Monday, November 10, 2014

AIFF 2014: Features In Competition - My voice rocks 6 unicorns in my pockets; I come, Ambassador, to Bern in hell I believe: in-appropriate behavior.

Trying to make a sentence using all the words from the titles of the feature films in competition taught me that verbs and conjunctions are scarce in the titles. I had to change some nouns to verbs. Left on the table:  'bullets' and 'the'. 

But if you remember this sentence - My voice rocks 6 unicorns in my pockets; I come, Ambassador, to Bern in hell I believe: in-appropriate behavior. - you should be able to remember all the features in competition.  Now go find the titles this came from.

Features are films that are fiction (even if based on a true story) and over 55 minutes long.  

In Competition means that after the initial screeners "selected" the films to be in the festival, the juries picked what they thought were the best of those selected.  Those films are 'in competition" for festival awards.

I'm sure there are other outstanding features - there always are - that don't make it into competition.  If I learn about any I'll let you know.

Fourteen Features were selected and six  are in competition.  They represent eleven different countries. 
  • Australia/USA 
  • Canada 
  • France/Germany/Turkey  
  • Hungary
  • USA
  • Spain/USA
  • United Kingdom/Poland
  • USA/Latvia 
One more film, Kurmanjan Datka [Queen of the Mountains] from Kyrgyzstan was selected and in competition when the Features were first announced, but it's no longer listed.  In that past that has meant a more prestigious festival won't take it if it's been shown elsewhere or some such situation.

  Our loss according to someone who saw the film.

6 Bullets To Hell
Tanner Beard
Spain/USA √
80 m
10:00 PM    Tue, Dec 9  Bear Tooth

10:00 PM     Sat, Dec 13  AK Exp Small

An excerpt from the Planet Spaghetti-Western:
"Opening with the sturm-und-twang of Ennio Morricone’s ‘Seconda caccia’, from The Big Gundown, and the killing of a cowering priest, 6 Bullets to Hell signals its intentions even before the rotoscope-style credits gambol across the screen. Assembled on a miserly budget by a coterie of genre aficionados and shot entirely in Almería and its environs, this US-Spanish co-production is an unabashed love letter to the overheated vendetta westerns that rolled in this region in the Sixties.”

The Ambassador to Bern (A Berne Követ)
Attila Szász
Hungary ✓ 

5:30 PM Tue, Dec 9 Bear Tooth
5:30 PM Wed, Dec 10 AK Exp Small

The English poster for this film reflects the USA's obsession with guns.  The violence in the Hungarian poster is much more subtle.  I hope this means that violence in the trailer is all the violence in the film and the rest will be more drama.  I'm leaving the trailer off here because the quality of the youtube video is much poorer than the video on the movie's website.

The video quality on the Ambassador to Bern website is much better.  By the way, I found a copy of an Hungarian language trailer.  It's similar to the English language one, but shorter and no subtitles.  Apparently it showed on Hungarian television earlier this year.

It's taken from a true story about Hungarian immigrants in Switzerland, after the Russian invasion of Hungary in 1956, who take over the Hungarian embassy in Bern.

The film won the Bronze Zenith for the First Fiction Feature Film at the Montreal Film Festival in September this year.  

Appropriate Behavior
Desiree Akhavan
5:30 PM Mon, Dec. 8 Bear Tooth
8:00 PM Sat, Dec 13 Alaska Exp Small

Anchorage is Appropriate Behavior's 13th film festival this year - including Sundance - according to the film's website

From a New York Times piece on Desiree Arkhavan:
"For her part, Ms. Akhavan is quick to play down any suggestion that she is pursuing an agenda in her work as writer, director or performer. “I see where the funny lies and where the story is, and I chase the story wherever it leads me,” she says. “And it usually leads to a very personal place and my life just happens to involve all these hugely political things — being bisexual, being Iranian, and now being a woman is inherently political, too. But I don’t consider those things at all while I’m doing it.”
The underwear shopping clip at the web site will definitely get most people's attention.

Variety's review sees a good, but imperfect film, with lots of promise for its director:''
"It would probably be horribly reductive to describe Desiree Akhavan’s “Appropriate Behavior” as a lesbian Persian-American “Girls” knockoff, but it wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate, either. A debut feature from the writer-director-star, this tart, sexually frank portrait of a disintegrating relationship — and its long, bitter aftermath — packs plenty of punch in its best scenes, but it also frequently tests audience patience with its relentless deadpan affectlessness and insistence on leaving no Brooklyn cliche unmined. Pic should be a natural for future festival play all the same, and its auteur ought to be well worth watching once she starts to find her own voice."

Come to My Voice [Were Dengê Min][Sesime Gel]
Hüseyin Karabey
France, Germany, Turkey √
8:00 PM Thu, Dec. 11 Bear Tooth
11 AM Sun, Dec 14 Alaska Exp Large

From the Hollywood Reporter:

"Raiding a Kurdish village after a tip-off, a Turkish military unit fails to find the weapons suggested by the informer; enraged, the captain (Nazmi Sinan Milici) orders all male villagers to be taken away for detention and questioning at the barracks, and told the remaining folk - elderly and children mostly - they would have to hand over 15 rifles and 20 guns within a week in exchange for the release of the men."
According to the review, this is just the starting point; the film shows the wider ripples of the Turkish military's action, but it appears that the main characters are a Kurdish grandmother and granddaughter.  

The review says it won the audience award at the Istanbul International Film Festival this year. 

I Believe In Unicorns

Leah Meyerhoff
5:30 PM Sat, Dec 6 Alaska Exp Small
8:00 PM Tue, Dec 9 Bear Tooth

I can't tell much about this one.  The website has too many balloons and unicorns for me, but the reviewers see promise in filmmaker Meyerhoff. Dear Lemon Lima had cutesy teen stuff too, but turned out to be a very good film, if you could suspend reality enough for kids to wear shorts and go swimming in Fairbanks in December.  But it did win the audience award, so people here looked past those things.

 Ryan Lattanzio at Indiewire wrote:
". . . While the film gets kudos for carefully unpeeling the psychology of its young (anti-)heroine, "Unicorns" also contains a few fairly graphic sexual encounters between 16-year-old Davina, played with startling grace by Dyer, and Sterling, seething with the handsome Vack's silent menace. Nothing like being bent over a bail of hay and fucked doggie-style to cap off an affair to remember.

"Unicorns" is so narratively thin, it could be a short, and Meyerhoff's scrapbook style will irritate some, and enrapture others. But in a world of increasingly stentorian female filmmakers, she's one to watch."
Rob Dickie at Sound on Sight at the Edinburgh International Film Festival wrote:

. . . Even the live action sequences are scattered with moments of sublime and wistful beauty, notably when Davina and Sterling come across a group of circus performers in the dark. This scene is imagined, as are others in which Davina walks through a forest with a pair of wings, but they’re revealing nevertheless. The film becomes totally immersed in Davina’s way of thinking, using her own myths and metaphors to elucidate her deepest feelings.

As the title suggests, I Believe in Unicorns is a film about using fantasy as a means to escape the world. For Davina, this leads to excitement and new experiences but her belief in her visions blinds her to what’s really going on. Despite taking its structure and aesthetic from the American road movie, the film avoids all the usual pitfalls and clichés of that gnere. Instead, it uses nostalgia and familiar imagery to highlight just how far from that kind of situation this really is. These are ordinary teenagers in a dysfunctional relationship, grabbing half-heartedly at the chance for another life.
Both these are much longer reviews.

From Rocks In My Pocket website

Rocks In My Pockets
Signe Baumane
USA/Latvia √
3:00 PM Sat, Dec. 6 Museum
5:00 PM Sun, Dec  7 Alaska Experience Large

Can you tell this story might involve mental health?  Peter Dunlap-Shohl is a local cartoonist (and AIFF film maker) whose blog on Parkinson's uses animation to help others understand what it's like to have Parkinsons.  And to remind others with Parkinsons that they are not alone.  I'm hoping this film will prove as enlightening and as funny as Peter's work.  Here's a short interview with filmmaker Signe Baumane from Rooftop Films, back in February 2013, before the film was complete:

Usually people want to make and see films about fantasy.  They want to have these romantic comedies, scenarios of which could never take place in real life. Since early age I was always wondering how come the things that I read in books about and the things I see in movies never take place in real life. And why is no one trying to depict or tell how it feels from inside. I wanted to focus on how the living process feels inside.

. . . As to depression.  You know, I get depressed sometimes, like twice, three times a year.  It hits me unexpectedly and  I have to deal with with. I don’t know why does it happen, theres no reason. You go through this cloud of foggy thoughts, slow expression, slow speech, you feel fatigued and have pain inside.  I was wondering how would I describe that pain to other people. Not only describe but also visually depict it.

For me, a very honest take on depression is also very funny.  The absurdity of it: here is life and it is wonderful – why would you want to die? Still, every 12 seconds of my day I think of killing myself.

. . . Depression has a stigma attached to it.  You’re not supposed to be depressed, you’re supposed to be dealing with everything.  And you should be dealing with everything but, except, sometimes you cant.  I wanted to communicate that moment of truth when you can’t deal.
The whole interview, which also discusses how the movie was made (by hand) is here.

I need to check on how this made it as a feature in competition without even being selected into the animated category.  I've had disagreements with some of the animated selections and winners in past years.  This looks to be a dark film, but one with lots of imagination.  But no judgments until I see the animated films.   And why doesn't this show at the Bear Tooth at all?  Are they afraid people don't want to see films about depression?  In December in Anchorage?  They would sell a lot of beer.  But I'm just speculating with no actual evidence.  I usually find out that things that seem strange often have a good explanation. 

Here's the official trailer:

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