FFF Day Two: 15 Films

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The Watermelon Man Gives # 1 Daughter Some Sage Advice

Wow!  Today was one of the best FFF days I ever had!   

Number One Daughter and I got to the festival around noon.  We saw 15 films, sat through four Q & A sessions, interviewed one filmmaker, shopped at an organic farmer’s market, interviewed some FFF  patrons and managed to find Enzian General Manager Chris Blanc to let him know what a wonderful job his team was doing.   

I’m exhausted!  It is clear that this pace is not working for my readers and I.  My intention was to do several live posts all day from the festival.  It’s just not my style.  I like to write long, well researched and detailed posts.  I’m not used to reducing the sum of my observations to Twitteresque statements of pithyness.  I’m used to re-reading and editing my writing many times prior to posting.  

So here it is, past 4am and I am just now finishing my blog for the day.  I didn’t even stay for the midnight shorts.  I’m determined to teach this old dog a new trick.  Tomorrow will be different! 

First, let’s review all that happened today.  

11am Arrive at Regal Cinema
The logistics of running something as large as the Florida Film Festival fascinates me. Every year I am impressed with how smoothly it flows. It’s not without its hitches. This morning a computer at the Regal Cinema broke down causing “The Secret of Kells” to start late. I watched as festival crews immediately dispatched someone to bring a computer wire to solve the problem. Then, there was a projection issue that caused the showing of “How to Fold a Flag to be delayed.  As with most FFF glitches, a hard working crew jumped in and most patrons were unaware of any issues. 

My hats off to this organization. 

“Thomson” today got of to a slow start as this short had me wondering what other choices the selection committee had that forced them to select this dud. I saw nothing in this movie to warrant its inclusion in the festival. Just a bunch of random scenes of teenagers hanging out. 

“How to Fold a Flag” wasn’t much better. At least this feature documentary had good editing, filming and score which made it engaging for a short time. It followed four soldiers from Iraq confronting the challenges they faced upon returning home. It was the kind of film that helps to raise public awareness of what it is like to deal with PTSD and the strains of returning to civilian life. I did not find enough substance to warrant a full length movie.  Perhaps it would have worked as a short film.   

From here, the rest of the day was film festival at its very best.   

Normally a shorts program contains a mixture of excellent, very good, good and then, well, not-so-good films. “Shorts Program #2: Burn” contained only very good and excellent films.   

Usually when I write reviews, I do an in depth analysis with a lot of research. I can’t do that when reviewing over 15 films in one day! So, here is my attempt to capture the essence of each movie in a review that is shorter than this paragraph:   

“My Mom Smokes Weed” a fun frolic where the title says it all.  

“Adelaide” a quirky romantic comedy about a hypochondriac who intentionally puts herself in danger to win the love of her EMT wannabe.   

“Touch” Whimsical tale of loneliness and connection on a subway platform. Touch was touching.  This was Number One Daughter’s favorite of this shorts program.   

“The Last Cigarette” a dad and daughter reconnect during a five minute smoke break. Engaging. 

NCFOY Filmmakers During Q & A

“No Country for Old Yeller”a humorous yarn of a producer’s PA who does daily chores, you know, pick up the laundry, shop, euthanize the family dog…typical Hollywood fare and good for some hearty laughs. 

“Down in Number 5” a well told, depressing story of a single father with black lung running out of options to care for his developmentally disable adult son. In the wake of the worst coal mine disaster in 40 years, this one was particularly emotional. 

“On the Road to Tel-Aviv” an explosive exploration of confronting the every day reality of terrorism in war torn countries. 

3pm Drive the 1.5 Miles From Regal to Enzian
“The Bake Shop Ghost”  This was it. The first movie that brought tears to my eyes. This short jewel stars Kathryn Joosten whom many of you know from her work as Mrs. Landingham on the TV show “The West Wing”.  This movie has her as the owner of a bake shop who has a hard time letting go of her passion–even after she dies!   

“What’s Organic About Organic” This feature documentary takes a look at the benefits of supporting organic agriculture and local farmers. It’s filled with useful information and showcases an extensive and eclectic group of farmers who strive to produce food in the fairest and healthiest way possible.   

As someone who is very supportive of the organic and local movement, it is difficult for me to be completely objective about this movie. During the last moments of the film a string of “what can you do” suggestions were displayed that seemed to cross a line between a documentary and proselytization. I wondered if such tactics are helpful in changing our national mindset or did the movie just preach to the choir.   

The film’s producer, Shelly Rogers, and Marty Mesh, one of the film’s featured farmers from Archer, FL was present for a Q & A afterwards. It was clear from the questions that a large portion of the audience was well educated and invested in the subject matter. Marty was passionate about his industry. He was sincere. I got the impression that if he were in charge of organic regulation and enforcement, agriculture in this country would be better off. But both presenters acknowledged the challenges of being able to trust every label or business who wants a piece of the ever growing organic market.   

5:30 Outside the Theatre
After the Q & A I tracked down Shelly & Marty and spoke with them for about 15 minutes.   

Shelly and Marty Love Organic

I asked them point blank about the possibility that their film could be seen as one-sided and unbalanced. Shelly acknowledged that every filmmaker has a point of view. The goal of filming, she says, should be to encourage growth and change. “I changed during the making of this film,” she pointed out. When I asked for a specific example of how she changed it was difficult for me to understand her response.   

Number One Daughter was snapping photos. As we discussed the interview, she noted that Shelly would often get this look in her eye like it was important for her to sell what it was that she believed in so strongly. Number One Daughter tried to capture that look in a photo.   

Shelly wanted me to mention Florida Organic Growers and encourage everyone to learn about the organic choices available to them. I joked with her that she was continuing to proselytize. She seemed a little offended by my tongue-in-cheek comment and explained that she thinks of that word as something that refers to a religious belief.  Hmmm, somehow I think that was my point.  

Marty reminds us that we eat everyday and each day what we put in our mouth is a choice. Where we spend our dollars and our marketplace choices have an effect. We have the power to have an impact.   

Shelly handed me a packet of basil seeds and encouraged me to not just sit on the sidelines and watch, but to go out and do something. Plant some seeds. Basically she was saying that we can grow as a society by making conscious choices about what we grow.   

Debbie Morse, a Film Festival volunteer, saw the movie several weeks ago. “It was excellent!” she proclaimed.  Despite her wariness of documentaries, she felt this one was easy to follow. When I asked her if this documentary was balanced, she said, “it felt like they were trying to give a portrait…and not take a side.”   

Erica Laspada, an FFF patron, thought the movie did a good job of providing excellent information–more than she expected given that she works for an environmental organizational and is quite knowledgable of the issues.  She especially liked the Q & A where she appreciated Marty’s information about the Florida Organic Growers organization. “Go organic farming,” was her closing remark.  

To compliment the movie a small, organic farmer’s market was set up just outside the Enzian. (Isn’t this a phenomenal film festival!)  I bought some farm fresh eggs, homemade hummus, biscotti and asked Matt if I could buy a bottle of his Organic Uncle Matt’s Orange Juice. He didn’t bring bottles to sell, but he gave me a full one that he brought along to pour samples.  He wouldn’t accept my offer of payment. It was delicious O.J.   

6:30pm Back Inside the Theatre
“Devolution” a wordless short consisting of five exquisitely filmed vignettes. With nothing but music and images, the filmmaker skillfully creates an emotional romp through several diverse scenes. Number One Daughter was bored and slept through this one. I was mesmerized.   

“The Tiger Next Door” was a fascinating feature documentary about Dennis Hill, a breeder of rare, exotic animals, mostly tigers, and his fight with the DNR to retain his permit to keep animals. Although it was a feature length film I felt like it was missing huge chunks of information that kept me from having enough information to determine if Dennis deserved to keep his permit.   

By the end of the film I had formed an opinion about whether or not Dennis should be allowed to keep his large cats. In speaking with others who saw the film, I found many of them also had their points of view. But they were not always the same.  I think that’s the sign of a well done documentary.  I’ll let you watch the movie and draw your own conclusions.   

8:15pm Back Outside the Theatre to Interview Some Patrons
Dianne & Kevin Sentner just saw “Winter’s Bone” It was a dark movie about Ozark hillbillies. Very well acted, well written and very violent. It dealt with a code of silence of the hills. They found the writing and story to be quite good and thought the acting was excellent. They’ve been going to the film festival for a few years and go to about three or four films a year.   

Jeff H. saw “Homewrecker” “Loved it. I’m trying to think of some ’film critique’ thing to say, you know, tour de force. A solid movie,” he stammered.  He went on to say that a wide range of people would like this movie. 

Jeff, maybe this was your 15 minutes. Leave a comment and let me know how it felt.  I think your review was great. 

9:15pm Inside the Enzian for Two Last Films
Our day ended with the screening of two documentaries   

Watermelon Man & His Director

“Watermelon Man” what a great short powered solely by the personality of its one and only character–a colorful black farmer touting the benefits of using his God given talent; growing great watermelons and other crops.  This charismatic guy was filled with simple, homespun wisdom and a dramatic flair for making his points.  The film was well crafted; short, funny and quite engaging.  Our second serendipitous movie for the day! 

 “Cleanflix” wow! What a movie. This feature documentary explores the legal battle concerning companies, primarily in Morman areas of Utah, that edit objectionable content out of movies to rent or sell them. A real life “Cinema Paradiso”. All serious movie lovers will be fascinated by the implications of this well made feature documentary film. 

After these two movies, filmmakers from both films participated in a Q & A.  I asked the Watermelon Man if he could clarify whether or not the delectable melon he speaks of in his movie is seeded or seedless.  He acknowledges that the seeded ones are best but to the laughter of the audience he concedes that you can’t get the kids of today to even think about eating a melon where they have to spit out the seeds. 

Cleanflix Filmmaker at Q & A

The filmmaker of “Cleanflix” gave even more detailed information on the business of editing movies for content and the legal and moral battles that ensue.  He noted that his project began as a short, but kept growing year after year.  Just when he thought he had an ending, his Mormon Cleanflix protagonist was arrested on a charge of a child sex crime and the documentary got even longer. 

11:30pm The End of the Day
On the way to our car Number One Daughter casually remarks, “wow, that was fun!”  After a day of young teenage angst begging to go home after every movie I begin to think I might have a convert.  Bless her!  She, too, is exhausted from hauling around our blogging bag with two cameras, water bottles, notepads, computer, disks and FFF guides and info.  She’s my personal assistant, sherpa and creative guide all at once.  I could not have gotten through the day without her. 

It was precious to watch her interact with the Watermelon Man while he personally signed one of his books for her.  She asked him to choose the book she was to purchase and he chose, “Hard Heads Make Soft Bottoms.”  Turns out it’s a book about the wisdom of respecting one’s parents. 

Tomorrow I will set a goal to abandon my normal posting style and bring you short, informative updates throughout the day.  In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying the FFF, even if it is only through these posts. 

Please leave a comment and join the conversation. 

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