Sunday, March 13, 2011

Jason goes to Cinequest--Encore Day

But wait, there's more! I know, I already wrote up "Closing Night" but Cinequest doesn't end there. Last year they started Encore Day, where jury winners and audience award contenders get an extra showing. Like last year, attendance is a little light. Everyone is hungover from the party the night before, and it's just a bunch of bleary-eyed celluloid addicts dragging themselves around for one last fix. Yup, that's me. Crack addicts don't stop smoking crack just because they're exhausted to the point of physical collapse, and neither should I.

First up, DREAMING NICARAGUA, a charming documentary about extreme poverty in the third world. Wait, did I say "charming" and "poverty"? Yes...and I meant it. Jafet, an arts teacher, travels the area and inspires children to express themselves. Highlight is clearly Nauri, who wants to host a television show so she interviews her neighbors. There's something weird about such an innocent child interviewing women about the difficulty of being a single mother living in poverty (a very, very common occurrence). The other children are adorable, too, and the movie is deliciously and colorfully shot, showing beauty can exist anywhere, certainly uncorrelated with wealth.

Then I checked out VILLAGE WITHOUT WOMEN. In a tiny little village in Serbia, there's just a few guys (3 brothers and an old neighbor) and no women. Also no running water, but lets focus on the important things. The Serbian women have moved away, so maybe Albanian women can fill in. The movie follows them through their days (lots of shaving scenes, I have to assume director Srdjan Sarenac just thinks shaving is enormously cinematic) and through their efforts to import an Albanian wife. It's a funny, weird look at a funny, weird spot on earth and a funny, weird way to live. Oh, and the ending scene, although completely out of nowhere, was totally awesome.

Next up, yet another documentary, IRENA SENDLER: IN THE NAME OF THEIR MOTHERS. Irena Sendler was a social worker in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. There, her and a small group of women outsmarted the entire Nazi regime, smuggling Jews (mostly children) out of the ghetto and into safe houses. Overall, they saved some 2,500 Jewish children, and after the war she was rewarded...with decades of harassment by the communist authorities. Just a truly remarkable woman. As for the movie...this is the kind of documentary that has such a great protagonist that as long as you don't screw it up, you'll have a good movie. Mary Skinner has created a great movie, brisk (only about an hour long) but in depth and moving.

Then I caught MAKE A MOVIE LIKE SPIKE. Two friends--Luis and Ronald--are joining the Marines. They've been friends practically forever, and Luis wants to be a filmmaker, like his idol Spike Lee. So he's documenting their adventures as they prepare to leave for boot camp and then Afghanistan. A vacation in Cancun (they can't let Afghanistan be their first time outside of the U.S.), a night of debauchery in L.A., and lots and lots of mugging for the camera. But somewhere around all the mugging and horseplay, there's a real compelling story of friendship and war, and things get disconcertingly serious once they're actually in battle.

And finally, I ended the night with ROSA MORENA, a wonderfully made story of generally good people doing something morally questionable. Thomas is a wealthy architect with baby fever. He wants to adopt, but he can't. You see, in his home of Denmark a single gay man can't adopt. Of course, he could adopt a baby in Brazil, where he has friends living there and working for a charity organization. But you know what's easier than going through all the legal hurdles? Just making an arrangement with a pregnant woman to adopt her child. So he meets Maria, beautiful, poor, pregnant, and already has more kids than she can care for. They make an arrangement, where she'll declare that he's the father, and she'll give up any claims on the baby, and he'll take her back to Denmark. Of course, he has to stay with her and make sure she behaves (no alcohol) during the pregnancy. And for the health of beautiful newborn Rosa, she really should breastfeed for the first 3 months. In fact, the whole situation is beginning to look disconcertingly like a normal family, not just a business arrangement. It's a hot-button moral issue, but the magic is how it's treated with such a delicate, light touch that you sympathize with everyone involved, even when they're doing things that are objectionable.

And that's it. I'm done. Between the hangover and the exhaustion, no matter how much fun I had I am sooooo ready for Cinequest to be I can get to the SF International Asian American Film Festival.

Total Running Time: 374 minutes
My Total Minutes: 228,903

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