First, to Denmark for THE ESCAPE (FLUGTEN). I wonder if something is lost in translation, like it should be "ESCAPES" because there's certainly more than one. Rikke Lyngvig is a Danish journalist in Afghanistan. She's interviewing her translator about the dangers of working there, when they are attacked. She is kidnapped, he (we learn later) is killed alongside his entire family. She is forced to read a statement on camera calling for all Danish coalition forces to leave Afghanistan immediately, or she will be killed. Her captor is Nazir, a young man with soulful blue eyes whose father was killed in an altercation with American troops. He's not actually cut out to be a terrorist, and his dad opposed the Taliban, but his uncle insists he restore the family honor. So he does his best to mistreat her, and cuts off her pinkie finger (and immediately runs outside to throw up). But in the nick of time, he helps her escape. His only condition, never tell anyone he helped her or he will die. That's escape number one. Escape number 2 comes when Nazir escapes from the Taliban and hides in a truck all the way to Denmark. There he's put in a holding house while his asylum request is processed. And there he meets a lovely Iraqi refugee and they sort of hit it off. Trouble reappears when immigration police show up to deport all the Iraqis. So it's time for another escape. They get separated, Nazir is alone, and the only person he knows to contact is Rikke. In the meantime, she's written a best-selling book about her ordeal, and of course kept him safe by claiming she escaped on her own. But now it suddenly looks like she's palling around with a terrorist. The one part I didn't quite by is why she wouldn't come forward and explain everything right away, but a rival journalist who crucifies her in the press provides the argument against that (still, I believe in sunlight as the best disinfectant--be open and people will understand). So this calls for a few more escapes. An exciting thriller with great performances, perhaps the greatest escape is from the stereotypes about what makes a terrorist.
Next up was a road trip film about the 80's, new friendship, loyalty, and D&D--GOD IS D_AD. Tim is a Korean-American comic book clerk and dungeon master, and the movie features fantasy scenes that were shot in Korea (the country) and in Korean (the language). Tim has a plan to win the big regional D&D convention in Chicago (and then go on to the nationals in New York), and so he puts an ad in the paper for road trip buddies. And he gets out of it a cinematically appropriate team of misfits--the girl, the born-again ex-homo, the weirdo horndog best friend, and the mildly retarded kid with money (both came from a car accident)--all of whom have their own (secret) reasons for coming along. There are funny bits, and a pretty good story, and a lesson about loyalty, responsibility, and choices (delivered by a weird sound-alike cameo).
I don't know, it all seemed just a little bit short of a great film. I normally forgive low budget films even when they look low budget (and am quick to praise when they don't), but I was tired, the festival is near an end, and I just didn't have the patience needed...mostly for the bad acting in this movie. I liked the fantasy Korean scenes better than the "real life" road trip.
GOD IS D_AD plays again on 3/6 at 4:15 pm, and also at the upcoming SF International Asian American Film Festival.
And I ended the night with an absolutely charming film, PRIMA PRIMAVERA. Gabor is a middle-aged, mildly retarded man-child with an amazing eye and ability to draw perfectly. He's at the bank with his mother when the place is robbed. In a scene that makes it look like he doesn't know what's going on, he fights the robber and rips off his mask, but the robber shoots his (Gabor's) mother. Tragic, and Gabor has trouble taking care of himself, but he's also the only eye-witness who got a look at the robber's face (he's a really creepy Dutch guy who calls himself a lawyer). Meanwhile Joli is a prostitute who drove the getaway car in the robbery, but is afraid of the Dutchman, especially when it's clear he plans to kill at least Gabor and probably her. So she befriends Gabor and the flee...to Gabor's grandmother's house in Serbia. Oh yeah, and he buys a chandelier on the way because he thinks his grandmother would like it (she died in the 50's, if I recall correctly). The movie is equal parts romantic comedy and dangerous crime thriller, and it's surprisingly successful on both counts. It's just excellent.
PRIMA PRIMAVERA plays again 3/6 at 9:00 pm. I don't know how the "closing night" gala film MOTHER will play (since I haven't seen it yet), but I wouldn't be surprised if you're actually better off catching this one instead (it's pretty hard to beat).
Total Running Time: 299 minutes
My Total Minutes: 175,754