The last couple of weeks have been wonderful. The BAFICI was everything I could ever hope for and more. Over the span of ten days I saw 22 movies of varying degrees of quality. From fiercely independent mumblecore features to bigger, lushly animated productions to absurd experiments. It was all an adventure because, although they provide a little booklet with a synopsis of each of the films, you really had no idea what you were getting yourself into. Good or bad or inexplicably strange, it was a wonderful experience.
I’m not gonna write about all the movies I saw. Here are some highlights.
I started the festival off with a beautiful documentary on legendary jazz bassist Charlie Haden called “Rambling Boy” (USA). It follows him from his rural0 upbringing in country music through his revolutionary work with Ornette Coleman, through his experiments at the forefront of the jazz avant garde. They go into deep detail of his technique as well as the emotional core of his music. Thorough and insightful and compelling film. It got me listening to this beautiful record again.
Next off, “Silver Girls” (Germany) is a beautifully shot, touching documentary about a group of over-the-hill prostitutes living in Berlin. The contrast between their unremarkable middle-class existence and their jobs makes for a compelling look at three very lonely women quickly slipping into elderly irrelevance. “No Heart Feelings” (Canada) is a really funny, quirky little indie flick. It feels at times like a love letter to Toronto. All the characters are young, attractive, wealthy and impossibly witty, but the story and dialogue are so charming you’re not annoyed by these cardboard cutouts.
“The Haunted World of El Superbeasto” (USA), Rob Zombie’s nutty, Flash-animated feature. This reminded me of vintage Warner Brothers cartoons, albeit with Satanic debauchery. Lots of tits and guns in this, as was expected. Laugh-out-loud hilarious at times, ridiculously over-the-top through and through. “Black Dynamite” (USA), a 1970s blaxploitation pastiche, complete with a gun-toting alpha male protagonist. This movie is apparently already out on video in the States, but hasn’t really done very well, which is I guess why it’s making the rounds in the festival circuit. This was all in all really clever and well done. The audience was in stitches. A lot of fun.
I was also really looking forward to “Leslie My Name is Evil” (Canada), Reginald Harkema’s followup to the awesomely militant “Monkey Warfare”. It completely lived up to my expectations. A 1960s Charles Manson fantasy. Solid flick with a lot of great performances (especially Kristen Hager as the title character) and some really interesting cinematography. I was taken to see “Twigson” (Norway) a children’s story about a boy and his imaginary friend, a tree branch named Twigson. It tells a surprisingly mature tale of isolation and adaptation. A kid’s movie, definitely, but one oozing with charm. Speaking of children’s movies, “McDull- Kung Fu Kingergarten” (China) was an incredibly cute little movie.
I was also pleasantly surprised by “Summer Wars” (Japan), an anime fever dream of a hyper-evolved social networking “parallel world”. The contrast between Japanese family drama and the online craziness makes this a really interesting little flick. And this is coming from somebody who has real problems taking anime seriously, especially the type of anime that delves deeply into the genre’s cliches. This was really well done, though.
I was really taken with two rock and roll documentaries. “Do it Again” (USA) is a documentary about a man on a quest to see The Kinks reunite. On the way, he attempts to get celebrities to join in an impromptu and unrehearsed Kinks singalong. A really captivating feature on the power of rock and roll through generations. The other one I really liked was “Femme Rock Doc” (Chile), an awesome documentary about girl punk bands from Chile. Great, great music.
Another music documentary I loved (and the last film of the festival I could see) was the documentary on Magnetic Fields frontman Stephen Merritt, “Strange Powers”. An awesome movie and a great look into the mind of one of the most polarizing figures in indie-rock. Stephen is really funny and wry and gay.
I’d also like to mention as a highlight (because of how memorable it is, not necessarily because of how GOOD it was), the new Harmony Korine feature. “Trash Humpers” (USA), easily the weirdest movie in the festival so far. Shot and edited on VHS, it’s basically 90 minutes of people in old-people masks, humping trash cans, killing people and masturbating. No discernible plot to speak of. Absolutely no narrative. There was something captivating and macabre about certain shots, and I found myself deeply disturbed by others, but more than anything what stayed with me about this movie was what it said about what movies are. It was an interesting exercise in totally egoless filmmaking, albeit overlong, overwrought and downright boring at parts.
422 films were screened over 10 days. I’m glad to have caught the ones I did. There were others I wanted to see but time just didn’t allow. I have to say, I’ll miss jumping in and out of diegeses every day. If nothing else, this made me want to go see more movies. Not just at home, but at the movie theater. This reaffirmed my love for cinema, and inspired me as a learning filmmaker. I’d call that a huge success.
In other news, I turned 23, I’ve been listening to Broken Social Scene obsessively and Flor is leaving to Mendoza for a couple months. This does not help my abandonment complex. I’ll manage though. I hope.