Monday, April 30, 2007

Atlanta Film Festival - Closing Day

The Atlanta Film Festival concluded Saturday at its 'official venue', the Landmark Midtown Art Cinemas. The festival features the 'Jury Winners' from each category, along with the Closing Night selection. I chose to see two documentaries and the Closing Night, though I skipped the party.

"Protagonist" (Dir. Jessica Yu, US, 2007, 90 mins.) This was the Jury Award Winner for Documentary Feature. It is an uniquely formatted documentary, weaving four stories of personal struggle around the structure of Greek Tragedy, which is illustrated by
stick puppets. Now, if only the four subjects were as unique as the format, this would have been brilliant! However, I just could not find a through line that would connect the four men: a German terrorist,

an “ex-gay” evangelist,

a bank robber, and a martial artist. Of the four, the German terrorist has possibly the most exciting journey, the 'ex-gay' evangelist was cinematically a hoot (then and now pics), the bank robber was perhaps the most well spoken, and the martial artist was a hoot, though his 'journey' seemed trivial compared to the rest. And this is where I had conflicts. The four subjects are so different in intensity and style, as it were, that I kept searching and waiting for the 'cross roads', which never happened. They are simply four very different stories, set against a classical style, which may very well be director's Yu's point. However, it is not necessarily a strong point.

"Banished: How Whites Drove Blacks Out of Town in America" (dir. Marco Williams, USA, 2007, 86 mins.) A topic which I was not completely aware of, though it comes of no surprise. African-Americans were completely driven out of some towns after the Civil War and up to the 1920's. This is a documentary about what happened to the land they owned. How it was confiscated and is it at all possible to reclaim (easy answer: no) or at least receive reparations (hard answer: maybe). The film follows three families as the research and trace the deeds of property of their ancestors and then confront the present authorities as to what options are available. It is during these confrontations in these particularly small towns that matters of race obviously still do matter. It is an eye opening documentary, that may lack in artistic quality but loads a solid punch.

The Closing Night Feature: "Fay Grim" (Dir. Hal Hartley, US, 2007, 118 mins.) This is the sequel, or follow up to "Henry Fool", which I have not seen. Apparently, it is a quirky tale. The film does not waste a second in establishing its snappy, dead pan delivery and style. In fact, Parker Posey as 'Fay Grim' gives such a controlled performance, it lacks realism for the first two thirds of the film. Jeff Goldblum as her nemesis nails the style and yet remains completely believable. However, in Posey's 'defense', she has an enormous role in the film and breathlessly delivering the sheer burden of lines is quite an accomplishment! The plot? Oh, who knows... It's sort of a farce about international intrigue as Fay travels the globe collecting the various volumes of 'Henry Fool's Confessions', which apparently where written in a code that half the governments of the world need to break. Anyway, the pacing is swift, which I like! The plotting gets quirky and murky, which I don't like. But I do like it fast! Plus, cinematographer Sarah Cawley has given the film a nice comic-book-meets-noir look with the off-horizon angles. Anette Guther has also dressed the cast in some stunning and instantly remarkable pieces. In the end, I think I want to see "Henry Fool" and give this another whirl before being too judgemental.

Maxxxxx says
re "Protagonist": "Stop that!"
re "Banished:...": "Time to come out!"
re "Fay Grim": "Such a pretty bird!"