Friday, April 29, 2005

48th S.F. Intl. Film Festival - Day 8

[Apr. 30th, 2005|02:49 am]
The SF Film Society sponsors a "Schools at the Festival" program, in which busloads of kids are brought in for the weekday matinees at 10 AM and 1 PM. They are held in 'Theatre 1' at the Kabuki, which is the largest house and includes a balcony, where most of the adults run up to, mostly to keep out of the logistical nightmare of seating a dozen schools on the main floor. Generally, the kids are fairly well behaved, considering there are 600 of them grouped together and outnumber adults to such a hideous advantage that you can FEEL the brink of chaos! For some odd reason, I decided I HAD to see both of today's matinees.

"Small Tails and Tall Tales" (dirs. Various, Various Countries, 2004/2005, 88 mins. total program time) is a program of shorts for the juvenile set. Usually, you can find at least ONE gem in it. However, this year's program was really slim pickings. None of them were 'bad' but none of them were at all grabbing. In fact, I was not even going to bother listing the eight short subjects, but here they are as a matter of record:

"The Tooth" (dir. Nathan Stone, Australia, 2004, 4 mins., Animated)
"The Shadow in Sara" (dir. Karla Nielsen, Denmark, 2004, 8 mins., Animated)
"Rain is Falling" (dir. Holger Ernst, Germany, 2004, 15 mins., Live Action)
"Amal" (dir. Ali Benkirane, France/Morocco, 2004, 17 mins., Live Action)
"The Tale of What I Want and Don't Want" (dir. Ricardo Antonio Barahona, El Salvador, 2004, 4 mins., Animated - and poorly at that)
"A Slippery Tale" (dir. Susanne Seidel, Germany, 2004, 8 mins., Animated) Another Frog Cartoon? Do I detect a trend?
"Codename: Simon" (dir. Graham Tallman, USA, 2004, 10 mins., Live Action)
"Duck for President" (dir. Maciek Albrecht, USA, 2004, 15 mins. Animated, poorly)

Then next 'Schools at the Festival' program was the engaging documentary:

"The Boys of Baraka" (dir. Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady, USA, 2005, 83 mins.) A group of African-American inner city boys from Baltimore are sent to the Baraka School in Kenya for a two years to get them to pull their shit together, basically. Some of the kids stories are just sad. And, actually, without giving away a spoiler, the docu as a whole is sort of sad, too. It did bring out a LOT of vocalization from the middle school/high school kids that were at the screening though, so that does say something good about how involving it is. Oh, and so far, you might note that I have NOT fallen asleep, which might be a high recommendation in itself! I did run home afterwards for a nap, though, because of the triple feature to follow, starting with:

"Murderball" (dirs. Dana Adam Shapiro, Henry Alex Rubin, USA, 2004, 86 mins.) This is a documentary about the USA and Canada Paralympic Rugby teams. These guys just smash the hell out of each other playing rugby in wheelchairs like their at some sort of demolition car rally! But that is just the surface of the film. The directors take their time in getting to know a handful of players. They investigate their life stories to give us clues as to how and why they're in such an aggressive sport. Some of those 'clues' are quite touching, some are a little disturbing, too. I found it to be a pretty profound experience by the end and was not that hesitant to join in the standing ovation when the directors and four of the players came out on stage for the Q&A. (Even Judy (who has spent much more time at the PFA this year) stood up!) I violated my personal rule for the year and stayed for the Q&A. Some rules are NOT meant to be broken. There is such a thing as a stupid question, though the guys handled them pretty well. Plus, my next movie was in the same theatre so there was no point in leaving. Even though I should have left to do dinner with Judy as...

"The Riverside" (dir. Alireza Amini, Iran, 2004, 72 mins.) was simply terrible. Ok, let me try to look past the shitty camera work (think "Blair Witch Project" shaking induced nausea), the complete absence of production design, the blatant disregard for any semblence of continuity and some really amateurish performances. Let me try to focus on the bedrock of the piece: the script. Hmmm... No, it was crap, too! The film opens with a bride standing on a landmine on the Iraqi/Iranian border. She is screaming. No. Not screaming. Yelping like an injured puppy. Actually, she sort of sounded like Maxxxxx (my parrot) when he's having a tantrum. She is waiting for her husband to return with help. WHY she is alone in the middle of nowhere? We can only assume she is trying to escape from Iraq, which we learn is under siege by the U.S. Other refugees come across her, but none are able to help her. At the 70 minute mark of the 72 minute film, she sees her husband returning to her and steps off the mine and is apparently killed. This is done off screen as I am sure there was no budget for an actual explosion. Screen to black. Loathed it. But the midnight movie was in that same room, too, so why leave? I needed to wait to meet Jimmy for a bottle of Stella Artois and:

"Phil the Alien" (dir. Rob Stefaniuk, Canada, 2004, 83 mins.) I. Loved. This. It is total Canadian quirkiness (think Kids in the Hall do sci-fi!) as Phil (played by director/writer Rob Stefaniuk) shift shapes into human form, communicates with a beaver as his confidant and proceeds to explore alcohol (he becomes a drunk), religion (he becomes a messiah) and rock and roll (he becomes a... well, no, not quite). There is a some sort of plot involving a secret U.S. agency that is tracking him down, and even that had some fun lines and gags! This was just a FUN night!! It has a commercial release in Canada, and will go direct-to-video here in the US this summer (though with an altered soundtrack due to dvd rights). I plan on getting it!! Oh, and I stayed for HIS Q&A, which he was just as fun as his writing, even in the face of STUPID questions!! ("Are you high or something?")

Finally, though I have not seen Rrrrrrroxanne(!) since last weekend sometime, she did make the SF Chronicle: "Sunday night's screening of Geoff Callan and Mike Shaw's
"Pursuit of Equality" documentary was sold out... In introductory remarks, festival director Roxanne Messina Captor mentioned meeting Callan "and his lovely wife, Kimberly." His lovely wife is actually Hilary Newsom Callan, and the mayor's lovely ex-wife is Kimberly Guilfoyle, and when Captor realized her gaffe, she said she feared she'd be run out of town..."

Tomorrow: Berkeley Day and the last Midnight Movie

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