Friday, December 09, 2016

AIFF2016: A Trip To Rural India, Donald and Peter, Susie and Liz Great Night

Wow.  This year's festival is offering lots of good films and film makers visiting.  I was tied up all afternoon and got to the Bear Tooth just as Cinema Travelers started.  Travelers documented one of the last cinema teams that traveled from community to community with huge ancient projectors in equally ancient trucks to show reel to reel movies at outdoor night fairs in and around Maharashtra Province.  I'm guessing that because they occasionally announced that the films were in the Marathi language.

We saw them laboriously take down and put up the big tent, break down the camera, load it on the truck, and then put it back together again in the next town.  We saw the crowds of people at the fairs and getting in to see the movie.  We also visited the projector repairman who said he was about 13 or 14 in 1958 or 59 when he saw his first movie.  He said while the others wondered about the story, he wondered about how they got the pictures on the screen and the sound, and he eventually got involved in showing movies.  He demonstrated how he'd created a camera where the rewind was on the bottom instead of the top so the cinema showers didn't have to lift the reels, which looked close to three feet in diameter.  And we watched the cinema traveler buy his first digital projector and learn how to download the movies and take an old projector to a scrap metal man.

It was a touching film that recorded the end of an era.  And it spoke directly to me because I spent two years in a rural Thai community that had similar (though much smaller) night fairs, though we had a movie theater in town.  But we did have traveling troops of actors - both Thai likae (dramas) and Chinese opera who would come through each year.

But the second film grabbed me like no other film in the festival so far.  There have been very good films, but this one seemed to reach out to me and left all sorts of unanswered questions.

Donald Cried starts with Peter coming back to the small town where he grew up to sell his grandmother's house and settle things after she's died.  You don't know all this as the film starts - you pick up more and more details as things progress.  He's lost his wallet on the bus and so he has no money and goes across the street to a neighbor's, who greets him like a long lost pal and practically kidnaps him taking him around town.  The neighbor, Donald, seems like he's got Asbergers or something as he constantly crosses normal conversational boundaries in politeness and topics.  But the history of Peter, Donald, the grandmother, and others slowly is revealed.  But there were still so many questions I had.  And reading the credits - Kris Avedisian was listed as the writer, the producer, the director, and actor - I knew exactly who I wanted to talk to.  My wife asked, which one was he?  I assumed he played Donald, but then I had this thought, whoa, what if he played Peter?  That would have been so weird.  But as the cast scrolled by, he did play Donald.  So I was ready to go home and start looking for an email address for Kris

I hope I've gotten you curious enough to check out the trailer for Donald Cried which I posted in my rundown of the Features In Competition.  It has an early outrageous scene of Donald and Peter that is only a hint of things to come.  (When I looked back on that page, I realized I've now seen all the features in competition and they are all strong films.  The judges are going to have a hard time picking a winner.  I could defend any of them as the winner and if I have time before Sunday, I might try.)

Liz Torres and Susie Singer Carter
I saw Rich Curtner, the president of the film festival board, and asked him why Kris wasn't here because I had questions to ask.  And he could have flown up four different members of the crew and cast for the price of one.  Rich deflected my attention by pointing out that Susie Singer Carter  was here - the director and actor in My Mom and the Girl,  one of the shorts we saw Saturday morning. The film was about Susie's mother and her caregiver - the character I fell in love with.  She was just wonderful.  And Rich then said that Liz Torres, who played the caregiver, was here too.

Photographer Note:  I hate using a flash.  The Bear Tooth lighting leaves a lot to be desired and so my first picture was a bit blurred and looked unusable.  I tried some more pictures, but in the end, I think the first one captures more of the love of life I felt in these two women. I rationalize that if these pictures aren't photographically perfect, they do a good job of reflecting the mood and the ambiance of the Bear Tooth.   So, if you don't like a little blur, just skip the picture.

We had a long and warm conversation and I hope I get to see them again before they go back to LA.  You can see both of them, and Valerie Harper who plays Susie's mother in the trailer I put up on my post about the Shorts in Competition.   I'd also note here that Liz Torres is a two time emmy winner and a Golden Globe nominee with a long history in theater, television, and film.

And here's an article dated March 21 about the film on Broadwayworld that says the film was going to start shooting in April 2016.  So this picture is pretty new.

I had a long day today and J was tired too and so we didn't stay for the Quick Freeze films that began at 10pm or so.  These have gotten better and better each year.  People are given four or five words to include in a film to be completed 24 hours [four days] later.  It's always fun to see what they do with that challenger.

But I was full on two rich and filling movies and had no room for dessert.

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