Thursday, November 16, 2017

AIFF 2017: Features in Competition - Pale Blue Dot, Painless, The Drawer Boy, and American Folk [UPDATED] What If It Works?

Features are full length fictional films.  Films in competition are those chosen by the original screeners  to be eligible for awards. 

I'd note that while these are the screeners picks, screeners don't always agree, so some might have chosen other features as the best.  I often disagree with the screeners, but this is a good start as you try to figure out what to watch.  There are always gems that don't make it to this list.  And you might find films on topics that you want to see or from a country you're interested in, even if they aren't in competition.

Features in CompetitionDirectorCountryLength
American Folk 
David Heinz
The Drawer Boy
Arturo Perez Torres
Jordan Horowitz
Pale Blue Dot Girish Mohite
What If It Works? Romi TrowerAustralia1:35:00

I'm not making any judgments here except that I'm posting the films in competition - those eligible for an award.  These are just descriptions, interviews, pictures and video I've found on line to give people a sense of what's coming to Anchorage Dec. 1.

American Folk
David Heinz
Showing: Sunday Dec. 3,  at 8:15pm Beartooth

"When their plane from Los Angeles to New York is grounded on the morning ofSeptember 11, 2001, strangers Elliott (Joe Purdy) and Joni (Amber Rubarth) are unexpectedly thrust together amidst the chaos of that historic day. With little in common but both needing to get to NYC urgently, they accept help from Joni's family friend Scottie (Krisha Fairchild) who lends the duo a rusty old 1972 Chevy Van. The shock and stress of 9/11 quickly threatens to derail their cross country journey until the pair discover what they do have in common: a love for old folk songs. Armed with a pile of guitars left in the van from Scottie’s touring days, Elliott and Joni raise their voices together (and with those they meet on the road), re-discovering the healing nature of music and bearing witness to a nation of people who, even while mourning, manage to lift each other up in the wake of tragedy.?


The Drawer Boy  
Arturo Perez Torres
Showing:  Monday Dec. 4  5:30pm Bear Tooth

From  Evan Dossey in the Midwest Film Journal:
"The Drawer Boy (Draw-er, as in, a boy who draws) is an adaptation of Michael Healey’s 1999 play about Miles (Jakob Ehman), a traveling actor who shows up at a farm owned by Angus (Stuart Hughes) and Morgan (Richard Clarkin) with the hopes of staying in their house, helping around the farm and learning what it’s like to be a rural Canadian.
Angus takes care of most of the work as well as Morgan, who has severe short-term memory loss. As Miles learns the ebb and flow of a farmer’s life, he also begins to uncover the tragic story that led to Morgan’s condition.
To director Arturor Perez Torres’ credit, The Drawer Boy captures the staging and performances you’d expect from a stage production without sacrificing opportunities afforded by the cinematic lens. It’s a beautifully shot movie. There’s a tendency for stage-to-film adaptations to sometimes come across as something stuck between the two mediums in a way that satisfies neither. That’s not the case here."

 This is probably a movie that you don't need to know anything about.  Just go and let it unfold with no expectations.

The Drawer Boy - Trailer from Open City Works on Vimeo.


Jordan Horowitz
Showing:  Saturday Dec 2, 1:45  AK Experience Small 
                  Friday Dec 9, 7:45pm AK Experience Large

Here's the Painless website synopsis:

"Henry Long was born with a rare condition that leaves him unable to feel physical pain. Life for him is a daily struggle, never knowing when he might become seriously injured without realizing it, or worse, die from an internal injury he never knew existed. He lives in a constant state of fear and is completely alienated from those around him who cannot relate to his daily struggles.
Barricading himself in a world of science, Henry has dedicated his life to finding a cure so that he can one day know what it’s like to feel ‘normal.’ When he discovers a promising drug that he is unable to obtain on his own, he gets involved with a dangerous scientist with a dark past and his own secret agenda. Henry must decide if his need for normalcy is worth paying the ultimate price before it’s too late.
Based on actual medical science, Painless looks at the dark side of life with a rare condition and the challenges both symptomatic and social that people with these conditions face."

You can listen to David Majzlin's sound track for Painless here.


Pale Blue Dot 
Girish Mohite
Showing:  Sunday, Dec. 3  11:45am AK Experience Small 
                      Saturday, Dec. 9, 2:30pm AK Experience Small 

I couldn't find much on this film.  

From Filter Copy - An Indian website reporting on this year's Mumbai Film Festival last month which highlighted 13 of the festival films including Pale Blue Dot.
"Synopsis: Sarvanaam, or the Pale Blue Dot, was birthed when a photograph taken by a NASA Voyager showed the earth to be smaller than a pixel from a distance of 6 billion km in space. The very fact that the Earth is as miniscule as a grain of sand in the eternal expanse of the universe brings forth questions about the weight of our existence and death."

From The Hindu, a page of very short questions and answers at the Mumbai Film Festival dated October 2017.  Directer Girish Mohite was asked

What is your film about?
"It is about the existence of hum life and our fear of death - the eternal question that haunts us all our life"
I can imagine his head rolling back and forth as he gives this answer.
The next question was:  What should the MAMI crowd expect to see?
"I have filmed the entire feature film in natural light without resorting to artificial sets.  I have treated the subject as seen through the eyes of the central character - a man who is struggling with these thoughts about life and death when a person close to him in on the verge of dying."
UPDATE Nov. 23, 2017:  The film maker, Girish Mohite, has sent me this synopsis of the film.

"A specific name underlines the existence of a given individual but Sarvanaam i.e. an Eternity is a collective notion. Even while living this life making an effort to  preserve one's own identity, often the destiny plays its cards in such an incomprehensible manner that one is imperatively left with no alternative but to ignore one's own personal existence or unique identity and dissolve oneself in the mighty oblivion of the Sarvanaam, the eternity.  The film 'Sarvanaam', the Pale Blue Dot makes you aware of this insurmountable truth.  
Thus, the existence of LIFE is PALE BLUE DOT.
'Death' is an ultimate truth. Each one of us is radically aware that at some or the other point of time in life, the death, is going to come to meet us and end our role. But even then every human being feels afraid of the death of his near and dear ones rather than being frightened of one's own death. That is why, every individual gets disturbed when the same death starts lingering around in the lives of your near and dear ones. This close shadow of the death destroys the peace of mind of every individual howsoever invariable truth it may be. An approaching shadow of that evil arouses a feeling of unacceptable injustice in his mind and he leaves no stone unturned to unveil the answer of this riddle. The unbearable sorrow of this inhuman destiny and the agonising journey of every human being's life saga is the gist of the Marathi feature film 'Sarvanaam'."

I couldn't find a trailer for this film. [UPDATE Nov. 23:  Girish Mohite sent me the trailer, so here it is:


What If It Works?
Romi Trower

I don't recall ever citing the Catholic Church of Australia, so it seems a good time to check that off my blogger list of things to do.  Here's from their review of What If It Works?
"There have been many films over the years, especially in recent years, about relationships, romantic relationships, potential healing relationships between people who are physically and/or mentally disabled. We don’t always expect to see these stories acted out in the ordinary streets, in the ordinary suburbs of Melbourne. They are acted out here – but, at the end, there is still the question that the title raises, will it work, what if it works?
It takes a few moments to get into the feel of the film We are introduced to Adrian, Ford, a young man in his 30s, driving a fast car, getting into trouble, landing unsuspectingly into a group of drag queens. Who is Adrian? When we see him behave, gloved hands, hands raised in the air, wary of touching anything, fastidious, we realise that he is absolutely obsessive, has a compulsive disorder. Which means that while he is friendly in his way, it is not always easy to like him. Non-compulsiveness will feel very impatient with him. But, as we get to know him, see him in all his foibles, there has to be some sympathy. In fact, he is very intelligent with science and engineering and is able to help people in the art commune, even calling in the aid of the drag queen friends.
He almost runs over a young woman (Anna Samson) who lives just up the street, who walks dogs (which he abhors). When he encounters her on his session with his therapist and she comes to visit, mistaking him for the therapist and pouring out a rather salacious life story, he is upset. He later meets her in the street."

And from FilmInk:
"Giving the leads of your romantic comedy mental health issues is tricky ground to navigate. Jokes built around your characters could be seen as laughing at them, rather than with them. Additionally, in the pursuit of true love, there’s a certain danger of downplaying their daily struggles. What if it Works?, from first time director Romi Trower, not only tackles these issues, it does so with success."

[UPDATE Dec. 18 - I've swapped out a film that is no longer in the festival for one on the list that I didn't see in the first list].


UPDATE Nov 30, 2017:  I'd note that the film Muse was originally 'in competition' but for some (legitimate) reason, it will still be in the festival, just not in competition.  

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