Friday, April 11, 2008

Atlanta Film Festival 2008 - Day 2

The Atlanta Film Festival 2008 began it's 9 day stay at the Landmark Midtown 8. The first REAL day of the festival was thankfully absent of the house management DRAMA and projection nightmares that marred the experience from last year! Executive director, Gabriel Wardell has even self-acknowledged that he has tightened up his curtain speeches. The fest might be la bit lackig in the audience support and professional polish of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, but it has taken a nice large step from where it was last year. Anyway, on to the films.

THE BIG QUESTION (dir. Vince DiPersio, US, 2007, 63 mins.) A rather fascinating discussion about forgiveness, and at times under the most hideous of circumstances. Director Vince DiPersio interviews victims and spiritual leaders, such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Dr. Deepak Chopra, Sister Helen Prejean, His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and Reverend Joseph Lowery, amongst a long and thorough list, about the topic of forgiveness and the ability to transcend revenge. The film rests on the words of the interviews and not on any visual or editorial panache, as it is predominantly made up of "talking heads". It is comparatively short, running just over an hour, however, it is a DEEP hour! It bears repeat viewings, as the profundity of some of the speakers deserve some meditation.

XXY (dir. Lucia Puenzo, Argentina/Spain/France, 2007, 91 mins.) Argentina's official entry for the Foreign Language Oscar for 2007, features a mesmerizing and unique performance from its young lead, Ines Efron. It is difficult to talk about her character without giving away spoilers. However, she near brilliantly maneuvers through the complicated emotional and physical conflicts her character faces. The film itself is typical of what I have experienced of Argentine cinema: it is bleak and slow. However, in this instance, the plot has a physical hook that keeps the screenplay from becoming too inwardly directed and, for lack of a better terminology, Stuff Happens! Hopefully stuff will happen for Efron and we will see much more from her!

DANCE OF THE DEAD (dir. Gregg Bishop, US, 2008, 90 mins.) Zombie movies are their own genre and, lately, it feels as if it has become a "movement", i.e. film noir or the new wave! I love a fun zombie flick! And DANCE OF THE DEAD has the audacity of taking the milieu and stepping into Teen Slasher Territory and dipping its toe into parody. What makes this descriptive mish-mash work is that it is relatively sincere in its efforts. Director Gregg Bishop has fun with the bloody proceedings, but does not mock them, which would have required the razor wit of SHAUN OF THE DEAD, that this film does not have a strong enough characterization to support. What it does have is a cast of young adults who recognize the emotional immaturity surrounding high school and the prom is of such over dramatic substance that throwing in some zombies doesn't really change the reality of the characters' own self absorption. The Prom King might have been beheaded, but that's no reason to keep talking about him! HA! The makeup and gore effects are pretty impressive for an apparently lower budget indie. There is even a nifty explosion for a climax! The sound mix is pretty outstanding, as is the soundtrack. The pacing is really well kept and it is visually well lit, avoiding the shadowy murkiness of "zombie mumblecore".

As the film was shot in nearby Rome, Georgia, it seemed as if the entire cast and crew were present for the screening! Gregg Bishop, his makeup team led by Toby Sells and the stunt crew led by Nils Onsager entertainingly answered the audience (what few members were NOT associated with the film!) questions. [I viewed the film via screener, but was able to squeeze in to the sold out film during the last 10 minutes for the Q&A.]

Maxxxxx says
re XXY: [Maxxxxx isn't sure what sex he is either.]
re DANCE OF THE DEAD: "Sweet, sweet eye juice!"

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