Sunday, December 09, 2018

AIFF2018: Awards Brunch - OK, I've Got The List Now

OK, finally, I've got the list of the winners including 2nd and 3rd Place.
NOTE:  This afternoon there's more - including

On The Tip of the Tongue - A World Premiere about the Young Frenchman who helped save Eyak Language  2:30pm at Alaska Experience Theater
Don't Be Nice at 4:30pm E Street (Audience Choice)
1945 - This should be good.   4:30 Alaska Experience
Julia Blue - Feature Winner - 6:30pm  Alaska Experience

This year's award ceremony is in the conference room at Alaska Experience Theater from brunch - catered by Organic Oasis.  I'm trying to get ready and I've set up the categories in advance so I have time to fill in the names of the winners.

I'm not sure what order these will be in, but I'll keep updating this post.  The sun is out and we
have a great view of the port.

Winner:  Fauve
2nd Place:  Sirene
3rd Place:  About the Birds and Bees

Screenplay Winners
Winner:  Stan and Mary "221 Broadway"

Audience Choice Awards:
Documentary:  Don't Be Nice

Winner: Julia Blue
2nd Place: Funny Story
3rd Place: Rich Kids

Feature-Length Documentaries 
Winner:  Rodents of Unusual Size
2nd Place: Afghan Cycles
3rd Place:  Anote's Ark


Winner: Sail
Runner Up: Everything Changes
Honorable Mention:  Playtime

Winner: Wellaway  (It won, I think it was this category)
2nd Place:  Rocket
3rd Place: And Now We Rise

These categories don't seem to have been in the festival this year.

Documentary Shorts
2nd Place:
3rd Place:

Super Shorts
2nd Place:
3rd Place:

Saturday, December 08, 2018

AIFF2018: Alaska Related Docs - Lowell Thomas and Five Important Alaskans

We went to the museum yesterday and saw Voice of America:  Lowell Thomas and the Rise of Broadcast News and then Magnetic North Series - Alaska Humanities Forum portraits of Alaskans.

Maybe I'm stretching it a bit about the Lowell Thomas movie - most of it was about his life and about the beginnings of broadcast journalism, with just a bit taking place in Alaska.  However, his son, Lowell Thomas Jr.,  settled in Alaska and was our Lt. Governor for a while and his his daughter (Sr's granddaughter) was in the audience and spoke after the film.

This film documents not just Lowell's life, but also the beginnings of broadcast news.  We see him first in his round the world travels - including 'discovering' T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) and trekking three weeks (was it four) into Lhasa to record - for the first time ever - the Dalai Lama and Lhasa just before the Chinese invaded Tibet.

We heard from Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather about how Lowell set the mold for broadcast news - neutral, fact based, and with a story.  NPR broadcaster David Folkenflik was also featured.  Lowell Thomas is a name that seems I've always known, but I didn't know the details.

The screen writer and biographer Mitchell Stephens was there to answers questions afterward.  At one point an audience member seemed to be nostalgic for the 'good old days' of broadcast news where 'both sides' were fairly represented.  Stephens jumped in to point out there were problems then too, that we saw and heard a limited amount of news compared to today. [UPDATE SUNDAY:  I'm sitting here with Rick Moulton, the director at the Awards ceremony and he clarified it was Mitchell, not Rick, who talked after the film.  So I fixed it.]

Later, the Humanities Forum presented their Magnetic North Series.  With funding from the Rasmuson Foundation, they are capturing on film key figures in Alaska's history.  They've got five 30 minute films done already - on Roy Madsen, Nathan Jackson, Arliss Sturgulewski, Jacob Anagi Adams, Sr., and Clem Tillion.  The Bill Sheffield movie isn't yet completed.
The film makers - Marla Williams and Kyle (the photographer - I can't find his last name) were there to talk about the films.
Actually, for last night's film they had picked a theme - which they asked the audience to guess afterward - and edited parts of the five films with the intent of focusing on their chosen theme.  The audience picked themes somewhat related to theirs - resilience - but didn't use that word.

I was interested in how the film makers were going to deal with issues in the Sheffield film about his impeachment, the Alaska Railroad depot at the airport, the significant problems with the port when he headed it.  This is more about personalities than investigative journalism, Marla told me afterward.  But, she pointed out that all the subjects talked about their flaws.  My concern was that these films will probably be the main film sources of information on these people.  Marla said these were not intended to be tributes, but more portraits (I think that's my word not hers.)  The Humanities Forum wants to make these widely available and I'm concerned they do seem more like tributes and they will become 'the truth' about these people.  While I suspect with Sturgulewski and Tillion 'the truth' will be reasonable close to who these people are.  With Sheffield, there's a lot of baggage that I suspect will not be raised enough for people unfamiliar with him to be alerted to the serious problems.  I know I'm asking a lot, but, again, I suspect these movies will be the main source for Alaska students to know these people.

And you could accuse me of leaving out things - like that the director of the Alaska Humanities Forum was there as well - but this blog will not be distributed in the same way, and did not use nearly as much time and resources to produce.

These film are intended to be available online eventually.  You can check back at the Alaska Humanities Forum website.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

AIFF2018: Saw Lots Of Good Shorts, Including Animation, Like Aaron Dunbar's The Train AND Tomorrow's Schedule

The film festival goes on full steam ahead.  Bear Tooth is open - don't have to bring snacks or starve anymore.  You can find Friday's schedule here.  That link will get you to all the days actually.  You can see different versions of the schedule - the expanded gives you all the info you could want - by putting your cursor over the word schedule.  The the options drop down.

Here's their simple schedule for Friday.  You can link from each of the colored bars to get more info about the event.  Colors relate to the category or kind of activity.

I'd note the first one is a workshop by Ida Description: Ida Theresa Myklebost and John Gamache. They'll talk about what they've learned from the last 40 festivals they've been to - including her short film last year about refugees in a Greek refugee camp.  It should be interesting to film makers, but also as a way for us locals to think about how our festival compares to others.

I'd note - there was one cancelled program tonight - the shorts scheduled at the Inlet Towers.  I was planning to go, but someone mentioned it was cancelled.  So keep checking the schedule page - that seems to be the most reliable guide.  I'm not sure when the Inlet Towers show disappeared from there.  It was up when I left for the Bear Tooth.








You'll have to check which of these you want to go to yourself.  I still haven't done my homework. 

Aaron Dubar, The Train
But I want to briefly comment on today.  We saw lots and lots of good shorts and all the animated films were winners.  So many different styles.  But they all had good content and artistic qualities.  I'll just mention one - The Train, because the film maker, Aaron Dunbar, was sitting next to me.  He's from Ohio and a bit shy, he says, but that's not what we saw tonight when he answered questions.  

It's always tricky - what if I don't like his film?  But in this case I really liked it.  It was about an artist drawing in his notebook, and the scenes he drew would show up out the window.  Then a young woman comes into his compartment, dragging a big suitcase.  He just sits there drawing.  She looks at what he's drawing.  It had its own unique look and muted colors.  

He told me I could find it on line, so you can all see it and judge for yourself.  

Book Club Members Check In On Earthquake and Other Updates

We had another aftershock - Alaska Earthquake Center says it was a 2.5.  Actually, we've had quite a few aftershocks, this is in the list on their page right now:

Latest Earthquakes
M2.5   at 01:26 PM, 12 mi NW of Anchorage
M2.0   at 01:25 PM, 12 mi NW of Elmendorf AFB
M1.8   at 01:24 PM, 10 mi N of Anchorage
M1.0   at 01:23 PM, 13 mi NW of Anchorage
M1.7   at 01:20 PM, 13 mi NW of Anchorage

My book club members live all over town.  Here's what people reported about Friday's big quake:

  • I just want to send out the hope, belated but sincere, that all of you, your families, and houses made it through the quake ok.  The damage and experiences are so varied.   (I left town for Portland on Saturday, as planned  But I was home on Friday, got under a table for the first time, had a few fragile things fall and break but nothing serious.  Toilet water sloshed on the floor, bookcases emptied, pictures all crooked.  Neighbors three doors down lost the whole brick facing of their fireplace into their living room.)  Let us know how you did?  And aren't you glad we read the earthquake book so we know why this happened?
  • Like all of you the damage was minimal. I had just started my car when the quake hit and I was at first annoyed because the car had just been serviced. Of course I quickly realized my error.   Hope that’s the last big on for at least another 60 years 
  • Our little house that survived the '64 quake did fine. We had one broken bowl.  P was in her car in Sand Lake area and had a wild ride.  The tail fell out of our loon mask.  [Dog] and I were shaken, but did not stir beyond the back deck.  All in all, we are glad we survived November, and that it's over!
  • All OK here and with extended family. Broken stuff.
  • Music and musical instruments survived. Lucky for caring neighbors.   As they say, “moderate” damage. 
  • All OK here and with extended family. Broken stuff.
  • We were in Talkeetna visiting friends. Strong there but no damage. Then started get texts and calls from friends and family all over the country. Drove back into town in the afternoon past Vine and thankfully the detours on Glen were in place by then. Relieved to find house was just fine. However, Took couple days to clean up everything fell off high shelves and out of closets, fridge & pantry. Much Broken glass from stemware, China, crockery, lamps, bulbs, pictures, desktop computer, etc. Humbling experience, and especially as reflect on  the fact that ‘64 quake was 2,000x more powerful! Yikes. Kind of enjoy the little after shocks now..
  • Grateful that we rode it out with (almost embarrassingly) minimal damage.  Glad you are all well. 
  • I sent in a link to my blog post.  If you missed it, here it is

And since we're doing books, here's a message from the Anchorage libraries today:

Thank you to each and every one of you who have sent notes of support for our library. We've received messages from across the city, the state, the country and around the world. We feel truly loved by our community and we're sending good vibes right back at you. As of Tuesday, December 4th, Loussac, Muldoon, Mountain View and Girdwood have re-opened with normal business hours. Eagle River will remain closed until further notice and staff across the system have been deployed there to assist with clean up. Please see our earthquake info page for details on fines, holds, special programs and other resources; then be sure to follow us on social media for the latest updates. #ShookBooks #AnchorageStrong

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

AIFF2018: Interpreters, Afghan Cycles, And Festival Thoughts

The second two films took us to Afghanistan, Iraq, and France.

Interpreters was a documentary about American government promises to interpreters and other Iraqis and Afghans who worked for the US in those countries and had death threats from the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and ISIS when the US pulled out.  Promises that were long delayed or not carried out at all.   It took me back to another film at the festival years ago - Taxi To The Dark Side.

Afghan Cycles was about the Afghan women's bicycle team and the risks they faced just practicing in a country where women traditionally were supposed to stay at home.

Both films (and the earlier one Exit Music) were very personal stories about the people featured.  And all three had speakers afterward.  After Interpreters we had immigration attorney (and retired Lt. Col) Margaret Stock and another officer (whose name and exact rank I didn't catch) who had been the user of interpreters.  Stock made it clear that the government really hasn't kept its promise - that the responsibility is split between Homeland Security and the State Department, both of which have incentives to not process these applications quickly.  She also pointed out that as potential in-country interpreters learn how the promises were not kept, they are less likely to take these vitally needed positions.

 Sarah Menzies, Afghan Cycles director, answered questions after the film.  One of the more interesting questions was about the interview with the Taliban representative about killing women cyclists.  It turns out, Sarah was in Yakutat on a fishing film when that interview was done.  She got a male colleague to do it.  She said she hoped that she would have done the interview herself had she been in country, but wasn't sure if the Taliban guy would have accepted a female interviewer.  And he didn't know she wrote the questions.

Some general thoughts on the festival so far before I forget them:

  • The earthquake made everything even more informal than normal.  Losing the venues the first day of the festival, made for scrambling.  First to get the Alaska Experience useable by the third day, and second to rearrange the schedule given the loss of the Bear Tooth (it will show Martines Matinee and The Miseducation of Cameron Post tomorrow - Thursday).
  • It's nice having all the films in one location.  Not so much getting from place to place.  But there's been no food available, not even popcorn.  So it will be nice being back at the Bear Tooth tomorrow.
  • There's been a crowd of pass holders who get to see each other a lot this way, and get to talk about the films from day to day.
  • Not having so many choices has been nice too.  Not as many decisions and regrets.  Though today I had to decide between going to the Museum for FIVE SEASONS:  The Gardens of Piet Oudolf.  I've heard good things about the film, and there was a reception with food included.  But while my feet are feeling better today, I decided less walking is still better.  
  • We haven't seen the kind of AIFF trailer we've gotten used to, with clips from many of the films, playing before each showing.  And names of sponsors are read or displayed on screen like usual.  Only Bear Tooth and Out North have been regularly thanked.  There was one film programmer who read us the list of sponsors yesterday.  
  • Communicating with the public, so they'd know what was playing when, and where was spotty.  There seems to have been a problem keeping the website up-to-date and user friendly.  Though the SCHED (the film festival scheduling software) was working before the festival and by Monday or Tuesday was accurate for the post-earthquake revisions.  But if someone went to the website, one had to work to track it down.  Early Facebook posts were vague.  I had to call the Bear Tooth to find out for sure if there were not going to be films.

Things should be more like normal tomorrow and this weekend.  So if you haven't been to a film yet, it's time to show up.  In fact, tomorrow everything I've said above is thrown out the window.  Four different venues - Bear Tooth, E Street Theater, Alaskan Experience Theater, and Inlet Towers.  And lots of films at the same time, forcing you to make a decision.  The decision to stay home isn't an option.

Here's a link to the expanded schedule.

AIFF2018: Exit Music, Bear Tooth Will Open Tomorrow

Quickie - Exit Music turned out to be a very real and intimate movie as we become part of the household where Ethan Rice is in his 20s, and his cystic fibrosis has reached the stage where he is on oxygen the whole time.  We're there with Ethan, his parents, with the doctor, and others as they plan how to take the next steps if things get too painful to continue as they are.  I know that sounds grim, and that's part of this film, but more important was seeing past the illness and the paraphernalia to get to know the human being inside the body.

After the film there was a discussion with the doctor who worked with the family - and has lived in Anchorage.  There should be more films like this that get passed the facades and remind us that every human being basically is, well, another human being with dreams and fears and love.

Earthquake recovery is happening rapidly.  Until today, the restroom near the theater wasn't working and you had to walk through the mall, down the stairs (the elevators weren't working either) to get there.  Today, it's working.

And they announced that Martini Matinee at 2pm tomorrow will be Bear Tooth's grand reopening after the earthquake.  Not even a week.

AIFF2018: Music, Dying, Gardens, Afghan Interpreters and Women Cyclists

Everything except Five Seasons is at the Alaska Experience Theater.  Five Seasons is at the Museum.

Wednesday, December 5


Exit Music 
"Exit Music is a documentary film that travels the intimate and complex path of terminal illness. Ethan Rice was born with Cystic Fibrosis, an incurable genetic illness that eventually leads to respiratory failure. At their home in a small upstate New York community, Ethan and his family live in constant uncertainty as the disease takes more and more away from them. While medical interventions continue to keep him alive well beyond his prognosis, 28-year-old Ethan questions day-by-day how long he is willing to fight and what his absence will mean to those he leaves behind."

5:30 is a hard choice between two promising documentaries.



 From the website:
"More than 50,000 local interpreters helped protect U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, enabling soldiers to communicate with the local population. But those who took the job were often considered traitors.
Phillip Morris, whose chain-smoking earned him the nickname, is a central character in the film. His warm, contagious laugh belies the dangerous work he undertook for four years. He served alongside Paul Braun, a lieutenant in the Minnesota National Guard who became his best friend. After coalition forces withdrew in 2011, Phillip and his family came under threat."

From Afghan Cycles website: 

 "Afghan Cycles is a feature documentary about a generation of Afghan women who are pedaling their own revolution, aggressively challenging gender and cultural barriers using the bicycle as a vehicle for freedom, empowerment and social change."

AIFF2018: Fishbowl, We Rise Now, and Bad, Bad Winter - Earthquake Damage Becoming Clearer

I liked Fishbowl.  I wasn't sure I would.  But others disagreed.  One person who said he grew up in the South said it wasn't realistic at all.  When I pressed him on that, he didn't want to talk about it.  He did say it was very exaggerated.  That it's much more subtle than that.  What am I talking about?  A Southern father of three teenage girls.  Mom's died.  Their house is owned by the bank, for sale.  He's sent $1000 to a televangelist so he can be saved by the Rapture on September 29.  The girls really are having a hard time.  We never really did learn all that much about any of the characters.

There were two showings of And We Rise Now - a documentary about Sam Johns, an Athabaskan who had a rocky childhood, but at the urging of his daughter, got involved in helping the homeless in Anchorage.  He set up a Facebook page  Forget Me Not to help villagers find their homeless relatives in Anchorage and to get them back into their families.

The room was packed.  And afterward Johns, director Mary Rosanne Katzke, and (I think) cinematographer Nara Garber, answered questions.

It was an inspirational story, and a great Alaskan story.  And there was standing applause at the end

If the third person was Nara, she's the one on the left.  Next Mary, and then Sam.

Finally, we saw Bad, Bad Winter.  I was misled by the background information about this being a French film.  I'm guessing it was a French production, but it was a dark Russian film, a parable almost of how desperate living conditions lead to desperate acts.  It's a debate about the obligations of the rich and whether anyone really can get rich without cheating.  There's ethical debate about right and wrong, and the ending . . .   what can I say?  It was not a Hollywood ending.  I remember an Albanian responding when I invited her to seen an Albanian film once.  "Why?  We know in advance what will happen.  The good guys will lose and the bad guys will win.  And it was true of the Albanian film.  In this film, I don't think there were any good guys. This was the kind of film that you go to film festivals for.

It would be great to have double feature of Bad, Bad Winter and Datsche.  Winter is about a woman who goes to the house in a town she's left long ago, to take possession of the house she's inherited from her grandmother.  In Datsche the lead character goes to Berlin to see the house he's inherited from his grandfather.  In both films an unexpected group of people show up.  Winter is dark, Datsche is bright.

I'd also note that on this 5th day since the earthquake, people are talking about their experiences when they meet.  Everyone seems to have had stuff on the floor, some not much, others a lot.  But there are also stories of structural damage.  The Alaska Experience Theater was originally set up to give tourists a look at the 1964 earthquake, and the smaller of the two theaters is actually set up to shake.

Here's an empty storefront in the mall whether the theater is.  Apparently many buildings with these movable acoustic tiles on the ceiling had tiles fall off.

Festival volunteers spent Saturday cleaning up the Alaska Experience Theater to get it ready as the fallback theater.  It apparently had lots of ceiling  tiles down and broken too.

And today's paper was headline after headline of earthquake related stories.

"Mat-Su area heavily damaged:  Houston Middle School won't open before May, leaving 400 students in limbo"
"Army of engineers and contractors is working to check Anchorage homes, fix damage."

"Recovery progress in Southcentral"
"How to Apply For A disaster Recovery Grant for Earthquake Damage"
"DOT Warns against traveling, Stopping Along Stretch of Seward Highway"
"As cleanup continues in Anchorage schools, only one - in Eagle River - deemed unsafe."
"Alaska Railroad should be getting back on track"

That's just through page 5.

While we clearly came through a very big, very close, and very strong earthquake reasonably unscathed, the stories are slowly coming out.  And I suspect a lot of people had non-life threatening earthquake related injuries.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

AIFF2018: TUESDAY OFFERINGS - Southern Christian Girls Rebel, Alaska Native Rebels, And After Grandma Dies

Here's what's showing today.  All at the Alaska Experience Theater.

NOTE:  Post Earthquake Free Parking in Easy Park garages and lots  downtown through Friday.  From their FaceBook Page:
Yesterday [Monday Dec 3] at 10:09 AM ·
FYI: All EasyPark facilities have been deemed safe according to our initial inspection.Further inspections will continue throughout the week to double check everything. Lot and garage parking will be free until Friday, December 7, at 6pm.
On street meter parking will be free today with enforcement resuming tomorrow morning (12/4)."
Would have been nice to know before we put $3.50 in the meter yesterday.

Sorry for the interruption, here's today's list.

Tuesday, December 4


"Fishbowl is my filmmaker brother (Stephen Kinigopoulos) and my debut feature. It started as one of my photoshoots…. It’s about a widowed man, Rick Simon, taking care of his three teenage daughters, Belle, Rachel, and Jessa, in a judgmental small town full of secrets. Down on his luck, he becomes obsessed with a televangelist on television preaching that the rapture is coming. Rick Simon (the father) struggles to convince the town and his daughters that the end is upon them, unless they save themselves and act purely. We shot in our hometown of Howard County, Maryland: in one of our high schools, neighbors’ homes, private schools, and many churches in towns nearby."




This film is being shown twice today because the festival folks expect a lot of people to want to see this Alaska made and focused film.  More about the film from the Rasmuson Foundation.

Bad Bad Winter is a French film with a premise vaguely similar to Datsche which I liked last night.  In Datsche, Valentine goes to his grandfather's summer garden house after the grandfather's death.  From the description of Bad Bad Winter:

"After the passing of her grandmother, a businessman's daughter goes back to her birthplace. After a little while, she receives the visit of her former classmates but their reunion take an unexpected turn."

EXTRAIT - BAD BAD WINTER de Olga Korotko (ACID Cannes 2018) from Torry Talgat on Vimeo.

I suspect this film won't be quite as uplifting as Datsche was, but it may well be as good.