Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Atlanta Film Festival 2008 - Day 6

The Atlanta Film Festival 2008 continues it's 9 day stay at the Landmark Midtown 8. With only three films on my schedule, it was almost like an intermission!

FIGHTFUCKPRAY (dirs. Dan Bush, Christina Kline, Darren Mann, US, 2007, 90 mins.) The title alone has established some notoriety. The process involved in it's creation, improvised and shot under three directors, has also earned a good amount of buzz. And that is something that the creators establish during the credits, along with a dedication to John Cassavettes, who could be considered the father of independent and improvised film. The three stories featuring seven characters starts off a bit awkwardly. However, once the ensemble arrives at the climatic New Year's Eve party, the film just rocks! This party is the epitome of nearly every drunken revelry and embarrassment that one has probably been a part of. It is funny and painful. Eventually, to highten the drama, it does become nightmarish. The exceptionally rough technical aspects (handheld video and rough sound) takes some time to adapt to. (I found myself needing to see it from the last row.) However, once the film gets rolling, it is an exceptional experience.

AT THE DEATH HOUSE DOOR (dirs. Peter Gilbert, Steven James, US, 2008, 96 mins.) This documentary and discussion of the role of the death penalty takes place through the experience of Carroll Pickett, the chaplain of the death house at Walls Prison in Huntsville, Texas. During his fifteen year tenure, he would make personal cassette recordings after the executions to help decompress the intense experience of being the last personal contact the prisoners had. In reflecting upon his career there, he focuses on a convict he believes was innocent, yet executed anyway. It is from this point that the film bases its thesis as the case is reviewed and explored, as well as Pickett's belief system in what he did and why. Without becoming emotionally involved, directors Gilbert and James (who were honoree's at this year's IMAGE Gala which officially launches the festival), best known for HOOP DREAMS, explore the moral question behind corporal punishment. It is excellently made without being emotionally manipulative. [This will broadcast on IFC in May.]

SEMPER FI, ONE MARINE'S JOURNEY (dir. Vince DiPersio, US, 2007, 82 mins.) Jeff Key's monologue inspired director Vince DiPersio to further explore Key's experience as a gay, Christian, Marine, who enlisted at age 34 after the twin towers attack. Key is exceptionally charismatic and he speaks eloquently of his motives and experiences. However, the film itself not only touches upon each of his "attributes" (or what I might call "baggage") but also launches into a debate about the US role in Iraq. It just felt like there was a great amount of material to cover! For instance, why did he enlist at age 34, after living in the progressive atmosphere of Los Angeles as an openly gay man? It was a question that I didn't find adequately answered. The interviews with family, friends and fellow marines are all quite complimentary towards Key's character and capabilities as a marine, with the exception of his family pastor, who leans towards the "love the sinner, hate the sin" argument in regards to Key. I think that Key's story deserves more exploration, but in more emotional detail that what a 90 minute documentary will allow. [The film is presently screening on Showtime.]

Maxxxxx says
re FIGHTFUCKPRAY: "Cranky bird!"
re AT THE DEATH HOUSE DOOR: [no tasteless remarks from the Bird about death, please.]

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