Friday, December 13, 2019

AIFF2019: Friday - Fun Starts At 4pm at Museum and AK Experience

Hard to choose.


AlaskaTeen Media Institute After School Special - show case of shorts by local students

AK Experience
Shorts:  Power to the People

From the Vine - Narrative Feature - CEO goes back to Old Country to grow grapes


Power of Yoik - Bringing back spiritual chanting of Sami people of Lapland


Shorts - Our World, Our Home

Thursday, December 12, 2019

AIFF2019: Thursday - Shorts, Homelessness, Holocaust Survivors in Hungary - Bear Tooth, Then Museum

Note: Today's venues are:  Bear Tooth in the afternoon, then the Museum.  

2PM   MARTINI MATINEE - Bear Tooth - a shorts program that, I'm told, includes some great ones.  We'll see.  

6:00  FERAL  - Anchorage Museum -  another narrative feature about a homeless person.  Last night's 'homeless narrative feature' - Gutterbug - was a very powerful film that gave me chills at the end.  Well, where it should have ended - with the mom at the hospital.  I would have chopped off the rest that gave it a happily ever after Hollywood ending that seemed at odds with the rest of the film.  

But all that's to say that a film about homelessness can be very worth watching.  

7:45  Those Who Remained  -Anchorage Museum - This is the one I'm looking forward to seeing.  It's a Hungarian film about Holocaust survivors in Hungary.  There was another film on this theme last year as well - 1945.  This has personal meaning for me because my step-mother was a Hungarian speaking holocaust survivor who returned to her home to find all the neighbors had appropriated all their belongings including their house.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Green Grass In December, Parasite, Broken Glass

This is not what our front yard normally looks like in December.  And it was covered with snow a few days ago.  But then it got into the 40s.

OK, we've often had bits of warm weather once or twice in winter, but we've had record warm months just about every month this year.

Trump calls Climate Change a hoax.  Note that he also calls the impeachment a hoax.

I also managed to fix a faucet that had been causing a drip.

And last night we skipped the film festival to see the movie Parasite.  They'd been showing the trailer at the Bear Tooth during the festival and people were saying it was really good.  It was playing here just for three nights and I decided this was the best night to miss the festival films.  

Director Bong Joon-ho's Parasite won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year.  Bong's Snowpiercer was one of the early Netflix films we saw that convinced us to stick with Netflix.  All I'll say is that Parasite is a dark movie about rich and poor in Korea.  And the preview that we saw several times waiting for film festival movies, was always worth watching and didn't really give anything away. That's all I'll say for now because I think people should see it for themselves.  

And in line with the theme of economic inequality, when we got out to the car, J found the passenger side window had been smashed in.    911 told me to call 311 and they told me to report online.  

I went back into the Bear Tooth to tell them and they said they'd check the security cameras.  Meanwhile outside J saw another woman who's window had also been smashed.  

Here's what it looked like when we got it home after a chilly ride.  From what we can tell, nothing was actually taken.  J had a cloth shopping back on the seat, but nothing was in it.  The quarters for parking meters weren't touched.  The garage door opener was there.  The timer light plug and the book I'd just bought were all there.   I think they probably couldn't figure out how to unlock the door on that old Subaru.

State Farm and Speedy Glass were quick and efficient and J's waiting for the new window already.  But whether this is a homeless issue or a drug issue or just petty theft, it's a symptom of our economic inequalities and our lack of good, effective schooling and and physical and mental health care.

Back to the film festival tonight.

AIFF2019: Wednesday - Alaska Shorts, Vietnam, Mental Health at College, Homeless

Alaska Experience Theater  6 pm

SHORTS: Made in Alaska

  • Eskimo Inc
  • How to Say Goodbye
  • Wolf Tracks
  • 12:34
  • The Dying of the Light
  • Dasher

Inside the Rain - A narrative feature about a college student with mental health problems.  

Alaska Experience Theater 8pm

The American War - Documentary feature about Vietnam, from the Vietnamese perspective

SC: How did you come up with the idea for the film?
Daniel Bernandi: After successfully producing roughly 25 short films on 25 different veterans, I knew it was time for Veteran Documentary Corp to begin making feature-length documentaries to tell deeper, more developed stories of the veteran experience. I selected Vietcong veterans as the subject of our first feature for a couple reasons.  First, despite the fact that many Americans have seen stories or read about the Vietnam War, the story of the Vietcong veteran has not been told — at least not for American audiences. Why did the Vietnamese fight? What was their experience of, for example, Agent Orange or South Vietnamese torture? What was it like being Veterans in a county that includes veterans from the “other” side (e.g., South Vietnamese soldiers)? Second and equally important, I wanted to address experiences shared by veterans across time and country. The experience of war is more universal than era or nation might otherwise suggest.


Gutterberg - Narrative Feature about a young homeless man.  Here's an interview with the director about the film.:

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

AIFF2019: Last Night I Watched A Rhino Die [UPDATED]

Kifaru documented the death of the last male white rhino in the world through the eyes of the men who take care of him and his two daughters.  Slowly he decayed until he could pull up on his two front legs, but not his hind legs.  We learned a little about the Kenyan caregivers, but mostly this movie was documenting extinction.  Watching what consumerism is doing to destroy the earth -  coveting goods (like rhino horns) and the deforestation and other environmental degradation exploiting natural resources causes.

Of course, coveting was noted in the bible, so modern capitalism didn't invent it.  But modern capitalism took it to an unprecedented level, putting profit (mostly short term) above everything else.  Most people don't know the concept of externalities.  Theoretically capitalism is supposed to be the most efficient form of production.  Producers are supposed to be as efficient as possible so they can keep the price low enough to beat their competitors. But one of the problems of capitalism is externalities.  These are the costs that the producers impose on society, but that aren't captured in the price of their goods.  Pollution is the most common example used - the loss of clean water and air, for example, imposes huge costs on society.  These examples used to be about the health costs and some cleanup costs.  But now we see the loss of habitat, the loss of affordable housing, deaths from legal drugs, etc.  

And the loss of rhinos and hundreds of thousands of other less dramatic species.  

The death the last male northern rhino should make people think about seriously rethinking their lives.  Sudan (the rhino's name) is just the symbol, the catalyst, but the damage climate change is already causing should make us all ready to drastically reduce humanity's carbon footprint.  (The link discusses options for where to contribute to projects that do that.)

[UPDATE Dec 10, 2019:  I ran across this Al Jazeera Tweet just now

NOTE:  KPBS says the baby is a southern white rhino (not a northern white rhino, like Sudan) and
The calf is the first baby rhino born using artificial insemination at the San Diego Zoo facility.
The mom, Victoria, carried her baby for more than 490 days.
Victoria is one of six southern white rhinos that could become surrogate moms for the critically endangered northern white rhinos.]
Mr. Sam and other "WTF!?!?" Shorts

After Sudan left the world and chunks of his flesh were taken in hopes of using his DNA one day to recreate white norther rhinos, the shorts program started.  

We saw six shorts that were, in my mind, what film festivals are about.


Mr. Sam was my favorite - demonstrating my bizarre taste.  Not everyone afterward agreed.  But I love the imagination that created this odd character and the story the film maker put him into.  Others in the program are also worth noting:

Maintain Yourself took an oddly shaped doll and a shelf full of small, colorful flasks, and proceeded to 'groom' the doll with the contents of the flasks.  It was particularly poignant since during the intermission we'd seen a preview for the movie Toxic Beauty which highlighted the tens of thousands of chemicals in cosmetics people use.  

The Phantom 52 featured an animated truck driver calling out to others over his CB radio with a background them of various kinds of whales calling out to their distant brethren.  Some wonderful images.  

Eternity  - This Ukrainian film took place in 2058 and was about 'digitizing' the souls of dying people and placing them in digital worlds for eternity.  I got that part, but the details were a little confusing.  But it was worth watching.

Hearth - was the creepiest for me.  A couple goes from one  luxury AirBnB to the next, where they then use a dating app to lure gentlemen to their last tryst.  Very well done.  AirBnB and other hosting sites do not want prospective hosts to see this film, I'm sure.

The Dig  -  She's getting married tomorrow and she wants her brother to help her get her mom's ring before the wedding.  

A wonderfully disturbing (in the sense of forcing you think) set of films.  If one of them gets the audience award or best narrative shorts award, you might be able to see it Sunday when they will be showing the award winners.  

AIFF2019: Tuesday - St. Louis Ghosts, Fairbanks Founder, A Road Trip, and Creepy Shorts

The Ghost Who Walks is for St. Louis folks.

For St. Louis fans, this is done by a St. Louis native in St. Louis.  It's also fairly new (this year) and hasn't been seen by that many folks yet.   From St. Louis Magazine:
"Just as writer/director Cody Stokes’ career began to take off in New York City—meaning that he was traveling a lot—his first child was born. The St. Louis native began thinking about what it means to be gone and miss things back home, from his, his wife’s, and his child’s perspectives. He knew he wanted to make a film about it. But rather than create a simple kitchen sink drama about fatherhood, he set it in a world beyond, made it exciting, turned it into a crime thriller. “I wanted people to feel like they’re going to watch some sort of Liam Neeson movie but by the end be completely moved,” Stokes says. And he shot it in St. Louis, having moved back home with his family. The Ghost Who Walks screens as part of the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase later this month."

Felix Pedro:  If One Could Imagine - Alaska history here.  From Ululate:

The documentary Felix Pedro ... If one could only imagine, tells the story of a man from the Bolognese Apennines, who was born in the mid-nineteenth century and his name was Felice Pedroni. This man flees the poverty, takes a ship to America, where he becomes Felix Pedro and in 1902 he discovered gold in a stream in Alaska founding subsequently the city of Fairbanks.
The story is told today on the trail of a search by Giorgio Comaschi, Claudio Busi and Massimo Turchi to build a show about the adventure of Felix Pedro.

Vanilla - A road trip.   Everything about a film is how it's carried off.  Here's a snippet from one reviewer who thought it went well:
"We have an odd couple on the road, so funny stuff happens – and this is a funny movie.  Naturally, the audience is waiting for the two to jump into bed together.  But Vanilla is fundamentally a portrait of these two people, both comfortable in their ruts.  Elliot is posing as an entrepreneur, and Kimmie is posing as a comedian-in-the-making; something is going to have to shake up these two so each can grow.  Kimmie seems utterly intrepid, but we learn that she can be paralyzed by self-consciousness, just like Elliot.
Vanilla is written and directed by its star, Will Dennis, in his first feature film.  It’s an impressive debut, rich in character-driven humor."
Late Night Chills - Shorts Program -  here's a link to the Festival Website for the shorts.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

AIFF2019: Nae Pasaran, Straight Up, And Laugh Or Die

I've been seeing some terrific films.  Each deserves its own post, but I've almost gotten rid of my cold and so I'm not giving up sleep to post.

Last night's showing of Nae Pasaran was introduced by Alaskan-from-Chile, Pauline Larenas-Bajwa including a brief quote from poet Gonzalo Millán's The City.  This was the only film I got to see before the festival began.  

It was much better on the big screen without distractions. (When I saw it the first time on someone's home big screen tv, I was sitting next to a window with a bird feeder and nuthatches and chickadees were making constant visits.)

The director, Felipe Bustos Sierra's father was a Chilean journalist who was exiled during the Pinochet years.  Sierra grew up in Belgian and lives now in Scotland.  So this is a very personal film for him.  It digs deep into the story of the Scottish factory workers at the RollsRoyce plant who refused to repair the jet engines of the Chilean Air Force in solidarity with their union brothers in Chile.  Sierra interviews some of the workers who instigated the boycott and then he goes to Chile to find some Chilean Airmen who flew those jets, as well as members of Allende's government who were imprisoned and tortured by Pinochet.  It's an inspirational story about how people far away can fight tyranny and Sierra brings it full circle with messages from the Chileans to the workers.

It was followed by Straight Up - a film about a gay man who thinks he might be straight, since he's never really had a satisfactory encounter with a man. Todd  finds his soul mate in Rory - an attractive young lady whose interests and fast wit are a perfect match for Todd's.  Except for sex.  There's lots of very fast paced and smart dialogue, between Todd and Rory, Todd and his therapist, and between Todd and his friends who think this relationship is crazy.  A lot of what I liked about the film came from the charm and wit of Todd and Rory.  And it's a reminder that people don't fit the neat labels we try to use to categorize them.

James Sweeney and Katie Findlay
 Writer, director, and star (Todd) James Sweeney, who is originally from Anchorage, was there with co-star Katie Findlay (Rory) took questions after the showing.

Here they are in the Bear Tooth lobby - they still are obviously good friends.

I didn't think to ask James if naming the character Todd had anything to do with his own last name of Sweeney.

And tonight (Sunday) I got to see my favorite film so far - Laugh or Die.  Which takes place in a Finnish prison camp in 1918.  I said in an earlier post that it was a WWI film, which is technically true.  But more accurately for the film, in Finland there had been an overthrow of the new democracy by those who wanted to reestablish the monarchy.  They threw their fate with the Germans.  Those who had fought to regain the democracy had lost and many were prisoners, including a troop of actors, the most famous of whom was billed as the funniest man in Finland.
This comedian Toivo Parikka is played by Martti Suosalo, a wonderful actor who dominates the screen.  His weapon is his humor and the camp commander tells him if a visiting German general is entertained, he and his troop won't be shot.

Heikki Kujanpää

And we had director Heikki Kujanpää at the screening and up on stage afterward for Q&A.  One
person asked what "based on a true story" meant in this case.  He acknowledged that the wars were true and there were lots of prisoners, but the specific story was fiction.

I also enjoyed The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open, and I hope to write about it later.  

AIFF2019: Monday Dec 9 - Bear Tooth

Monday's schedule, in addition to the two films listed below, includes a workshop on "How to Festival" presented by this year's festival director Ida Theresa Myklebost and John Gamache whose been coordinating the film makers who are visiting as well as doing the website.   
The workshop is at the Alaska Experience Theater at 2pm.

Easy choices today.  Kifaru is a documentary about the people who cared for the last northern white rhino in Africa.

The Shorts Program: WTF?!?! Includes:

  • Mr. Sam
  • Maintain Yourself
  • The Phantom52
  • Eternity
  • Hearth
  • The Dig

AIFF2019: Sunday Dec 8: Tale of Two Indigenous Women; Old Siberian Explorations; Forced Comedy;

Things on tap today.

I'm particularly interested in The Body Remember When The World Broke Open - a film about two Indigenous women in Canada made by indigenous women.
Also Laugh or Die - story about actor prisoners in Finish camp in WWI who are told they will be allowed to live if they make a visiting general laugh.

Banana Split, not to be confused with another film called Banana Splits, is about high school and going off to college and the problems involved.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

AIFF2019: Saturday Dec 7 - Germany, Scotland/Chile, Am I Straight?, And More

Here's the official schedule from the AIFF website.  

Nae Pasaran is an interesting film.  The film maker is the son of a Chilean journalist who was exiled when Pinochet came in.  He's a Chilean-Belgian filmmaker who lives in Scotland.  The film is about the workers in Scotland who refused to repair the Rolls-Royce jet engines of the Chilean Air Force in solidarity with the Chilean union brothers.  It's not only relevant in terms of what unions can do to fight tyranny, but it has current relevance given Chile's protests still going on right now.

Straight Up is about a gay guy who thinks maybe he's really straight.

The Film Royal will show the short films produced in the last five days by Alaskans who got the prompts that needed to be in the film five days ago.  These have progressed from fairly rough films years ago, to very professional productions in recent years.  Always fun.