Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 5

Another pair of movies last Monday:

First up was Morris County, a trilogy of depressing stories of misery and death at different stages of life. First, the adolescent misery of 'Ellie'. Ellie is a young girl who's giving in to the temptations of smoking, drinking, and sex. Except she doesn't seem to be familiar with any of these, and doesn't appear to be enjoying it. In fact, her behavior is hiding a dark secret. This segment was actually made as a short film 3 years ago by director Matthew Garret, and is definitely less polished than the other two. The second segment, 'The Family Rubin', was my favorite. A suburban Jewish family keeps up appearances while they all harbor secrets. If you thought the mouse-torturing kid was psycho at first, just wait. My favorite part--the bunny lives (about time. Indie films have really liked killing bunnies in the past few years)! And then 'Elmer and Iris' was perhaps even more twisted. An elderly woman is forced into retirement, and finally gets to spend more time with her gruff husband Elmer. In fact, once Elmer dies she can spend all her time with him. Nice gooey special effects, and a shockingly touching take on it all. I'm not sure if I can exactly call it "fun", but it's a good movie that has a pretty blunt take on the dark side of humanity and suburbia.

And the second movie of the night was Beauty of the Fight. At the urging of a friend, photographer and filmmaker John Urbano visited two Panamanian neighborhoods--Barraza and El Chorillo. He was blown away by the colors, the smells, the music, the people, etc. And he was moved by the plight of their poverty and struggle not to be dislocated from their homes. Okay, back up a bit--in 1989 the U. S. invaded Panama to remove dictator and drug kingpin Manuel Noriega (who gave an audio interview for the film, talking about the beauty of these neighborhoods). In the aftermath, there was chaos and there are allegations that one of the motivations behind the invasion was to clear out these neighborhoods so they could become some of the highest priced real estate in Panama. So that's where we are now. John Urbano has an incredibly good eye, and gets some truly remarkable images from the neighborhoods, starting with an old man making an impassioned plea for the importance of "home" (be it ever so humble, there's no place like it). Urbano was followed constantly by military and police protection, because the street gangs will jump all over a gringo with a camera walking around. And that little anecdote makes his footage even more remarkable. But now I have to make a confession. I was really tired by the time I saw this, and I dozed off several times during the movie. I don't know for how long, but I'm sure I missed many of the stories. I saw there was a boxer trying to make it as a pro. I saw cockfighting, and several people and different buildings, markets, musical performances. Oh yeah, and the music was awesome even when my eyes were closed. So it was a strange experience for me, drifting in and out of consciousness, but whenever I opened my eyes I was engulfed in beauty. I'm pretty sure this wasn't the experience Urbano intended for the audience, but actually it's an experience I'll treasure anyway. Oh yeah, there's no news on a DVD/theatrical release yet, but his photography has been published in a book available at (proceeds go to help the residents of Barraza and El Chorillo).

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