Monday, January 19, 2009

Atlanta Jewish Film Festival 2009 - Day 4

The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival graciously sent me a HUGE ENVELOPE of screeners of nearly the ENTIRE festival! (One must be careful for what one asks for!) The festival continues at the LaFont Sandy Springs, until Sunday, January 25, 2009.

WE WERE EXODUS (dir. Jean-Michel Vecchiet, France, 2007, 80 mins.) is a collection of interviews of passengers, crewmen and other witnesses to the voyage of Exodus, which attempted to transport 4,500 "illegal" emigrants to Palestine, in July 1947. The story itself is dramatic enough that the reliance on "talking heads" is not as ineffective as it might have been. I think that there could have been some structural shaping of the interviews that would make the story clearer, though. At one point, I became a bit confused with the roles of the interviewees. The testimony of witnesses and participants gets a bit muddled together. I think there might be a stronger impact if the interviews were edited a bit tighter within the timeline of events. In otherwords, if the narrative were more directly delivered by participants without stepping out of the first person narrative for commentary from the witnesses at the ports. However, I do understand the structure as-is as it applies to the finale that Vecchiet conceives. I just think that it would be as effective if not more so, to bring those parties together only at the end, as opposed to the intercutting throughout the documentary.

WILL EISNER: PORTRAIT OF A SEQUENTIAL ARTIST (dir. Andrew D. Cooke, USA, 2007, 98 mins.) Will Eisner is one of the groundbreaking, if not the grandfather of the "graphic novel", aka comic books, his masterpiece being "The Spirit". The film is a bit busy with narration and graphics, as nearly everybody who is anybody in the comics world are interviewed about Eisner's contribution to the art and the industry. To avoid the "talking head syndrome", director Cooke has illustrated the interviews with examples of Eisner's art. (This would be the best opportunity for a DVD that should have a "photo gallery" in its extra features!) Being something of a "graphic novel neophyte", I did find it fascinating to see the faces behind the art, too. I also think that the piece has a broader interest for artists and those in the "business" of the creative arts, in the exploration of how Eisner handled the business aspect of his work, particularly in the maintaining ownership and licensing of his work. Also, there is some coverage of the discrimination that Jewish graphic artists faced in the 1930's and '40's, which is what forced a number of artists, including Eisner, into the area of self distributing their work to the daily papers, where they found their audience.

SKIN (dir. Hanro Smitsman, Netherlands, 2008, 85 mins.) Robert de Hoog gives a powerful performance as a troubled teenager who falls into a group of Neo-Nazis. However, as exceptional as de Hoog's performance is, the script is not. Playing out as a flashback during his arrest and interrogation is almost too much of a spoiler to the tragedy that will enfold. In essence, it shortcuts the character's evolution. Though dramatically it plays the role of the "ticking bomb", as we wait to see when he will finally explode, I think it would have been more effective to observe the transformation without spoiling the element of surprise of where he will eventually end. The structure is not unlike the safety net that made-for-tv provides its audiences by letting them know where this is headed and making it an easier journey. By undercutting the audience's journey with the character's passage, it seems to trivialize the events leading up to "the moment".

Maxxxxx says
re WE WERE EXODUS: "I'll be back."
re WILL EISNER: "Woooooo...!"
re SKIN: "Such a mean bird!"

1 comment:

Xanna Don't said...

Jay wrote: <<< the structure is not unlike the safety net that made-for-tv provides its audiences >>>
You nailed it! That's because this movie was originally made-for-tv! Then it went to film fests, an unusual progression. Robert de Hoog was in attendance and spoke after the film; he was adorable, just 20 years old now (17 when he was cast in the film). Some girls and their moms were fawning over him, and he was polite but clearly a bit uncomfortable about it. I really liked this film; it's based on the first hate crime in Holland's history (1981) since WW2. But I was especially impressed with this young actor. He's somebody to watch. He has also done a film called Den Helder where he plays a gay marine; I’d love to find it.