Monday, April 25, 2016

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 4

Four more movies on Sunday
We started with a kid's cartoon from the team behind 2011's SFIFF hit, A CAT IN PARIS. Their latest is set in New York, and is called PHANTOM BOY. Leo is a good kid, smart, caring, and loves reading hero action stories to his little sister. He's also losing his hair--a side effect of the chemo treatment for his cancer. But his illness and treatment have a side effect. He can leave his body for a time and fly over the city (and through walls) as the titular phantom boy. He can't touch anyone until he's back in his body, but he can observe and report back (his otherwise comatose body speaks.) And he uses that power to help out an injured policeman and his journalist girlfriend who are chasing a disfigured madman who has held the city captive with the threat of a computer virus. It's like he's a hero in one of those stories he loves reading. A charming story full of heart and empathy, simple, moving, exciting, and beautiful.
And then it was off to New Zealand for Taika Waititi's (EAGLE VS. SHARK, WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, the upcoming THOR: RAGNAROK) latest, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE, starring a scenery-chewing Sam Neill and youngster Julian Dennison. Julian plays Ricky Baker, a foster kid and a real "bad egg" who is currently placed in the home of kindly Auntie Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and gruff Hec (Neill.) And things are okay for a while, despite running away most nights, he's back in time for breakfast and Bella  is really nice to him. Too bad she passes away. And that means child protective services will have to come and get him. And that's his last chance, now it's juvenile incarceration for him. So he sets out to run away for real. And Hec tries to stop him, but some wacky hijinx lead to them being away too long and the authorities assuming the worst--that Hec has kidnapped Ricky, taken him into the woods, and is molesting him. So they just stay on the run, living in New Zealand bush for as long as they can, having increasingly bizarre adventures (when Psycho Sam shows up, it really goes beyond the bend.) But it's the relationship between Ricky and Hec--who are both in their own ways very ill-prepared for such an adventure--that's the heart of the movie. Waititi keeps it briskly moving for the most part, while still letting the story meander a bit to keep the audience guessing. A less confident storyteller might hang the plot on a "must get from A to B" conceit, but this story is more free-flowing and eccentric, which I really enjoyed.
And then it was time for a bunch of shorts. I think all the shorts program are at the Roxie this year, which has certainly given me my exercise. The press office, where I have to check in to get tickets between each show, is near the Alamo Drafthouse, a good 5 long blocks from the Roxie. Also--and this is nothing to do with the festival, I just want to say something about it--there is a hunger strike going on outside the 17th street and Valencia SFPD station to protest police brutality/killings. I'm kind of surprised it hasn't gotten bigger news, but local outfits like Mission Local are covering it. I give them a little nod and fist bump of encouragement each time I pass by, and here's hoping they get more visibility (more than I can give them) and actually get their demands met.
Okay, back to the film festival.
Shorts 1
THE BOATMAN: An old couple, celebrating their 70th anniversary together on the Louisiana bayou. He hopes to finish building the boat in his yard, the one that was partially wrecked by hurricane Katrina. But it's looking tough, as he's losing his sight.
THE DREAM OF BOTTOM: A very strange film about a man following the tracks and finding his lost animal companion. Or...more companion than animal.
IN ATTLA'S TRACKS: George Attla was a native Alaskan hero and world champion sled dog musher. In the later years of his life, he used sled dog mushing to teach young natives about their culture and to take pride in it. Especially his grand-nephew, who is a young professional musher himself.
PEACE IN THE VALLEY: Eureka Springs, Arkansas. A fairly liberal town that passed an LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance. It's also home to a world-famous Passion Play, retelling the story of Jesus. Now there's a referendum on whether to repeal the anti-discrimination law. And people on both sides have strong opinions about it, but still manage to be neighborly, friendly, and respectful. It's like Bizarro-America.
SEIDE: In the Kyrgyzstan mountains, a young woman Seide is arranged to be married. As part of the tradition, her horse will be killed for the celebration. Of course, she does not like this.
SOMEONE IS HAPPY SOMEWHERE: A class divide is bridged and an odd encounter takes place, set against Brazil's devastating and embarrassing loss in the World Cup semifinals. And oddly moving film.
Shorts 1 plays again May 5th, 5:30 pm at the Roxie.
And finally, Shorts 3: Animation. Hooray, cartoons!
ALL ROT: An abstract, split-screen view of processed photography. I don't even know what it's supposed to be, but I loved the inherently physical, film look of it. Remembering that film is a chemical and physical medium, not just ones and zeros.
BOB DYLAN HATES ME: Caveh Zahedi, tells a couple of stories of when he was a young film student and had a couple of encounters with his idol.
DEER FLOWER: A Korean story of a young boy whose parents take him to an antler farm to drink antler blood to make him grow up strong. It doesn't agree with him.
EDMOND: A man regresses as he looks for love over and over again.
GLOVE: An astronaut's glove, lost in space. The astronaut contemplates how that glove was made, and where it's going on its adventures.
LIFE SMARTPHONE: A funny cartoon about the dangers of never looking up from your smart phone. A Chinese film, but a pretty universal message about paying attention to the moment.
MANOMAN: One of my favorite mindbenders from Cinequest. A man in a primal scream therapy gets in touch with him primal Id. And goes a little nuts with it.
THE ORCHESTRA: In a the Lo(v/n)ely Hearts retirement home, a man and his miniature band of musicians try to work up the courage to talk to a woman and her similar band. They could make such beautiful music together.
SPLOTCH: A coffee spill becomes swirling shapes, then a little more concrete as they take you back to a celebration of a coffee cup.
TRACK: In this cool Japanese art piece, streaks of light tell the story of the universe. And it's awesome.
Shorts 3 plays again May 3rd, 9:00 pm, at the Roxie.

And that was the end of the first weekend of SFIFF 2016.
Total Running Time: 349 minutes
My Total Minutes: 426,914

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