It finally ended...in San Francisco! Just a week left in Berkeley.
The closing night special film was "Operation Filmmaker", by Nina Davenport. In 2004, MTV did a show about young people living in Iraq, and showed Muthana Mohmed, a film student whose school was bombed. He talked about wanting to go to America, become a filmmaker, and meet Angelina Jolie. Actor Liev Schreiber saw this while he was putting together a crew for his directorial debut, "Everything is Illuminated" (starring Elijah Wood, based on the book by Jonathon Safron Foer). He decides it would be a great thing to invite Muthana to Prague, where they're shooting the movie, and make him an intern on the movie. And it would be even better to have Nina Davenport follow him around and document his first experience on a major motion picture set. Well, things start out well, but it turns out Muthana doesn't really have the discipline or temperament to work on a film crew. He hates getting coffee, he doesn't make himself useful to much of anyone, he stays out late partying with friends, and doesn't get his work done. Muthana has his dreams, but he came from an upper class family where he was used to having things done for him, and I get the sense that he doesn't like (or doesn't know how) to be the servant now. Beyond his professional life, he doesn't even know how to take care of his personal life. As "Everything Is Illuminated" is wrapping up, his visa is also expiring. He wants to stay and work on "Doom", but he doesn't even know how to extend his visa. He gets a lot of help (and a lot of money) from the filmmakers, and eventually does stay on and work on "Doom" (BTW, there's a brilliant shot of carnage in the streets of Baghdad transitioning seamlessly into the fake carnage on the "Doom" set that actually fooled me for a few seconds). He even makes friends with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who even gives him money to attend a film school in London. I mentioned a few posts back about a running theme in this festival--the theme of people trying to change their lives. Particularly, there's a theme that when people try to consciously change their lives (or in this case, the life of someone else), they tend to fail--it's the small changes, not the big changes that work. This film fits humorously, tragically, and perfectly into that theme.
And finally, the last movie in San Francisco was "When Clouds Clear", a touching look at the small Ecuadorean mountain town of Junin. They've lived peacefully in the clouds for generations, but recently valuable minerals (particularly, copper) have been found in the mountains, and various foreign mining companies are moving in. This creates opportunities for a few, and tragedies for many. It destroys their land and their way of life (and polluted their river), so this small village fought back and burned down the mining camp. That is, after they tried and failed to bring their plight to the attention of Ecuadorean authorities. Now they're a radical band of fighters, doing whatever it takes to keep The Company out (whichever company is now trying to drive them out). It's obviously a pretty biased film, told totally from the point of view of the villagers, but it's hard to imagine an unbiased version of the story that wouldn't sympathize with them. Here's a case where sympathizing with one side is clearly correct.
And that's the end of the festival in San Francisco. But it continues until next Thursday in Berkeley.