Shepard, Shorts #4 and The Forgotten Kingdom Day 2 FFF 2013

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The Forgotten Kingdom was a Visual Delight

The Forgotten Kingdom was a Visual Delight

Like SunnyStefani, I found it hard to get out of bed after the fabulous opening night party at the Enzian. Interstate 4 was packed with cars as tourists hurried home from the Easter week break. Unfortunately the traffic was so slow I missed the opening short film Not For Sale. But Shepard & Dark was just beginning as I found my seat…

Shepard & Dark
Pulitzer prize winning playwright & Academy Award nominated actor Sam Shepard shares a life long friendship with the somewhat reclusive and hoarding Johnny Dark. Johnny’s penchant for saving everything–including all photos and letters–encourages a University in Texas to purchase all their correspondence for $500,000. The idea is to create a coffee table book of photos and letters between these two friends. They go to live in a Santa Fe think tank to work on the project together.

Knowing this description of the film, I found myself wandering what titillating tidbits we would find in these letters. Was the handsome movie star/playwright who was married to Jessica Lange for almost 30 years a closet homosexual? No, there was no such reveal. The powerful story was just as advertised: two very close friends who would communicate by letter during the long stretches when their lives kept them apart.

One of the more unusual elements of the film was watching Sam Shepard write. He continues to use an old typewriter complete with a manual return that he dutifully swipes at the end of every line. In some ways, this fact is a metaphor for the underlying theme of this documentary. Sam is Sam and Johnny is Johnny is Johnny. They are, essentially, the same as they have been during their 50 year relationship.

Matthew Meets Amy

Matthew Meets Amy

After the show, Matthew Levy the documentarian from Not For Sale and Amy Hobby the producer of Shepard & Dark were available for some Q&A. In an amazing coincidence, it was discovered that Matthew, when not doing his own short films, works an an editor on major narratives. Amy, as it turns out, just completed a new full length film shot in Washington state and she hired an editing company in New York. In complete serendipity, it turns out that Matthew is editing Amy’s film and both of their movies were selected by the FFF to be shown–both together!

I asked Amy what Sam had against word processors. “I don’t know, he has a way of doing stuff. He just likes the paper, likes the feel of it. He doesn’t have the internet, he doesn’t have a TV.” In a nutshell that also describes this documentary. Two people who are what they are and always have been just being with one another from time to time. In the end, Sam abandons the coffee table book idea and moves on with his life. Johnny goes home.

Shorts Program # 4: “Staying Alive”

The Captain
Amidst the wreckage of the aircraft, the captain wakes up with an empty booze bottle by his side. He is the only survivor and he decides to take evasive action. Very short, very humorous with eye-popping CGI effects.

Kirk And Spock???

Kirk And Spock???

Slash
“If it exists, someone has made porn of it.” Internet rule #34. When a loner geek fan writes on racy Harry Potter fan sites, even Captain Kirk and Spock show up for their titillating conventions. Wands and Vulcan salutes wind up in very interesting places. Clearly a fan favorite, this one got lots of laughs from the audience.

The Dark
Two macabre, disfigured youths go on a spree of unfortunate events in this short that’s just as it’s titled.

HOWARDCANTOUR.COM
This movie claims that a critic can work mostly inside his head. So does this movie. Good production values can’t help a self-aggrandizing mediocre script.

Are We Not Cats
Hot sex in a dilapidated, empty swimming pool comes to a climatic conclusion when the woman coughs up a hairball. Are we sure they’re not cats? I know I just ruined the ending for you. But, trust me, it’s not worth seeing anyway. Based on the questions from the Q&A, I’m not the only one who felt that way.

The Cub
In literature, when a young child is raised by wild animals, it normally happens out of necessity. But what if parents allowed a pack of wolves to raise their daughter to help teach her the useful skills of the wild? This humorous film attempts to answer that question with surprising results. Howl if you like it! Despite the stilted performances, this very short piece was a hoot–I mean a howl.

Caterwaul
An old widower harvests lobsters until one catches his eye and goes home to live with him. Amusing concept though not very well rendered.

What Happens Next Will Leave You in Stitches

What Happens Next Will Leave You in Stitches

Things You Don’t Joke About
Like the girlfriend in this film, Mrs. LanceAround was totally offended by the opening joke of this movie. What does it say about those who attend the film festival when you consider that she was in the vast minority. The uproarious laughter continued throughout this hysterical tale of a robbery gone awry. Well scripted, well acted, good production values made this film the best of the shorts program. They really did save the best for last and what a way to end the shorts! Don’t miss it.

The Forgotten Kingdom
Prior to this movie we are entertained with some drumming from the Flammable Babylon Percussion Ensemble. Their rhythms set just the right atmosphere for this feature narrative that Matthew Curtis, the programming director of the FFF, so highly recommended yesterday.

The movie opens with a slow reveal of a magnificent African vista. A solitary figure slowly enters on top of a large escarpment. This shot helped to establish the true star of this movie–not the actor, although his performance is magnificent particularly when one considers that he has never acted before. The star is the cinematography and art design which are as much a part of this story as the simple tale of a young man coming to terms with his father’s death through rediscovering his homeland.

Produce and Assistant Director T.R. Boyce, JR. Talks About His Film

Produce and First Assistant Director T.R. Boyce, JR. Talks About His Film

Shot on location in the landlocked mountainous region of the Kingdom of Lesotho as well as some scenes in South Africa, this thought provoking, beautiful film highlights the struggles of these African people dealing with poverty and disease. While on the surface it can be viewed as a simple coming of age movie, the more one contemplates it deeper themes of societal unrest, tradition and obligation to one’s family and one’s cultural provide a rich tapestry in which the coming of age tale is softly woven.

Before the movie began, an excited FFF aficionado yanked me aside to excitedly tell me I was in for a treat. While I was not as passionate about this film as she–and Matthew Curtis–were, I can see why they appreciated it so much. The scenery alone–particularly the shot of the Maletsunyane Falls–made for an enjoyable two hours of cinema, even if you’re not hooked by the accompanying story.

As the recently departed and dear member of the film community, Roger Ebert, would say:  “Thumbs Up.”

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