Monday, April 30, 2007

Jason goes to SF International--day 4

Yesterday (Saturday) I started off with a challenge--"Colossal Youth", so today I decided to start light, with "Up, Up, and Away", a collection of family friendly short films. Let's jump right in:
"First Flight"--I've seen this one before, but I don't remember where. An uptight businessman learns to loosen up to help a baby bird learn to fly.
"Dorme"--An awesome visual trip through dreamland. Here's a pic of the director Sylvia Binsfield, star Zachary Nascar, and cinematographer Svetlana Cvetko:

And here's another pic of the dreaming boy Zachary Nascar with the little emperor in his dream, Brent Sakihara:

"Knuffle Bunny"--A very sweet story of parents, their baby girl, and her stuffed bunny. Based on a kid's book of the same name.
"Ricochet"--Marbles, racism, politics, and learning to share.
"The Fan and the Flower"--I've seen this before, too. Bill Plympton's one non-f'ed up movie, about the love affair between a ceiling fan and a potted plant.
"I Want to Be a Pilot"--In the slums of East Africa, a little boy dreams of flying to a world where his parents are still alive, he's not impoverished, and kids aren't afraid to play with him just because he's HIV positive. Kind of heavy for a kids movie.
"Peter Pan Has Grown Up and John Lennon Is Dead"--But Peter Pan still visits kids and shares Tinkerbell with kids who need a little hope.
"Ride of the Mergansers"--A short documentary about the birth and first days of a clutch of hooded merganser hatchlings. Adorable.

And the I went to another shorts program, the distinctly not kids-friendly "Desperately Seeking Images". Here we go:
"Woman and Gramophone"--Woman, alone, bored, plays things other than records on her record player.
"We Are Everywhere"--A bit of quick thinking saves some youths from getting mugged.
"Tube With A Hat"--A father/son journey to repair a busted television set in Romania.
"Greyhounds"--Two couples--one considerably more sexually free (and believe German is the sexiest language in the world), spend a night of drinking. I had to look up that a greyhound is a drink made from vodka and grapefruit juice.
"Waiting For Yesterday"--Okay, this movie was one of the awesomest I've seen in a while. Everyone lives backwards (dies, then grow young, then are born). Except one guy is bumped in the bathroom by a guy fleeing the authorities, and he suddenly starts living forward. The revolution is on, bitches!
"Dear Bill Gates"--An e-mail on video to Bill Gates, regarding Corbis--his underground archive of images, the largest such private archive in the world. Connections between Microsoft, archiving, images, and the fire still buring under Centralia, PA (see my review of "The Town That Was").
"Strip Show"--People make strange requests to an internet porn star. Things like make a banana smoothie, drink it, light your high school diploma on fire, buy fire insurance...we have great rates!
"Making the Balkans Erotic"--A short doc on the making of an art installation "Balkan Erotic Epic". Here's some interesting tidbits of Balkan culture and tradition: Men traditionally hump the ground to make it more fertile. During inclement weather, women will lift their skirts and expose themselves because Balkan gods are afraid of vaginas. Oh, the things I learn at film festivals.
"Nude Caboose"--Guy Maddin goes hi-tech in this cell phone video story of a conga line, chasing the tail, and butt-punching. I love Guy Maddin, can't wait for his "Brand on the Brain" later in the festival.

So after the pair of shorts programs, it was time for a documentary. Specifically, "All in This Tea" about famed local tea importer David Lee Hoffman. Hoffman is a big proponent of chinese teas (traditionally most teas in the U.S. are from India) and local organic farming. He's an adventurer and world traveller who travels to China, buys tea directly from the farmers (stuffing his nose into big bags of tea), and imports it to the US, bypassing (sort of, as much as he can politically) the Chinese factory tea production. He was the only foreigner invited to China's first conference on organic tea. Directors Les Blank (who travelled to China with him) and Gina Leibrecht have crafted an engaging movie about a Hoffman's boundless enthusiasm. And in the end, it's about as exciting as a documentary about tea can be. It made me want to have a good cup of tea. Here's a pic of (left to right) David Lee Hoffman, Gina Leibrecht, and Les Blank.
Oh yeah, and the movie also featured a cameo by Werner Herzog, the famed director and star of Les Blank's short movie "Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe" (to settle a bet with then-fledgling documentarian Errol Morris). But I digress....

Next up was a South African indie comedy "Bunny Chow". The day before they planned to start shooting their script about stand up comedians travelling to a gig at a rock festival, their producers pulled out the funding, so they shot the whole thing guerilla style--black and white, sneaking their cameras around the festival without permits. The name comes from a traditional snack treat--a loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with a spicy curry of veggies and meat (sounds freakin' delicious, I want one!) The dish is a metaphor for the mixing pot that is South Africa, particularly in the youth overcoming their history of Apartheid. Three young comedians are struggling both professionally and in their personal love lives. Kags is kind of the ringleader, a bit of a bully (verbal, not physical), and a womanizer. Joey is a goofy looking (i.e., has hair like mine) Muslim (but not really devout, although he gets pissed when his girlfriend feeds him pork). And Dave is the new guy in the group, funny in person but a disaster on stage. Though the story kind of meanders, the energy is always high, it's more about the wild characters than the narrative. And ultimately, it's about learning to be yourself. Pretty good. Here's a pic of director John Barker:

And finally, there was the Brazilian poor black youth drama, "The 12 Labors". The main character is Heracles, a young man who's been to juvenille prison, but is trying to turn his life around. But as his name and the title suggest, doing so in the slums of Brazil is a Herculean achievement. His cousin helps him get a job as one of São Paulo's many motorcycle delivery boys. It's a dangerous profession, mostly involving careening through the busy traffic at high speeds. And his twelve labors are more about intelligence and keeping his cool in the face of overt racism--things like having to climb 25 flights of stairs to make a delivery when the freight elevator is out and the security guard won't let him on the passenger elevator (simple solution, climb one flight and catch the elevator on the second floor). So many times he has the chance to lash out at the injustice of society, but it's his Herculean task to move beyond it and better himself. Very well done, once I finally understood it (it took me about 1/2 way through to "get it"). Here's a pic of director Ricardo Elias:

And that was Sunday at the festival. Two more movies tonight.

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