Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Dallas International Film Festival 2011

That time of year again when I review the films we saw during the wonderful Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF). We had a jam packed festival and crammed in 6 films. This year DIFF decided to involve even more Dallas movie theaters, Angelika Plano and the iconic and newly renovated Texas Theater. This did involve us moving outside our comfort zones; despite this I think that it was a nice idea. DIFF also had a groupon. I think that the groupon and the inclusion of the other theaters meant that even more folks who otherwise may not have joined in; got involved with the ever growing festival.

Page one: A year inside the New York Times:

A documentary following the NY Times for one year. The death of print journalism? From what we saw in this film, they may very well be facing a death sentence but the NY Times is fighting strong. The news room was full of the wonderful characters that you would expect the NY Times news room to have, in particular the Media correspondent, Mr. David Carr; who on reviewing the new iPad, which the young blogger turned reporter had just rushed out to buy; commented; “This is brilliant, you know what it reminds me of? A newspaper!” However romantic and nostalgic the love of newspapers can sometimes seem, this documentary reminded me how important investigative journalists like the ones at NY Times can be. Yes they are human and yes they make mistakes. But we do need original source material and they still get that. Original source material and investigative journalism is a must for an open democratic independent and free thinking society, and that is why we need the NY Times to survive. So what did I do over the weekend? I brought the New York Times and read it and I loved every minute of it.

Among Us
A Swedish film, which was both beautiful and poignant; the actors were engaging and I left the theater surprised by the emotion this film created. A family’s perfect life is thrown upside down, when their son is involved in an accident, a stranger enters their lives and shows them the way. A potentially cheesy tearjerker. The film avoided the sentimental cheese trap by being filmed in poetic French and Swedish and it's gorgeous cinematography. DIFF’s Artistic Director; James Franco advised us to allow the film to wash over us, so we did and it did.

By Day By Night
A Mexican film set in a dystopian future. The premise was intriguing and it started well and some of the shots were gorgeous.

Documentary Shorts:
A Swedish short, almost an animation, cleverly told and engaging, although my empathy for the protagonist was in short supply, I just felt she was a little too naïve, although I did sympathise with her situation.
Grandpa’s Wet Dream
A Japenese grandfather who leads a secret life, he is a porn film actor. When asked if his wife is aware of what he does, he says, “Well no, it has never really come up.” As he stashes away his box of movies, in the back of very cluttered looking closet…..
Just About Famous
A peek inside the world of look-a-likes, from Robert De Nero, to Brittany Spears, Bill Clinton and George W Bush, and of course the King himself, Elvis Presley. One of the movie makers was at the screening and his genuine respect for the actors was appealing.
Closed for storm: Six Flags New Orleans
A hauntingly beautiful short of Six Flags over New Orleans, which closed down for Hurricane Katrina, and never re-opened, the soundtrack was lovely too. More of a photo montage and less of a narrative short.
The High Level Bridge
The requisite Canadian entry; the story of Edmonton’s High Level Bridge; in memory of those who have jumped; funny, sad and revealing.

The Pipe:
If there was ever a “David and Goliath” story this is it, a small community in Ireland facing the might of the behemoth oil company Shell. The frustrations and humiliations this small community faces at the mercy of Shell and their own government is shared with us in this very moving film, shot with candor and honesty. The conclusion is ironic and frustrating, despite their best efforts, Shell went ahead and started to lay the pipe line that was going to dissect their land, carrying the natural gas from ocean to plant. The Irish government finally found that the plan was unstable and unsafe and the work has stopped, and Shell are,”considering their options.” The touching concluding scenes are heart achingly sad and focus on the farmer and the fisherman, both of whom held out against the mighty Shell. They were even imprisoned indefinitely for various public order offences, they have now been released. The farmer reflects sadly on how his small Irish community will never be the same, how neighbor has been pitted against neighbor and as he walks away the fisherman offers the film maker a cup of tea.

Mumbai Diaries:
One of the characters an artist, pays homage to the city, Mumbai, in one of the opening scenes and you get a sense that the film itself is just that, “Mumbai, my muse, my love, my whore, thank you.” Four different characters stories intertwine revealing their loves and failings, their connection to the city, each other and the film makers love of the city. The film does not shield us from the darker side of Mumbai or the characters and the film is better for it. The soundtrack, the black and white stills, the film shots and the paintings also make this film a multi media project which added to the different qualities of the movie but also its interconnectedness and sense of beauty.

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