Saturday, April 19, 2008

Atlanta Film Festival 2008 - Day 9

The Atlanta Film Festival 2008 continues it's 9 day stay at the Landmark Midtown 8. Today's program included the Animation Extravaganza, which was a program of eighteen short subjects. I was able to preview half of them and reported on that HERE, and due to the remarkable size of the program, I decided to post the rest of the program separately HERE. The remainder of the day included four features, one which I had screened at a festival preview.

THE LIBERTY KID (dir. Ilya Chaiken, US, 2007, 92 mins.) This is quite an understated post-9/11 buddy movie. The performances by Al Thompson and Kareem Savinon make up in chemistry for what they might lack in technique. They do have the benefit of a very unique screenplay that touches upon an often ignored aspect of the 9/11 attacks, that being lost jobs and post traumatic stress. The two guys worked at the Statue of Liberty, which would be closed for an indefinite period after the attacks, which forces these to at-risk men to face limbo. It is their grasping for money and defining identities that fill the film. The diverging paths the friends take is deliberately paced. So, though the film reaches a satisfying climax, the denouement is just too long. It felt as if the film ended nearly fifteen minutes before it actually does. Chaiken may need to either tighten it up or take some ruthless editing to bring the film to a close, however ambiguous that might be.

KINGS OF THE EVENING (dir. Andrew P. Jones, US, 2007, 101 mins.) Ok. Let me be just up front about this. I came to believe that there wasn't a single redeeming feature of the film and I stayed to just prove my endurance. Well, that is a bit overstated. However, its "best" and worst feature was the performance of Tyson Beckford. He is insanely, if not inhumanly, beautiful. However, I don't think he has a Depression Era cell in his body. He certainly was not able to perform convincingly as if he did. With him as the center of the film, it was if the rest of the cast was thrown off. I can not think of a single scene that clicked. The production design was unspecific to place and somewhat to time. The costume design was particularly off kilter. One of the women works at a sewing factory. However, she does not seem to have brought any skills home with her. Also, the title refers to a weekly contest where men basically have a fashion show, and the winner is the "king of the evening". The suits are not necessarily to be the finest of depression era menswear, however there was not a significant difference in costume. Also, as I would be told later, the concept of the contest was fictional, which makes the entire project unnecessarily quirky. I did not stay for the Q&A.

SON OF RAMBOW (dir. Garth Jennings, UK, 2007, 96 mins.) I saw this at a pre-festival screening, and I thought I would go ahead and include it, as it was something of a "centerpiece" film, including a party afterwards. It is a CUTE film. I hate CUTE. Director Garth Jennings was able to keep me from completely tuning it out by setting it in the 1982, so it did tap into a little nostalgic vein of mine. The child actors are ok, however I only felt for one stand out, Will Poulter, who is the nemesis and school bully that strikes up an unlikely friendship with Bill Milner, who has the misfortune to be the "modern Oliver" in this story. Milner's character has been raised in a religious sect called "the Brethren", who do not allow television or film, therefore sending his character into the world as "the innocent". The boys team together to film their own version of RAMBO, for reasons I can't say I remember. Surrounding them is actually a fascinating cast of supporting characters, whose only real purpose is for atmosphere. The soundtrack also contributes considerably to that end! The production design is pretty specific to time and place, particularly the hair design. There are a number of animated sequences that occur within the film, as Milner day dreams about life outside of "The Brethren", which helps with the pacing and keeps the film from being visually stagnant. Lastly, it should be something of a commercial success, as an alternative summer movie. As something of a footnote, gossip had it that Mr. Jennings had a bit of an attitude during the Q&A and did not show up at the party afterwards.

WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE? (dirs. Brandon Klein, Daniel Klein, Nicholas Klein, Timothy Klein, US, 2008, 80 mins.) Three brothers and a cousin take six months to navigate the length of Africa to record and investigate the success of world aid organizations on the continent. Now, as honorable as that thesis is, the family does show a lack of documentary and editorial expertise in its execution. By editing themselves into the film, expressing their reactions to the poverty, their disbelief to the ineffectiveness of some of the organizations, as well as their emotional reactions to the people and the stress of the trip itself, they unfortunately set themselves up as part of the problem. It was a topic that came up during the Q&A. They risk appearing as four exceptionally fortunate white males, who were able to indulge themselves with a six month trip through Africa, with the best intentions, yet not actually doing anything for the people or organizations they encountered. The team countered that with the argument that the film should speak for itself as an effort for change. It is similar to Pincus and Small's AXE IN THE ATTIC. However, they were able to express their personal editorials with enough technique to become the audience surrogate. Whereas the Kleins do not establish enough of a relationship with the audience to become surrogates, and without further judicious and objective editing, their presence in the film is going to be a distraction.

The day's program ended with the Animation Extravaganza, posted HERE.

Maxxxxx says, well... he's too excited about the animated shorts program to make comment...

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