Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Jason goes to SFJFF--Thursday, August 8th

And that's it for me. The festival continued a few more days in other venues (the Grand Lake in Oakland, the Rafael Film Center, etc.) but I was done as of two Thursdays ago.

First up I saw OUT IN THE DARK, a drama, thriller, and gay love story set in Tel Aviv and the occupied territories. Nimr is a Palestinian and a grad student in Tel Aviv with a promising future ahead of him. He's also gay, and he takes the big chance of going dancing in a gay Tel Aviv nightclub. Well, that gets him on the radar of the police. Not that it's illegal to be gay, but it's great blackmail material--become an informant or his student visa will be revoked and he'll have to go back home...and if anyone back home finds out about his dalliances, he's as good as dead. In Israel, even in liberal Tel Aviv, he's an outsider viewed with suspicion for being Palestinian. Back home in the occupied territory, he has to keep his lifestyle a secret. And his only friend (and lover) is Roy, a sweet kid from a wealthy family who thinks he--with the help of his father's connections--can solve anything. It's a tense and provocative story about a very difficult situation.

And finally, I ended my time at the festival with THE STRANGE CASE OF WILHELM REICH. Reich was a German-born psychoanalyst, controversial in Germany first for his explicit dealings with sexuality (specifically, the negative effects of sexual repression) and then for being the wrong time to be Jewish in Germany. But the movie only touches on that briefly, and really focuses on the later years of his life, when he lives in America and is a controversial experimental scientist...or crackpot...or both. He invented and marketed a box that if you spent time in it it would increase your vitality and potency. But it's just a box. Maybe similar to a sensory deprivation tank today. He also experimented in controlling the weather, and had a machine that allegedly could make it rain. He seems to be the kind of guy who in a sane world would be a harmless kook, maybe taking some money from some suckers (for the record, the movie depicts him as completely sincere in his beliefs and research and it shows some success stories from his work) but pretty much harmless. But this wasn't a sane world, this was 1950's American Red Scare paranoia-land. So he's hauled into court over trumped-up charges, and foolishly chooses to defend himself. Well, his life is a matter of public record, so it's no spoiler to say that he was pretty much doomed. But his influence in psychology is still remarkable and while his physical research into "orgone" and cloudbusting might be the work of a crackpot, the shock therapy and lobotomization common in mainstream psychiatry that persecuted him at the time is significantly more damaging.

Total Running Time: 207 minutes
My Total Minutes: 336,944

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