Tuesday, November 17, 2015

AIFF 2015: Documentaries In Competition -Tsunami, Circus, Whales, Murder, Genocide, Poland, Family, And More

AIFF 2015: Documentaries In Competition 

The Documentaries have been one of the strongest parts of the Anchorage International Film Festival and this year looks like no exception. I've been working on this post on and off for two weeks now and I need to move on to other parts of the festival.  

"In competition" means these films were selected by the screeners to be eligible for awards at the festival.  "Features" are 'stories' that are full length. While there are always other features which different folks like better than those in competition, it's a good bet these are among the best features at the festival.  This year's picks are all from outside the US.

The point of this post isn't to tell you what each of the features in competition are about, but rather to just give you a glimpse of something about the film I found interesting.

I've added when the films play with the overview of each film.  (Let me know if you catch any errors.)  If you have to make hard decisions, I'd recommend going to the films where the filmmakers will be present, which I've marked in red.  When you're using the festivals schedule program - you need to put the name of the film into search to be sure you're seeing all the times it's playing (usually two.)

Here's the whole list and below I look at each film. 

Docs in Competition Director Country Length
Children of the Arctic Nick Brandestini Switzerland 93 min
Lost & Found Nicolina Lanni, John Choi Canada 82 min
Love Between the Covers Laurie Kahn Australia, United States 83 min
Circus Without Borders Susan Gray, Linda Matchan United States 69 min
Madina’s Dream Andrew Berends United States 80 min
Bihttoš Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers Canada 14 min
Man in the Can Noessa Higa United States 38 min
Superjednostka Teresa Czepiec Poland 20 min
The House is Innocent Nicholas Coles United States 12 min

Director Brandestini from film's press kit photos
Children of the Arctic
Nick Brandestini 
99 min
1.  Sun Dec. 6:00-7:00 pm
5pm   Filmmakers Attending 
Bear Tooth

2.  Wed Dec. 9
6:00- 8:00pm  Filmmakers Attending

Outsiders coming to a place are often derided by people who live there.  They don't really understand what is happening.  They don't know the history.  But outsiders also see things that insiders take for granted.  Last year's Shield and Spear was a wonderful film by a Swede, Petter Ringbom,  who spent a relatively short time in South Africa looking at the fringe art scene.   Children of the Arctic is a
" is a year-in-the-life portrait of Native Alaskan teenagers coming of age in Barrow"

Below is a Santa Barbara tv interview with director Nick Brandestini that includes the trailer.  Having a Santa Barbara perspective gives it an extra twist.

Lost & Found
Nicolina Lannie, John Choi 
82 min
1.  Wed. Dec 9
5:30am –  7:30pm  Filmmakers Attending
Bear Tooth
2.  Sun Dec. 13
11:30 am - 1:30 pm
AK Experience Small

I'm sure the filmmakers are sick of hearing about Ruth Ozeki's book, A Tale For The Time Being
about a Canadian woman who finds a diary on the beach that has come over from Japan along with other tsunami debris.  But it's what I thought of as I saw the trailer of this film, which tells the story of people finding the debris in the US and Canada and getting some of it back to the people it belonged to.  But the novel and this film appear to treat these events very differently.  Looks like a film worth watching.

Lost & Found Official Trailer from Frank Films on Vimeo.

Lost & Found Official Trailer from Frank Films on Vimeo.

From Circus w/o Borders website
Circus Without Borders
Susan Gray, Linda Matchan 
United States
69 min
1.  Sunday, Dec. 6
 12:00pm - 2:00pm 
 Bear Tooth
2.  Thursday, December 10
7:00pm –  8:45pm
AK Experience Small

"CIRCUS WITHOUT BORDERS is a documentary about Guillaume Saladin and Yamoussa Bangoura, best friends and world-class acrobats from remote corners of the globe who share the same dream: To bring hope and change to their struggling communities through circus. Their dream unfolds in the Canadian Arctic and Guinea, West Africa, where they help Inuit and Guinean youth achieve unimaginable success while confronting suicide, poverty and despair.
Seven years in the making, this tale of two circuses — Artcirq and Kalabante — is a culture-crossing performance piece that offers a portal into two remote communities, and an inspiring story of resilience and joy." [from CWB website]

Love Between the Covers
Laurie Kahn 
Australia, United States
83 min
1.  Sat Dec. 5
2:30pm –  4:30pm  Filmmakers Attending 

Bear Tooth
2.  Sat Dec 12
8:00 - 9:45
AK Experience Small

This is the story of the women who write romance novels.  From  a USA today interview with film maker Laurie Kahn:

"Christyna: What prompted you to make the documentary Love Between the Covers?
Laurie: I want to bring the lives and work of compelling women to the screen, because any industry dominated by women is typically dismissed as trivial and “merely domestic.” My previous films — A Midwife’s Tale and Tupperware! – are very different from one another, but they were both shaped by my desire to look honestly at communities of women who haven’t been taken seriously (but should be), who deserve to be heard without being mocked.
I think there’s a lot to be learned by looking at the communities that women build. As you and your readers know better than I do, the romance community has been dismissed for decades, even though romance fiction is the behemoth of the publishing industry."
I'd note today's (Nov 14)  LA Times story about a romance novel cover model that says,
"The debate over the relative merits of the romance genre is so tired it’s not even worth having anymore. The market is huge, generating an estimated $1.4 billion, making it by far the top-selling literary genre, outperforming mysteries, inspirational books, science fiction and fantasy, and horror.    Romance has spawned an academic discipline with its own forum, 'The Journal of Popular Romance Studies,' which describes itself as 'a double-blind peer reviewed interdisciplinary journal exploring popular romance fiction and the logics, institutions, and social practices of romantic love in global popular culture.'”
I'm guessing these showings will be packed. 

Here's the trailer:

Screenshot from trailer
Madina’s Dream
Andrew Berends 
United States
80 min
1.  Sat. Dec. 5
4:00pm –  6:00pm
AK Experience Small
2.  Wednesday, December 9
AK Experience Large

From Indiewire:
"Berend's film follows the inhabitants of the Nuba Mountains, who are under a constant barrage of attacks from the Sudanese government (the instruments of war are so commonplace, that the children even mold toy models of RPGs and machine gun-mounted tanks out of clay). This unflinching look at a war-torn group of people focuses on Madina and her fervent dream to return home -- if only a pair of ruby slippers could do some magic here.

Short Docs - colors show which programs they're in

Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers 
14 min
Short Docs Program Tuesday, Dec. 8
7:00pm –  9:00pm  
AK Experience Small
Warning:  This is the only showing I see for this one.

This film about a father/daughter relationship has been called 'unconventional' and is both live and animated.  It won the GRAND JURY PRIZE | Best Short: Documentary. at the Seattle International Film Festival.

Everywhere I look they have the same description of the film.  So I'm going with a bit of description about the film maker from her website.
"Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers is an emerging filmmaker, writer, and actor. She is both Blackfoot from the Kainai First Nation as well as Sámi from Norway. After studying acting at Vancouver Film School in 2006, she went on to work in film and TV with credits in Not Indian EnoughWhite Indians WalkingThe GuardThe ReaperShattered, and Another Cinderella Story. In 2009, she appeared onstage in the Presentation House Theatre’s production of Where the River Meets the Sea."
From what I got out of reading that same description over and over again. I can tell you it's short, about a woman and her father, And there's animation.

"Bihttoš" Trailer from Elle-Maija A. Tailfeathers on Vimeo.

Czepiec winning Special Mention at GoShort Festival

Teresa Czepiec 
20 min
1.  Short Docs Program Tuesday, Dec. 8
7:00pm –  9:00pm  
AK Experience Small
2.  Martini Matinee Friday Dec 11
2:30 - 4:30 pm
Bear Tooth 

If you're like me, as you wander the world, you wonder about things like, "who lives in this town, in this building, in this house?"   Well this film answers that question, apparently, for a large block of apartments in Poland. 

Superjednostka to ogromny blok mieszkalny zaprojektowany zgodnie z ideą Le Corbusiera  jako "maszyna do mieszkania".  Na 15 kondygnacjach budynku może mieszkać nawet 3 tysiące ludzi. Winda zatrzymuje się co 3. piętro więc mieszkańcy, żeby dojść do swoich mieszkań, muszą pokonać prawdziwy labirynt korytarzy i schodów. Głównymi bohaterami filmu dokumentalnego są  ludzie zamieszkujący wnętrze Superjednostki i przeżywający w niej ważne chwile swojego życia. Tu pulsują ich emocje, rodzą się oczekiwania i spełniają się - lub nie spełniają- ich pragnienia.
Here's what google translate does with that:
"Superjednostka a huge block of flats designed in the spirit of Le Corbusier as a "machine for living" . At 15 floors of the building can accommodate up to 3000 people. The elevator stops at the third floor so the inhabitants to come to their homes , they must overcome a maze of corridors and stairs. The main characters of the documentary are people living in the interior Superjednostka and surviving in the important moments of your life . Here are flashing their emotions , raise expectations and meet - or not fulfilling their desires ."

From an interview with the film maker at Polish Docs:
Before shooting the film, I spent a year meeting the inhabitants. The formal assumptions behind the film were already agreed upon. I knew that we were looking for interesting people of various ages, from children to the elderly. What worked was chance and methodical actions. The first person I met was Zbigniew, one of the conservators, who was busy closing the window of his workshop. At first he was reluctant, but in the end he was persuaded to allow us to shoot here for the documentation. We were also looking for the protagonists by going from door to door. Sometimes it happened that we had already arranged to meet someone, and they changed their plans and declined. But going to the corridor or to the lift, we met someone else, an equally interesting person, who wanted to participate in the documentary film. I know that I did not include some of the stories, but it was impossible to do so, taking into account the huge number of them. What is in the film is the result of months of preparations and of chance, of what we managed to observe on location and during editing. Paradoxically, it seems to me that it reflects the substance of the case rather faithfully.

SUPER-UNIT/ (Superjednostka) - trailer for documentary film by Teresa Czepiec, 2014' from Wajda Studio on Vimeo.

The House is Innocent
Nicholas Coles 
United States
12 min
1.  Short Docs Program - Sun.  Dec. 6
5:30pm –  7:30pm 
AK Experience Large 
2.  Martini Matinee Friday Dec 11
2:30 - 4:30 pm Filmmakers Attending
Bear Tooth 

Here's another film that explores who lives in the house you pass walking down the street.  This house was owned by a serial killer and now there are new owners trying to make it their home. They'll be on the same program at the Martini Matinee, Friday at 2:30 at the Bear Tooth. 

The House is Innocent - Trailer from Blackburn Pictures on Vimeo.

Man in the Can
Noessa Higa 
United States
38 min
Short Docs Program - Sun.  Dec. 6
5:30pm –  7:30pm 
AK Experience Large 
Warning:  This is the only showing I see for this one.

This film took the award for the Best Texas Film at the Hill Country Film Festival

From Wrangler Network:
"While the film focuses on the tight-knit rodeo community and small-town America, it tells a more universal story about following your dream, second chances and the sacrifices that can come from following your passion.
“Ronald was really open to the process of being filmed,” Higa said. “He gives people a glimpse into rodeo culture, which is fascinating and wildly entertaining. Everyone can relate to having a dream, and I think audiences will be pulling for him to get into the PRCA.”

According to Ronald Burton's website, he performed at a rodeo in Anchorage SEPTEMBER 5 & 6.  State Fair maybe? Anyone see him there?

[Once again, reposting because of Feedburner problems, sorry. But there's lots in this post so if you saw it already, I bet there's stuff you skipped the first time.]

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