Complex Relationships – Day 3 FFF 2011

by

Mrs. LanceAround & # 1 Daughter Loved Journey From Zanskar

The theme from Day 3 of the FFF seems to have centered around complex personal relationships.

It began with the documentary short The Rabbi And Cesar Chavez and the full length documentary, Stuff.

After watching the two movies, Bri reported that Stuff was charming and witty, a great film.  As another patron walks past me out of the theatre, she remarks that she liked the movie.

As the theatre clears, an older woman and a younger man sit chatting in their seats. I can tell from the conversation that they’re not mother and son–they barely know each other. Overhearing their conversation, it’s clear the film has evoked a lot of emotion for both of them. They’re both FFF volunteers.

Jackie Johnson stops me as I walk out of the theatre. She wants me to give a shout out to Steve Schneider (sp?) of the Orlando Sentinel because he recommended Stuff.  Jackie is clearly touched by the film. With a sad and far away look she tells me that the movie she just saw “touched every base.” She’s thoughtful as she says this film will stick with a lot of people.

As I consider both films I notice that they are eerily similar in that they talk about an elder son coming to grips with their relationship to an even older and dying father. Both films were fairly well crafted.  But I also feel that in both instances, the filmmaker was too close to the subject to be able to make appropriate editing and scripting choices. The end result was two films that combined with moments of tender, heartfelt and compelling story lines along with moments that were confusing and diffuse.

At the end of Stuff, a large portion of the audience stood up and left the theatre in the middle of the closing credits—something you rarely see during the FFF—and usually it’s not a good sign. On the other hand, once the credits ended and I could do audience interviews, it was obvious that many filmgoers were quite touched by this film; many wore expressions similar to Jackie’s.

For myself, I felt a wide range of emotion.  At times I was looking at my watch thinking the film was far longer than the 82 minutes advertised. At other times I found tears streaming down my face as the movie bought remembrances of my own relationship with my father and his, uh, stuff. To be moved to tears by any work of art is, in my opinion, high praise.

We file back into the theatre for the mixed media documentary short Grandpa Looked Like William Powell followed by the full length documentary Journey From Zanskar.

I take a moment to interview some of the theatre goers as they usher into the theatre. Susan says she’s here because this film looks good. Her escort, Chris, says it looks like an interesting movie about a group of people having a journey through some hard times and difficult places.

Grandpa Looked Like William Powell was an amusing and well paced little short. The filmmaker found a 1924 signed school yearbook in his grandfather’s belongings. He used it as a backdrop and added some photos and animation to tell about his remembrances of his grandfather. One particularly touching moment was when he recalled that he once got onto a bus with his grandfather and other family members and the only place to sit was grandpa’s lap. He was only six, but he distinctly recalls that he did not feel comfortable, warm or close to his grandpa while sitting on his lap. Similar themes echoed throughout this short as the filmmaker explored his relationship with grandpa, including the fact that photos of grandpa looked like William Powell.

Journey From Zanskar was wonderful. Narrated by Richard Gere, it told the store of buddhist monks who would take 4 to 12 year old children from their families in Zanskar to raise them in a monastery where they would get a good education and have the opportunity to break free from their incredible poverty. Parents are delighted to give this opportunity to their children even though they know they might not see them again for ten to fifteen years!  Just traveling to the monastery is a treacherous journey over mountain passes 17,000 feet high.

“It was excellent, I was really impressed with the selflessness of the monks. It was really encouraging,” says Kathryn Konigsberger. “I wish there was more selflessness like that in this country. I support a Christian School in India. It made me want to give more money to that school.”  For several moments Kathryn goes on to talk about her passion for education. She laments the ethnocentrism of her American culture. She believes that compassion should extend to all humanity. She is passionate in her views. She even speaks about thoughts of leaving this country because of her frustration with what she perceives as the selfish views that are prevalent in our society.

This is Kathryn’s fourth year volunteering at the FFF. She tells people all the time about how wonderful the films are. Despite extending many invitations, she has a hard time convincing her acquaintances to come.

I agree, Kathryn!  Hopefully as the word continues to spread with blog posts like these, the FFF will become a Must See/Must Do element for a large majority of locals as well as anyone travelling to Central Florida during April!

Our final film for the evening was Potiche. A French comedy starring Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu & Fabrice Luchini. This popular movie was sold out and there was a standby line. The movie was a typical French Farce–nothing too deep but filled with enjoyable moments. Deneuve was excellent in the role of the “trophy” housewife who takes over her husband’s business during a time of great labor unrest when her husband suffers an attack.

Gerard Depardieu has always been one of my favorite actors. I haven’t seen one of his movies in many years. I can’t tell you how disappointing it was to watch him in this role. He wasn’t bad; he just wasn’t the brilliant, charismatic actor I recall from such classic films as Jean de Florette and Cyrano de Bergerac. If you have a choice, skip Potiche and find a copy of Jean de Florette and the sequel Manon of the Spring; two great films that should be on every movie lover’s list!

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