does in the form of a massive methane explosion. But even before you get there, the filmmakers do an incredible job of setting up exactly how claustrophobic the mine is. Seriously, I was on the verge of a panic attack the whole time, and I'm not known to be claustrophobic at all. Once the explosion happens, it's a fight against the elements, against time (with limited oxygen supplies), and against less-then-fully-helpful rescuers (in one of the cruelest ironies, the conscientious veteran miner called MSHA to report problems, but they don't shut down mines until they've completed their investigation. But they're also very cautious about sending rescuers down mines after a report has been called in. So trying to do the right thing screwed them even more.)
During the credits, real miners are interviewed and describe their experiences. What's striking isn't the stories of danger but how proud they are of their work, and how well they know the risks but do it anyway because that's how they provide for their families. It's the greed of the mine owners that leads to the exploitation and dangers. And even then, they talk about how they've worked in many perfectly safe mines that follow all protocols. It's just...too many times when that's not the case.
|This face has a high probability of haunting your nightmares, but it's not a monster, it's a man in trouble|
MINE 9 plays again Mon, Mar 11 7:05 PM at 3 Below; Tue, Mar 12 6:15 PM in Redwood City; and Thu, Mar 14 5:00 PM also in Redwood City.
Then I popped in briefly to the Maverick Meetup at Aura Nightclub for a quick drink before heading back to the 3Below for LUPE, and interesting and challenging movie of contrasts. Rafael is a strong Cuban boxer who can kick most anyone's ass. He's been living in New York, looking for his older sister, whom he suspects has fallen into a life of prostitution. And he beats the crap out of a few pimps along the way, rescuing girls, looking for Isabelle. But the story takes some unexpected turns. Early on we're told that Isabelle gave him the name Rafael, and he never liked it. Turns out, Rafael is transgender, and starts presenting as a woman, and she can still kick anyone's ass. The story transitions (pun intended) from Rafael trying to find his sister to Rafael finding herself, and herself is Lupe.
And now, of course, we should all pause and police my pronouns. I know I used a lot of male pronouns for Rafael. I think that's fair, as I was referring to the character during the times when they were presenting as male. In any case, I'm prepared to be corrected and move on. What's more important, in my opinion, is the wonderful acting, sensitive storytelling, and a transgender character who is already strong when presenting as male, and even stronger when allowed to be her true self.
|Lupe, looking good!|
LUPE plays again Sun, Mar 10 8:00 PM; Mon, Mar 11 2:20 PM; and Sat, Mar 16 9:30 PM. All shows are in Redwood City
And finally I ended the night with REPOSSESSION, a horror/drama from Singapore with a really great idea that just dragged on a little bit. Jim is a well-off engineer, drives a nice car, lives in a luxury condo with his loving wife and daughter. They're solid, respectable citizens, doing good works like bringing food to some of the poorest people. But they're also at risk of becoming poor themselves, as Jim just lost his job and is too proud to tell his wife and daughter. So he lives off his savings. He takes some risky investment choices. He secretly drives people for a ride-hail company (His shame at this is maybe the biggest culture shock in the movie. Here in Silicon Valley, about half the time I take a Lyft or Uber, the driver is a highly trained tech worker just between jobs and there's no shame in it.) Now that real life drama is just frustrating. I can understand his thoughts, but I just don't like him for it. Just tell your wife and daughter already! They'll understand (and in fact, when he finally does, they do.) But there's also a supernatural terror--a demon that is haunting him, and has since childhood. It's the reason his sister is an invalid. And it comes back infrequently, but is terrifying when it does. That part could've been expanded more, because I liked the battle with the demon. It's a clever idea to juxtapose the very real economic fear and shame and the supernatural terror, I just felt like I would've enjoyed it more if the balance were a little different. The realistic drama emphasized his weakness of character, which is important to the story but made me really not like him. And the demon story was really cool but underused.
|They're scared of something even worse than unemployment|
REPOSSESSION plays again Sun, Mar 10 10:10 PM in Redwood City; Wed, Mar 13 4:45 PM at the California Theatre; and Sat, Mar 16 10:35 PM in Redwood City
Total Running Time: 258 minutes
My Total Minutes: 498,459
My Total Minutes: 498,459