FFF Day 5 Shorts and Docs

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Did I Offend the "Con Artist" Filmmaker by Saying Disingenuous?

4:45pm Three Powerful Documentaries
I’m delighted that Mrs. LanceAround and Number One Daughter have agreed to accompany me to the festival tonight.  The evening begins with documentary shorts, including the documentary short that won the Academy Award this year and is now infamous because the ex-producer of the film shoved her way onto the stage to grab the spotlight from the filmmaker.

“Documentary Shorts 3 X Real”
“Born Sweet” a beautifully filmed short reminiscent of “The Killing Fields” only in this village ancient deposits of naturally occurring arsenic were tapped in newly drilled wells by well meaning relief organizations, poisoning some village members.  Visually stunning, emotionally draining.  This is what documentary filmmaking is all about–great story, wonderful visuals, educational and emotional.  One of the best films at this year’s FFF.

“The Fence” is an informative and thought provoking documentary about the foibles of building a 700 mile fence on the 2000 mile Mexican border. Humorous and disquieting all at once.  It is clear what the filmmaker’s point of view is, yet the case made is quite compelling.  I wouldn’t mind hearing the other side of the story.

“Music By Prudence” is a powerful story of how disabled children are discarded in Zimbabwe. One child fights back with a beautiful singing voice. Made even more poignant with the knowledge that she would later appear at the Academy Awards. Heart rendering and beautifully filmed.  This is the movie that became notorious for the wrong reasons at the Academy Awards.  But, hey, if that had not happened, I probably would not have sought out this film.  So perhaps there is no such thing as bad publicity.

6:30pm Reactions From the Audience
As people file out of the theatre I ask for comments

“Outstanding, all three,” shares Kyle Snavely

“I can’t think. That’s a good thing” says one anonymous movie goer who was visibly touched by the films

“These were great shorts. I hope they do it again next year” remarks Debra Scott

“I thought Prudence was fabulous.” what made it fabulous I ask this anonymous patron. “Prudence,” is the adequate response. 

Anticipation for the Second Round of Shorts
Soon after all the patrons have left the theatre, a new set of movie goers file in for the narrative shorts program about to play. I ask them about their FFF experiences.

“A friend of mine from Texas went online, then decided to call me back and say ‘hey they’re filming in front of the theatre, can you walk out so I can see you,” relates Lynn Warnicke who goes on to say that she was already in the theatre watching a movie so she hung up on him.

Alex Boyle wants to talk about another FFF movie he saw, “‘Bomber,’ amazing movie, like ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ minus the drugs and the kid.”

Scott, who refuses to give me his last name, saw me clacking away on the computer and quips, “I’ll have the steak, medium rare and the baked potato.” Obviously he thought he was at the Enzian ordering dinner?  Too bad!  He missed his opportunity to offer intelligent and authentic insight into the FFF.  Scott, if you are reading, feel free to make a comment and correct this oversight!

7pm Next Shorts Program
“Shorts Program 4: Extinguish”

Filmmakers Scott & Maggie

“Some Boys Don’t Leave” is a funny, quirky fable of determination and rejection. Jilted boyfriend decides to live in ex’s hallway inside her apartment–regardless of what transpires around him. Fabulous acting and great directorial pacing make this a cut above the rest!

“Laredo, Texas” well acted and directed short examining racism. Unfortunately it ends abruptly and seems a little pointless.

“Herbert White” grotesque tale of serial killer made more annoying by the use of handheld cameras. (I’m not a big fan of handhelds.)

“Make Up” a humorous, well acted dark short with amusing filming techniques and predictable, yet enjoyable ending twist.

“Quietly” a dark drama of drugs and death. Difficult to follow and seemingly pointless despite competent filming techniques.

“Meth” effectively uses creative filmmaking techniques to convey the realities of meth addiction in a soberly dramatic yet somewhat amusing short. Creative, engrossing and entertaining all the way up to the last revelation which, unfortunately, changes one’s entire perception of this short.

9pm Q & A with Filmmakers
Q & A with Scott from “Make Up” and Maggie from “Some Boys Don’t Leave”

Maggie talks about how she was the “doer” in a break up which provided the inspiration for this short. She intentionally co-wrote the script with a guy. She wanted something that would present both sides. She also tried to create a movie that works in the moment but leaves room for wider interpretations.

Scott was inspired by watching a woman in a department store getting make up. He wanted to make a short that was different. He picked the early 60’s because it was an innocent time. His inspirations include Hitchcock and melodrama. He used Good Housekeeping magazine to get the color schemes for his film. His cinematographer used tricks in color correction to create the effect stylized effects for the film.

Comments as people left the theatre

“I want to make big movies, like Kathryn Bigelow,” says Maggie Kiley, director of “Some Boys Don’t Leave.” “I’m excited to tell great stories.” What was it like to watch people reacting to your film, I ask. “Pretty thrilling. You spend so much time with the film, to finally feel people laughing and reacting was really wonderful.” Did they react as expected? “I screened it once for a room full of women and they laughed a lot more,”admits Maggie.  Hmm, given that the story was about trying to get rid of a peskily persistent man, I’m not surprised.

9:15pm Drive to the Enzian for Two More Movies

Short Filmmaker Michael at Q&A

“Meet Me at Geronimo’s” shows a slice of daily life in a Bronx delicatessen, complete with attitude.  It transports you to New York and finds you scratching your head while trying to figure out how someone can be so caring and so rude all at once.  Like I said, it comes complete with attitude–New York style!

“Con Artist”is a feature documentary that chronicles the exploits of New York artist Kostabi.  Very interesting film. This movie generally succeeds despite the filmmaker’s obvious inability to move beyond his preconceptions. The subject of this movie is a commercially highly successful artist who achieves much of his fame from his persona, including previous PR attempts to gain attention by proclaiming that he is a con artist.  His popularity wanes and waxes throughout his career and reaches an apex when he is commissioned to create a statue of the pope. The directorial choice to juxtapose the unveiling of the statue to the pope with scenes of the artist during a wacky interview moment says much more about the filmmaker than the artist.

Q & A notes

"Con Artist" Filmmaker at Q&A

During this session, I create a contentious moment with the filmmaker. I confront him about that moment in the film where I felt he made a directorial choice that was disingenuous towards his protagonist. As the conversation continues, it is clear that the filmmaker has a very low opinion of his subject.

For myself, I had an unexpected reaction. I came into this film expecting to really despise the protagonist. By the end of it, I felt differently. I don’t know if I came to like the artist, or his work, but I found myself finding an appreciation for where the artist was coming from.

The filmmaker just now reveals that when he first showed the film to the artist, the artist was pissed. He felt cheated. Over time, however, the artist has come to appreciate the PR value of the film and, according to the filmmaker, he loves to attend festival screenings of the movie. “He’s a brilliant guy,” says Michael, the filmmaker, “he knows an incredible amount about the world of art.”

In the end, I discover that I find myself disliking the filmmaker more while disliking the artist less. I did not expect this reaction.

After the Q & A I track down the filmmaker at the Eden Bar to continue the conversation.  It is clear to both Mrs. LanceAround and I that the filmmaker seems to have little empathy for the artist.  During the Q & A, he was comfortable referring to him as “an asshole.”  As I speak privately with him, it becomes clear that one issue is the artist’s focus on his financial success.  The filmmaker laments that the artist chooses to seek publicity rather than focus on his obvious artistic talent.  One point that was made during the movie is the artist uses employees and interns–to a much large degree than other professional artists–to create his works for him.

12:15am The Long Ride Home
During the hour long drive home from the Enzian, Mrs. LanceAround and I have a very meaningful conversation about the films we saw tonight.  I was pleased to discover that she had the identical negative reaction to the “Con Artist”‘s filmmaker’s directorial choices and that she was just as moved by Vihn, the 15 year old with arsenic poisoning in “Born Sweet,” the ludicrousness of “The Fence” and the tenderness that was “Music by Prudence.”  Our vacation rental home business just concluded the busy Easter Season, so we have not been able to spend much time together.

Although getting home at 1am was way too late for Mrs. LanceAround, the deep conversation and tenderness we shared made the entire evening worthwhile.  Too bad I won’t be able to join her for a good night’s sleep until I have finished editing this post for the next two hours or so…Goodnight!

PS:  Tomorrow we’ll be skipping the FFF to attend a benefit concert for Noah.  We’ll tell you all about it tomorrow night.

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5 Responses to “FFF Day 5 Shorts and Docs”

  1. Michael Croce Says:

    Was very nice meeting you at the Enzian Bar. Glad I could bring a “Slice of the Bronx” to Orlando for you to consume and enjoy! 🙂

    • LanceAround Says:

      Thanks, Michael. Also, my apologies for originally posting that the deli was in Brooklyn. I think I got confused because of our conversation about the quest for the perfect NY bagel. I was speaking with Mrs. LanceAround after our conversation and told her you had wondered aloud why everyone always talks about New York bagels. I realized it must be analogous to not knowing how good you have it, until you lose it. You’re surrounded by great bagels in NY, but you can’t get them anywhere else outside of NY! When you come back to the FFF, can you please bring me a couple dozen? LanceAround

  2. Michael Croce Says:

    Hopefully I will be returning with a feature in competition and yes I will bring an extra suitcase with a couple of dozen bagels. My favorite is a toss up between salted and everything!

    • LanceAround Says:

      Okay, Michael, I consider that a promise! I also love everything and salted, as well as sesame seed. Mrs. LanceAround can’t figure out how I can stand to eat a salted bagel. Her favorite is cinnamon raisin. LanceAround PS: Please take a moment to tell our readers about your feature project!

  3. Michael Croce Says:

    All this talk about bagela is making me hungry Guess I will have to settle for an Einstein Bagel, spinach and assiago with veggie cream cheese.

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