Monday, February 16, 2015

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 11

The big second weekend wraps up, there's just a few weekdays left now.

First up was THE CULT OF JT LEROY. Indiefest is actually part of the JT Leroy story, having shown THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS as the opening night film in 2005. That was how I even knew about JT, and not just because Indiefest played it but because the director Asia Argento had been my pretend girlfriend for quite a while already. So to me it was always a work of fiction and I was more interested in it as an Asia Argento movie than as the "based on true life" story of a child truck-stop prostitute. And within they year, the news broke that it was all a fraud, and I laughed, thinking it was a good story but I was never invested in the veracity of it to begin with. Well, this movie delves into the people who were emotionally invested--sometimes deeply, in the life of this damaged little boy/girl (in the process of a sex change) who started writing as therapy and became a literary sensation. And his entourage gobbled up celebrities, filmmakers, musicians, writers, etc. who somehow didn't know that something didn't add up. I feel like I shouldn't give too much away, but if you've seen the trailer you've seen pretty much the whole story. What isn't shown in the trailer--and so what became so interesting to me--was the emotional toll on the people who really did take a guardianship/mentorship/caregiver role in "his" life. Their stories ended up being more interesting than JT Leroy himself (or not himself.)

Then I saw SEX AND BROADCASTING, a documentary about WFMU, a listener-sponsored volunteer-run free-form radio station out of East Orange, NJ. The film shows us the wacky characters, some amusing behind-the-scenes stories, a bit of the history, and a lot of fan worship. And it focuses a lot on station manager Ken Freedman, the heart behind the station for the last several decades, the man who took it from failing Upsala College and turned it into a cult phenomenon, and then took it onto the Internet, at the forefront of online streaming. What the movie doesn't show is little things like...they do actually play music sometimes. In fact, while it showed me some interesting people pursuing their passion, it didn't show me much of a reason to actually tune in. Which is one of the things Ken Freedman bemoaned during the Q&A. Make no mistake, he likes the movie and likes that it exists and gets more exposure for the station, he has some conflicts with some of the choices that director Tim Smith made.

Next up was Film School Gems, a compilation of recent and upcoming shorts from KQED's Film School Shorts Program. Since there wasn't a comprehensive list of films, I'm sure I've forgotten one or more of these.
GOD OF LOVE: A lovelorn darts expert/singer gets a special package delivered to him, and when his love darts don't work for him, he finds a new career.
JOSEPHINE AND THE ROACH: A woman, her abusive, drunk husband, and the roach who lives in the wall. There's a musical bond that binds them together.
THE CHAIR: The repercussions of a killer mold that has decimated a town.
THE HUNTER AND THE SWAN DISCUSS THEIR MEETING: The hunter sees a group of naked women playing in the water. When they see him, they put on their feathery cloaks, turn to swans, and fly away. Until one night, he catches one of them, and so starts a beautiful romance...if you don't ask too many questions.
FLUFFY THE FLYING FISH: A funny, short, animated piece about moving a pet goldfish from L.A. to Denver via carry-on luggage.
A SERIES OF KINETIC SETS TELL A STORY: Boxes, cardboard dioramas tell the story of the filmmaker's grandparents' life.
UNDER: A harrowing story of a couple trapped in an avalanche. As a Boy Scout in Alaska, this is the sort of thing that gave me nightmares, so this was a particularly effective movie.
PENNY DREADFUL: A twist on the Ransom of Red Chief story, but with murder and hamburgers.
WILL: An animated piece about a phone message on 9/11. Very moving.

And then my new favorite of the festival, THE VOICE OF THE VOICELESS. Made for zero-budget with zero-experience filmmakers, and with zero dialogue. Based on the true stories of deaf people trapped in human trafficking scams. Olga from Central America (Janeva Zentz, mute but with a certain charm and amazingly expressive eyes.) When she arrives in New York, she's put into a house where she has to go on the subway and sell trinkets. If she doesn't make $100 every day, she gets tazed. But with her ingenuity, charm, and the help of a stuffed penguin, she might just have a plan to get out of this particular hell. Oh yeah, and since she's deaf and mute, it's made as a silent film in black and white (save just a couple of scenes--one in the opening and one during a dream sequence.) It was billed as a cross between Chaplin and Eraserhead, and while that might be a bit of a stretch, it's an undeniably beautiful, charming, and moving film.

In the Q&A, one big issue did come up, that while it was a story of deaf people, they used hearing actors, and there are a lot of great deaf actors who would've killed for a chance to be in a movie like this--even though there was no budget and everyone worked for free. That's a fair point, but in my opinion shouldn't distract too much from how great the film is--including the acting.

And then we ended the night with VIOLET. Which I renamed YOUNG (BELGIAN) BODIES HEAL QUICKLY. It opens with a senseless murder, caught on security video. Jonas is the only witness, and his BMX buddies turn to him for answers--not that he has any. And then...not much happens. They ride, they have bonfires, they drink and smoke. They deal with the trauma by not really dealing with it, just trying to get on with the routine of life even though everything is different. I'm kinda proud of myself for staying awake through the entire film...but that's not much of a reward.

Total Running Time: 408 minutes
My Total Minutes: 384,091

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