FFF Day 4: Best of the Best AND of the Worst

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Approx. 1/4 of the Audience had seen "Troll 2" the Best Worst Movie

6:15pm Lisa’s Here
On the way into “Lost Sparrow” I spot Lisa the filmmaker sitting near the ticket booth.  She chaperones her UCF classroom at this movie.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to have both a film in the festival and supervise a college classroom.  What an interesting life.  I ask her if she read my posts about her and she says no.  So I say to her that this explains why she did not throw something at me when she saw me.  If that doesn’t get her to read my blog, nothing will.  Number One Son and I hurry into the theatre.

“My Life is Cherry” this mixed media short seemed like an entertaining exercise for a film class.  The filmmaker has some talent and storytelling ability but has some work to do. Mildly amusing.

This is the Movie You Don’t Want to Miss
“Lost Sparrow” a powerful, extremely powerful, documentary.  The sounds of sniffling all around me are saying that I was not the only one in tears.  Usually, when there are no filmmakers present, some members of the audience begin to exit when the credits start rolling.  Tonight, only two people walked out at this point.  Those of us remaining sit, spellbound, unable to speak.  This film moves us.

In the Crow Nation, when a child is taken away by social services and given to a white family, they are referred to as a “lost sparrow.”  This documentary tells the story of a family in New York who adopted six such children in addition to their own four. Two of the young “lost sparrows” run away one night and are run over by a train.

The filmmaker, who is one of the other four children, decides to make a documentary that explores the death of his adopted siblings. Along the way, he inadvertently uncovers family secrets that are shocking.  Some questions are answered, some questions are unanticipated and some are just downright painful.  If someone had scripted this documentary, it would have been rejected as too unbelievable.  In the theatre, the inability of the audience to move afterwards is evidence that the unbelievable had become undeniable.  I would have loved to have spoken with this filmmaker.

Reactions From the Audience
“Extremely moving,” proclaimed Nils Taranger, a student in Lisa‘s film class who was here for the movie.

Andrew Cadieus, another student, chimes in, “It was good, I think it could be shorter.”

There was an audible reaction from the movie watchers around me. “I didn’t agree,” retorts Susan, “I have not seen a movie that portrayed the total range of human emotion like this one.  You go from judgment to empathy to total understanding.  It was hard to talk afterwards, it was so moving.”

“I think she said it all,” agreed Debra Martin.”

“It was very sad,” lamented Noreen Weller, an FFF volunteer who was watching the movie, “they dealt very well with a dark family secret.”

If you can only see one movie at this year’s FFF, this is the one.  It plays again on Friday the 16th 1:30pm at Regal Cinema B.

FFF Buzz
Between movies, I chat with people about their FFF experience as they enter “Best Worst Movie.”

“Exciting, I liked all the docs,” proclaims Jim DeSantis, who promises he will get rowdy during this film.  (He does a little, but not too much!  Mostly, he was just rolling on the floor laughing.)

“This is my third film. I was at the opening night and “Coco” I really enjoyed both films. I really liked the southern style food [at the opening night party]” says Whitney Boan who is here with her boyfriend.

“I’m very excited to see my first FFF this year. I’ve been to two or three festivals before this,” says Brooke Morton. “My friend Becky choose this movie. I am interested in many films.”

For a Monday night, it’s a healthy sized crowd. There’s been a lot of buzz about this movie and the producer, Brad, is here. He does a brief intro apologizing that the star and director are not here and promises to come back for a Q & A afterwards. The lights begin to dim and the short starts…

Two Great Films
“The S From Hell” is a near perfect short film. What a pleasure to watch. It was a simple exploration of the chilling effect the Screen Gems logo and theme sound had on young kids. This was a yellow and red logo for the Screen Gems brand (a subsidiary of Columbia Pictures) that would appear at the end of TV shows such as “The Flintstones” and “Bewitched” in the 70’s. Funny with a splendidly creative use of background footage and sound editing.

“Best Worst Movie” lives up to the hype. It is hysterical. I have not laughed so much at a movie in a long time.  I am amazed at how well this documentary has captured the reality behind the horribly wonderful movie “Troll 2.” When “Troll 2” was made, almost 20 years ago, a group of sincere filmmakers were obviously trying to make the best film they could. And they obviously failed. Yet, there must have been something about their passion that shone through because there are many people who can’t get enough of this movie.

Like a group of clandestine Trekkers, they gradually discover one another and underground screenings are scheduled. When the actors from this straight-to-video dog find out that people have been searching out their movie, they attend some of these events and the buzz continues to grow.

The lead actor, George Hardy, has become a dentist in a small town in Alabama. Although he clearly lacks the ability to act (Brad, the producer, confirms this emphatically during a private interview after the movie) he is loaded with an unmistakable charisma. While his personality might be enough to carry this movie on its own, discovering the quirks and even mental illnesses of the other principles from “Troll 2” make this romp an almost unbelievable tour de force. One film goer behind me kept asking if some of the characters were intentionally scripting themselves as they seemed too unreal. No, I don’t believe you could make this stuff up!

Generally filmmakers make a documentary because they are very passionate about their subject. It is not uncommon for the resulting film to become too long and detailed as the filmmaker finds it difficult to delete scenes. “Best Worst Movie” manages to avoid this pitfall. The film is well paced. It’s clear that there is a ton of footage left on the cutting room floor. Enough was included in the film, however, to adeptly convey the story.

Brad During Q&A

During the Q & A I ask the moderator to ask the audience how many of them have actually seen the movie “Troll 2”–the subject of this documentary. About a quarter of the audience raises their hand.

As the audience files out, I capture some comments.

“Very Entertaining”

“I thought it was very good.”

“Grade A,” says Jesse Ringness, “I will definitely be at the premier of Troll 2 on Friday.”

“I’m really looking forward to seeing Troll 2 now,” chimed in Alan and Delores, almost in unison.

“This is my first time seeing the movie and I’ve known Brad for eight years, he’s the producer. It was really awesome to see all the work he’s been putting into it for the past couple years,” says Katiel Gray. I ask her why she hasn’t seen the movie before now. “I’ve heard him talk and talk and talk about it. I had to wait and wait and wait and now he flew here (I live in Florida) so I got to see it.”

After being surrounding by fans at the end of the Q & A, Brad is finally free and I ask him if he has anything to say for the blog. “I’m really enjoying the FFF. This is my first time as a producer. I only got involved because I’m from Alexander City [where the star of “Troll 2” is a dentist.] The movie’s finally going to the theatres. It’s the real deal now.” I ask him what his worst fear is. “I’m really not that scared, I guess my worst fear is promoting in NY.” I ask him for his wildest dream. “I would love to see George Hardy [the dentist/star of “Troll 2″] on Dancing With The Stars.” There’s nothing better than watching George dance.”

“Best Worst Movie” will play again on Wednesday 9pm at Regal B.  Then, on Friday at midnight, the original “Troll 2” in 35mm format  premiers at the Plaza Cinema in downtown Orlando.  It will be shown again on Saturday 11:30pm at Regal A.

This is a Dilemma
How in the world can you compare “Lost Sparrow” to “Best Worst Movie?” Both of them are brilliant movies. Both deserve attention. One makes you cry. One makes you laugh. And they are both in the competition for documentary feature.

They both need to win.

If you trap me in a corner and force me to choose, I’m going to choose “Lost Sparrow.” I think “Best Worst Movie” is, technically, the better made film. However, I think the deeply poignant nature of “Lost Sparrow” tips the balance in its favor. What I can’t understand–will NEVER be able to understand–is why these two movies will only be seen by those of us movie goers who seek them out while movies like “Couples Retreat” earn over 100 million dollars in general release.

I don’t know who will win the documentary contest this year. But I already know who has lost–movie goers who never get a chance to see these two movies are the real losers.

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2 Responses to “FFF Day 4: Best of the Best AND of the Worst”

  1. Peter Meech Says:

    What a wonderful blog on the FFF, Lance! Entertaining and enlightening, personal and humorous. I enjoyed meeting MrsLanceAround and number one daughter and seeing the priceless photo of you and number one son in the silly hat contest. Hope to see again in the future!

    • LanceAround Says:

      Thanks, Peter, please be sure to keep us informed of your upcoming projects. Your film was one of my favorites at the FFF. I also enjoyed getting to know you. I mentioned your film again on my final FFF post today–it was that memorable! Keep in the conversation! LanceAround

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