Archive for April, 2015

FFF 2015 Day 9 Do I Sound Gay?

April 30, 2015
Does He??? --  Yes, He Does!

Does He??? — Yes, He Does!

If you can’t handle the answer, then that’s a question you absolutely should be asking!

That sentence sums up the philosophy of David Thorpe, who created this documentary based on the insecurity he felt regarding how his voice and vocal inflections sound. The film was primarily a series of hilarious interviews and media snippets, mostly with gays. It revolved around characteristics that have become stereotypical of gay interactions. It provides amazing insights into some of the psychology behind how people think, act and talk and how these shape who they are and how those around them respond.

It includes very moving interactions, sorrowful recollections, shocking moments of extreme flamboyancy and many poignant scenes of love and acceptance. Although the film is a little monotonous and one dimensional, it was obvious from those around us that the audience connected with it.

Of course, the most common question that everyone was asking at the conclusion of the film was, “Do I sound gay?” Often, the answer was, “Yes!”

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FFF 2015 Day 9 International Animated Shorts

April 28, 2015
Bear Story

Bear Story

Monday Man
A continuation of a series of shorts about a man who has a difficult time getting started on Mondays. This short features an epic battle with his car’s seat belt while his boss is watching the clock wondering where he is. Well timed and funny. very short.

One Night In Hell
Collection of scenes involving the underworld in a circus type atmosphere. What was amazing about this film wasn’t the story but the filming technique which presented a 3D steeroscopic depiction of Paris in the 1860s. Music score was by Brian May of Queen, who also co-produced.

Symphony 42

Surrealism At Its Best

Surrealism At Its Best

Funny surrealistic world combining humans and animals in unique and thought provoking combinations. Delightfully zany. Winner of the Gold Plaque Special Jury Prize at the Chicago International Film Festival. The audience seemed to enjoy it.

Metamorfoza
Stop motion short dealing with a baby doll that gets caught in a collage of chaos and adventures. Non-sensical. The enjoyment of the film was absorbing the filming technique.

Storm Hits Jacket
This film won the Short Film Jury Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. My only reaction was, “why?” Described as a colorful yet brooding landscape of random absurdity as a monster storm reaches the shores of Brittany.

Teeth
The history of the teeth that came and went in one man’s mouth from birth to age 75, with a little bit of tongue thrown in. Literally, Gross.

Tatuape Mahal Tower

A Model Story?

A Model Story?

A scale model figure for a Brazilian architectural firm tells us of his up and down life, especially when he changes into a gorgeous woman model. One of the better shorts in this program.

 

Tears of Inge
The true story of the filmmaker’s grandmother singing the tale of camels who would often kill their young after birth and how the early nomads would sing to them in an effort to keep the young camels alive. Using a stop motion painting technique with impressionistic painting, this was colorful and artistic.

The Last Supper
Again we have some kind of creative stop motion film technique with live action and animation. An aging performer creates a last supper and she’s the main dish, literally. Slightly longer than it needed to be.

Day 40
A re-imagining of the Noah mythology by someone who clearly believes there was a much darker side to the story. An irreverent take on one of the most famous stories of all time. Very funny and one of the best shorts in this program.

The Ledge End Of Phil (From Accounting)
Story of a dedicated employee who gets trapped on a ledge and makes friends with a bird who helps him discover his wings. The filmmaker is very talented and had some fabulous directorial moments, but the story was a little weak.

Bear Story
The life of a bear as portrayed by his tin-toy theatre. An animation of an old fashioned device. Combining these two worlds created an amusing look and feel. I did not believe this was the best short, but it did win the audience award for Best International Short this year.

Filmmaker Q & A with Allisi Telengut director of Tears of Inge
“The story is from my grandmother. I recorded her voice and the narration was from her. I’m inspired by the artwork of William Kentridge from South Africa. He makes stop motion with charcoal on the surface. You draw and erase and take pictures. Instead I used color. It’s called “under the camera” animation. My grandparents were nomads when they were younger. This is disappearing. It’s important to preserve their way of living and memories. It took 4 to 5 months to animate. I made a short film before this one about a burial in Mongolia. That one’s about death, this one’s about birth. They were supposed to be together but I couldn’t finish it on time. I like working with color and texture. It reveals my visceral feelings. I tried other animation techniques. But I like working with color.”

FFF 2015 Day 9 – 3 1/2 Minutes

April 28, 2015
What Question Do You Ask a Father Whose Teenage Son Was Tragically Killed?

What Question Do You Ask a Father Whose Teenage Son Was Killed?

The only thing that could have made this documentary more heart wrenching would have been if the father of the teenager killed at the gas station in Jacksonville had been present in the room.

Well, he was there.

The documentary was about the international outcry when Michael Dunn, a white man, pulled into a gas station on Black Friday 2012. He parked next to a group of black teenagers who were playing very loud rap music. He asked the teens to turn the music down, which they did, until one of the teens in the back shouted an expletive and demanded that they turn the music back up. An angry interaction ensued and Michael Dunn got his pistol out of his glove box and began firing 10 shots at the car, killing 17 year old Jordan Davis.

This ignited a media frenzy, including “man on the street” interviews reflecting heated viewpoints on both sides of the issue. Some supported Michael Dunn, who claimed that some kind of barrel, like a shotgun barrel, was pointed at him. They sited Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law which stipulates that someone does not have to retreat from a confrontation but can use deadly force if he perceives his life to be in danger. Many others see only another dead black unarmed teenager at the hands of a non-black assailant.

There’s lots of evidence that is very damaging to Michael Dunn. For example, he left the scene, went back to his hotel, ordered a pizza with a rum and coke, walked his dog and only then called the police. Although no gun or barrel of any kind was found in the car, it was acknowledged that the car drove away from the gas station, parked and then pulled back into the gas station. The police admitted that it took them four days to search the area where the car temporarily parked when the teenagers fled from the firing bullets. It was also acknowledge that Jordan Davis got into a heated, expletive filled banter with Dunn. There is conflicting testimony as to whether or not he threatened to kill him. In the end, Michael Dunn’s assertions that he told his fiance about the “gun” he saw the teenagers have was directly contradicted by her. She also testified that when they pulled in to the gas station, he stated how much he hates that “thug music.” This, again, directly contradicted his own testimony. Although the first trial ended in a hung jury on the count of first degree murder, a second trial found him guilty and he will spend the rest of his life in prison. When the documentary revealed this fact, the audience broke into applause.

Perhaps the most telling and damning information to come out of today’s film is when I asked the father a question and his answer, quoted below, gives a harsh and inescapable reality about the shortcomings of the incarceration system currently in use in our country.

Jordan Davis’ Father Takes Questions From the Audience
Q: What was it like being a part of the making of this film?

A: You have the filmmakers walking along with you as you’re doing this. It’s not, “Take one, take two, take three.” They follow you around and whatever you’re doing it might appear on the screen.

Q: The film failed at bringing Jordan into the film. We got only a very little sense of who he was. Can you tell us who Jordan was?

A: I’m glad you said that. A lot of families don’t realize, when you have the trial of Michael Dunn, it’s Michael Dunn’s trial. When you lose your loved one, you think that your loved one who died is a part of the trial. They’re not. They’re just a name on the blotter. Jordan Davis was not allowed to be called a victim in this trial. The only photo that was allowed to be shown was that wallet photo. But Michael Dunn could show himself going to a wedding, playing with children.

Q: (from LanceAround): As a journalist, I have no idea how to look at a father who has had his son killed in this manner; or what to ask him. It made me think, what is it that we journalists are not asking? What are the questions you would like for us to ask you in circumstances like this?

A: It’s always a family’s desire to get some sort of justice. More and more times, it’s the media that drives that justice. You hear of the Trayvon Martin case because the media drove that case. No one heard of Sanford, FL. The media drove that case. The media drives the DOJ to look at that case. The media has to look at things as a whole. What’s going on in this country? Who are the leaders in this country that are allowing this to happen time and time again? We have mass incarceration in this country, nobody’s doing a thing about it. 2.2 million people incarcerated. We have private prisons in this country. So now, prisoners are a commodity. They make at least $28,000 per prisoner per year. And they guarantee the states at least 90% occupancy. They abuse them in prison, paying them pennies on the dollar. What happens when you take over 2 million people and pay them pennies on the dollar? You look at the 14th amendment. It says that slavery is abolished, except if it is in the form of punishment. Slavery is in the prisons right now. It’s on the stock market. You can buy stocks in prisons. Instead of building schools, we build prisons. Do you realize that the U.S. is only 5% of the population of the world yet we incarcerate 25% of the world’s prisoners right here. That’s what you can do. Stop this!

Q: I’m also a member of the media. I wanted to commend you and your wife for the dignity and composure that you exhibited through the entire trial, both trials. I’m curious to know if you feel the film was balanced. Were you ever worried that it would lean one way or the other because of the subject matter.

A: Marc Silver is an amazing director. We fought tooth and nail because I didn’t want to see so many scenes between him [Dunn] and his lawyer because they rehearsed what they gonna say. So you see a lot of scenes with him telling his story; his version. I don’t want his version on the film, because he’s lying. Marc said no, people have to look at and listen to his version. And they listen and see the truth and make up their own minds. I think you all did in this theatre. You can’t hammer somebody over the head with your version and your truth. You have to let them see what this person has to say and make up your own mind. I think he did a great job in doing that. I was very happy with the film.

Q: My ex-husband was killed by a police officer in Deland, FL; ran over by his police cruiser; taken to the grand jury and considered justifiable homicide. I commend you for receiving your first verdict and continuing in the fight until you received justice for Jordan. I will continue to fight for justice.  I look at the film and I’m wondering, what was going through your mind?

A: We realize that there’s only a few families that get this kind of justice. It’s so hard to get it because there’s so many rules against you getting it. Michael Dunn actually had to convict himself. If he had shot Jordon Davis those first three shots, sat in his car and dialed 911 and said, “I feared for my life,” he’d be walking right here on this stage today. I know in my heart that it’s pitiful I had to say that. The other thing he did is he lied, and lied and lied and kept changing his story and the jury saw that. They actually admitted to it after the trial, some of the jurors.  This film is an historical moment. In the South this is the first time that almost an all white jury–seven white men on a jury–convicted a white man for killing a black man.

 

FFF 2015 Day 9 Top Spin

April 27, 2015
Dynamic, Action Packed Family Film About Ping Pong

Dynamic, Action Packed Family Film About Ping Pong

This was a very well crafted, extremely entertaining documentary about teenage table tennis prodigies attempting to make the 2012 American Olympic team. The film follows its subjects from international competitions to Olympic trials and finally on to the Olympics in London. At the same time, it educates the audience about the sport of table tennis particularly regarding honing various techniques and strategies necessary to win.

The audience is sucked into the action, rooting for the three American teenagers who are attempting to defy the odds and win the first American medal in this sport–a sport that did not come to the Olympics until 1988. China has been the dominating champions having won 21 of 24 possible gold medals since the sports introduction into the Olympics.

America does not have much infrastructure or support for the sport of table tennis and that makes it very difficult for the athletes to find challenging competition, competent guidance and financial resources. In some ways it ironically parallels the difficulty young filmmakers face when trying to make documentaries as there is not much support for those who make films like this. These filmmakers actually used two Kickstarter campaigns to raise $100,000 needed to complete the movie.

In the end, both the teenagers and the filmmakers find success, in one form or another. Best of all, this is very much a family film as we discovered during our interviews with the audience. If it does make it into wider release, don’t miss it. Invigorating and uplifting!

Filmmaker Q & A
Sara Newens, who co-directed Top Spin with Mina T. Son took questions from the audience after the showing.

Like many filmmakers these days, a lot of her financing came from Kickstarter. She notes that this is especially helpful for documentarians who are not trying to tackle social issues where organizations might be more willing to assist with funding.

Henry Maldonado pointed out that, despite the competitive nature of trying out for the Olympics, the kids in this film had supportive families who did not appear to push them too hard. Sara agreed.

At one point in the film, an old home movie emerged of one of the Ping Pong players showing off his big boy underpants with cartoon characters. I asked Sara how long it took him to forgive his parents for releasing that home movie. She said that Michael, the ping pong player, had a great sense of humor and actually enjoyed that part of the film.

Reactions From the Audience
Mrs. LanceAround and I noticed some very young film goers siting in the back of the theatre and we head over to interview them.

“My Godmother recommended it because she knows I love sports so I thought it would be a good movie to see; Maybe I could learn something new about the Olympics,” says young Aleksander, “Football is what I want to pursue in my life. I’m just starting. I play tackle. I used to play what you call Iron Man Football…Flag…where you don’t really have a position. From 1 to 10 I would rank this film an 8…or 9…8 and 1/2!”

His younger 7 year old sister, Sara, was not as impressed with the film. “Kinda good, kinda boring for me. It’s just watching it as a movie it’s not really what I would enjoy.” She then proudly holds up the sunglasses that she won from Henry Maldonado before the movie started. Mom gives us permission to use their names.

Bad Dog Premieres at Orlando Shakes

April 25, 2015
Mrs. LanceAround Thinks This Photo Does Not Do the Set Justice

Mrs. LanceAround Thinks This Photo Does Not Do the Set Justice

We interrupt our ongoing coverage of the 2015 Florida Film Festival to highlight another theatrical art form now gracing the Orlando stage.

The standout star of Orlando Shakes world premiere production of Jennifer Hoppe-House’s Bad Dog is Bob Phillips. Was he the star actor? Member of the supporting cast? Director? Producer?

No, he designed the set.

Using every inch of the intimate Goldman Theatre stage, Bob creates an open floor plan where the action takes place in the kitchen, living room, front porch, upstairs hallway and even the exterior, now interior, wall where the title character rammed her Prius in a drunken stupor. All this without a single set change! For twenty years, Bob has graced the Orlando Shakes theatre with brilliant stage designs that would stand out from Broadway to the West End. While there is much to praise about this production, the fact that this is Bob Phillips’ last set at Orlando Shakes prior to his retirement inspired Mrs. LanceAround and I to bid him farewell with the opening praise of this review. He has won six Emmys and the heart of many an Orlando theatre patron. Cheers to you, Bob!

As for the play, it is as detailed, complicated and beautiful, in a down-to-earth way, as one of Bob’s sets. The story revolves around Molly, The youngest of three sisters, whose relationship with her wife becomes jeopardized when she ends 10 years of clean sobriety and then rams her Prius into the living room of their home. Her family swoops in to “help” including her two sisters, mother, father and father’s mistress-turned-wife of 30 years. The story seems headed for a classic alcoholic intervention. But somehow the tables get turned as each character’s personal dysfunctions are revealed.

Dysfunction Abounds

Dysfunction Abounds

In an ironic intertwining, Molly’s struggle to find herself amidst the dysfunction of her family parallels the attempt of this play to find its center. Is it a comedy or tragedy? Who, if anyone, is the protagonist? Is there an antagonist? Who is right and who is wrong? The play is not afraid to ask difficult questions and certainly does not give any easy answers.

In the first half of the play, comedy takes center stage as each familial dysfunction is hilariously revealed to much laughter from the audience. After the intermission, things become more serious as each character confronts some darkness within.

For her first full length play, Jennifer Hoppe-House has penned an ambitious work. During the post show “talk-back”, the cast reveals they worked closely with the playwright and made several tweaks to the script. As the play continues to find theatres and audiences, no doubt further tweaks will help smooth out some of the minor inconsistencies in character and plot development. Mark Routhier, the director, makes full use of Bob Phillips’ ambitious set. His blocking provides just the right focus as each actor is provided the opportunity to develop their character to their fullest extent.

This is truly an ensemble piece. While Ginger Lee McDermott handles the lead role of Molly with emotional depth, all the actors have their time in the limelight. But it’s the full throttle interactions which occur when most of the characters are together that give this play its most powerful moments. The night Mrs. LanceAround and I attended, the audience was riveted. There was generous laughter at every humorous line. During the most dramatic moments, one could feel the intensity of the audience focused on the action. After the performance, the cast spoke about the differences of each audience. The play would find laughter at different times. They thanked this audience for their responsiveness. Audience members, in return, heaped praise on the cast and indicated how much they loved the show with a standing ovation.

Bad Dog continues through May 3rd. Having a talented regional theatre company like Orlando Shakes in our community is a blessing that deserves your support. We encourage you to make time in your busy schedule and share a theatre experience with someone you love. If you have children, find a babysitter. The intensity of this show is not for the young ones. But teenagers and young adults can certainly handle the themes presented in this play. And you will have a thought provoking evening of theatre.

Tomorrow, we will return to posting the the final blog posts about the Florida Film Festival. Keep reading. And don’t forget to join the conversation by leaving your comments.

FFF 2015 Day 7 Limited Partnership

April 23, 2015
On of the First Legal Gay Marriage License in the U.S.--In 1975!

One of the First Legal Gay Marriage Licenses in the U.S.–In 1975!

Sandorkraut
When Sandor Katz left his political career and moved off the grid to rural Tennessee, he discovered the ancient art of fermentation. He has since become the consummate authority on all things fermented, such as sauerkraut. He lives in an artistic, rustic home. The filmmaker is an artist in his own right who captured the throwback hippie perfectly. Very high quality production values and directorial choices make this film not only educational and interesting to watch, but a fine work of art.

Limited Partnership
Like every member of the audience, tears are rolling down my face. This was a beautiful story about the first gay man, Anthony (Tony) Sullivan, to petition the US Government for the right to be granted a green card on the basis of his legal marriage to another man, Richard Adams. They were married on 21 April 1975.

Yes, 1975. Before being forced to cease, Boulder County married six gay couples in that year.

The official response from the U.S. government’s immigration services to Tony’s request for a green card would be inconceivable today. Tony received a letter that stated, “You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.” A follow up letter of clarification was even more offensive. It contained the viewpoint that one of them could not fulfill the female duties and functions or obligations inherit in the marital situation.

The incredible power of this documentary lies in the two protagonists and the steadfast love and devotion they so obviously shared along with a kindly, gentle spirit with which they address their detractors. These are very special people. The documentary chronicles their 40 year struggle to get permission for Tony to legally reside in America with his spouse.

In 2012, as this documentary was coming to a close and our nation was taking a huge U-Turn in our attitudes towards gay marriage, Richard Adams passed away from lung cancer. Today and unbeknown to the audience, Tony Sullivan was sitting in the Enzian theatre watching the movie with us. Mrs. LanceAround and I had an in depth interview with Tony after the movie. We’ll write a detailed blogpost about that later. Here is the Q & A between Tony and the audience who watched the film with him.

Q & A with Tony Sullivan

Tony: Before the first question, I have to say one thing. I was the loud mouth in the family. Richard always sat back. A lot of people didn’t pay any attention to Richard, this wonderful man that I shared 40 years of my life with. He was a truly unique and wonderful, loving person. I’m so very lucky a human being to have had him in my life! [Generous applause from the audience]

Q: It’s so hard to watch this. It still hurts…

A: It’s hard to watch but also it reminds me as time passes as you lose someone they fade away in time. You start to lose the image of them. I had the luxury of being able to see him, as he was, to hear him, as he was; to see the love in his eyes. At first, when the film was made, it was very difficult for me to watch it. Now I’m beginning to understand that what the filmmaker did has made me grateful.

Q: I don’t know anything about the immigration process, were there other options for getting your green card?

A: I did get married for convenience, to a woman. We have this in Australia. It’s totally a legal and accepted thing. She and I got married and went to the immigration interview. My green card was sitting on the table. And the official wanted to know when had we last had sex. I’m from another culture. I recoiled at the question, absolutely recoiled. I didn’t think any government official had the right to ask that question. It just repulsed me. We never had sex. I was a gay man, she was a happy heterosexual woman. So when I came out of the interview I said to her, “I think we need to annul this marriage.” I came home and I said to Richard, “This is wrong. If they want to know who I have sex with, maybe I should tell them.” We discussed the injustice that went on and decided that someone, someplace needs to do something about this. Then the awful question comes up in a time like this, “Oh dear, why not us?” Someone knew a judge in San Fernando Valley and suggested we go and talk to him. I went and talked to him (I still have his name and phone number in my file.) I went and talked to this judge and he said, “Oh yes, give me $10,000 and I’ll have your green card in days. I’ll give $5000 to an attorney and I’ll keep $5000 myself.” Strangely enough, even though I’m fighting a system on injustice, I couldn’t do criminal things. That, to me, is not acceptable. After that, I went to another state to get the marriage annulled. And the attorney who handled that told me he was the attorney for Frank Sinatra. He said, “Go down the street with me, I’ll get you a green card today.” By that time Richard and I had decided to fight the issue. So I said to him, “No thanks, we’ve got something else in mind.” So, yes, I’ve had some opportunities to get a green card, but we didn’t pursue them.

Q: What advice would you give to the younger activists about going through the issues we have in our day now and how they can stay positive as well as getting more involved.

A: You have to be an optimist. You have to have faith in achieving something. If you don’t achieve it straight away, you know it’s the old expression about losing the battles but winning the war. The battles in the early days were the ones we lost one after another. One of the most famous ones of all being here in Florida. Retain your integrity. You get opportunity after opportunity to settle or compromise, etc. Decide what you believe in; what you really believe in, not what your friends tell you to believe in. Keep that in focus. The other thing I want to say, especially for the gay and lesbian movement, look at the history and philosophy of the feminist movement. For me, I had an amazing source of strength from that. To me, the feminist movement is as profound as the professed beliefs of Christians. I find the words written as the words of Christ…I get a lot of strength from that. The woman’s movement preaches the same thing. If you look to that and then adapt it, which in the gay and lesbian movement gay men should be doing anyhow, I find tremendous strength in that.

Q: Did you get a green card?

A: Haven’t got my green card yet. Sometime last year I wrote a letter to President Obama asking for an apology to Richard. I felt that, as a citizen of the United States he did not deserve to have that letter stuck in the record for him. On the first day of Obama’s new head of immigration being in immigration, at President Obama’s instigation, he wrote a letter in which they apologized for the “faggot” letter.

Q [From LanceAround]: Putting all the issues of this movie aside, how old were you when you came from Australia and what made you decided to make this country your home?

A: America was never a choice of country that I’d want to come to. It was probably the least country I was interested in coming to. I came here in 1971 to see a friend of mine who was the Editor of The American Cinematographer and that’s when I met Richard. I was on my way to England. I had absolutely no intention of staying in America. I didn’t want to stay in America. I didn’t like the politics of America. I didn’t like the politics of Australia at the time, either. I met Richard and we had a thing of communication–an old fashioned thing called the mail–when I was in England. He asked me to come back here and I came back. That’s an unusual thing that makes our case–I was in America because of Richard. There was absolutely no other reason. It took me a long time to adapt to the country. The culture shock was enormous. Now I realize I’m more American than Australian. Even though I’m very critical of the country–I feel everyone should be critical of America–I do want to say this. If we had done what we did in any other country, we would have gotten a hearing. The way they would have solved the problem is they would have rolled around on the floor, laughing their heads off. And we would have been dismissed with humor. Even though I was one of those cranky people who didn’t believe in the government, I have to say America gave us the opportunity to have a life together. Now I’ve come to realize that I’ve become more American than Australian which I never thought would happen.

Q: Can I ask about your mother? [The movie indicates she disowned Tony]

A: I rang her on my 40th birthday to say, “I’d think you’d be thinking of your son on his 40th birthday.” It was a frigid phone call. She also told me if I was ever back in Sydney to not get near her. Richard and I were in Sydney and we walked past and I said to Richard, “There’s my mother’s place.” and he said, “Are you going to go in?” I said, “No.” My mother was a very disturbed woman. One thing we didn’t know about in those days is that she was chemically dependent on prescription pain killers. When I came back here she and I hadn’t communicated. She died in the early 80s. In fact, I only learned last year my whole family for the last 20 years had been told I was dead. Those things happen.

Reactions From the Audience
“I learned something that I’ve never known about before. It’s like going to another country,” shared one film goer.

“Heart wrenching, informative, times are moving very slowly,” says Aviva. “How do you spell that?” I ask. “A-V-I-V-A, the same backwards as forwards,” she replies.

After several movie goers indicate they don’t want to talk, I say to Mrs. LanceAround, “They don’t comment as much when the film is very evocative.”

A group of UCF students who were helping to promote the film exit the theatre. “This was our second time seeing the film, both educationally and emotionally it really works,” says one. “We’ve seen the film a couple weeks ago to prepare for this. And just seeing him sitting there it was really…” “walking in and just, like turning there and seeing him there  was really…”chimes in his friend, both unable to find the right words.

“It was fantastic. It was lovely,” raves a frequent movie goer.

“That was one seriously powerful movie, wasn’t it?” says Sigi, “Yes it was,” I agree. “Oh my goodness,” she continues, “What a story it was!”

 

FFF 2015 Day 7 The Farewell Party

April 23, 2015
TheFarewellParty

Matthew Assured Us This Film Was Hilarious?

Before the FFF began, I asked Programming Director Matthew Curtis to give me two movies that would make me laugh. His first recommendation was The Farewell Party about euthanasia in a Jewish nursing home.

I didn’t think he heard me correctly, so I repeated, “films that will make me laugh!”

“You will laugh, it’s hilarious,” he replied, chuckling.

Yes, this movie had moments that were quite funny and many that were poignant. But, in the end, it’s a drama…a powerful and well made drama.

Mrs. LanceAround listens to my viewpoint and becomes adamant. “I thought it was touching and loving and funny,” she counters. “It was wonderfully funny. It was not ponderous. But that’s how you make it sound.”

“It had moments that were funny,” I reply, “But in the end I was most moved by the depth of the subject matter.”

“I was touched by the humor, tenderness and genuine love.” She retorts.

In the end, we agree to disagree about which elements of the film were most striking. But we did agree this is a very important movie. In America, our culture has a very difficult time talking about and coming to terms with end of life issues. The more we see films like this and have the conversation, the more mature we become.

The film does take a rather lighthearted approach to the subject matter. It begins with a man helping one of the nursing residents to take her medication by phoning her with an amplification device that makes her believe she is talking to God. She complains that no one in the nursing home believes God calls her! There are also scenes of closeted (literally) homosexuals, an older lady with memory issues who forgets to wear clothing and a group of her friends who make her feel better by throwing her a surprise party where they “forget” as well!

But underneath all the levity is a serious issue. Is it morally responsible to assist someone in taking their own life to end their pain and suffering? Are we obligated to just sit by and watch as the ones we love writhe in pain? The film does not give any easy answers, but it also does not shy away from the tough questions.

Very well filmed, well scripted and topical, this film is a great addition to the 2015 Florida Film Festival!

FFF 2015 Day 6 The Tribe

April 16, 2015
If You Find This Photo Offensive, You Will Find the Movie Even More So!

If You Find This Photo Offensive, You Will Find the Movie Even More So!

The Tribe
This film was shot in the Ukraine. There were no spoken words, as it was done completely in sign language. There was no translation, no subtitles, no voice overs. There was no accompanying music. The only sounds you heard were the crunch of feet in the snow, traffic in the background, the occasional grunts from the actors and, mostly, eerie silence.

The film did not need anything else.

This bold, experimental film portrayed a brutal side of life in the Ukraine. Young hearing impaired students at a badly run down school have a rough hierarchy, a tribe-like mentality, that rises all the way through the teachers and staff. Young females are forced into prostitution. Young males rob, swindle and pimp. Fights are savage and the weak are mocked and picked on.

Without giving too much away, I will share that there are brutal scenes of explicit sexual encounters, back alley medical procedures, violent attacks and very few opportunities to laugh. Yet for two hours, tired as I was, I could not take my eyes off the screen. There was raw energy and an honesty about this film. Although one movie goer felt there was some gratuitous scenes, I did not experience that. I felt as though every action, each beat, furthered the story.

As for not being privy to the dialogue, I discovered an interesting phenomenon; It was as if I was hearing the dialogue of the movie several minutes after the scene itself was completed as the action of subsequent scenes helped me understand what was being said in previous scenes. This had the effect of forcing me to concentrate on the movie with more intensity than normal–resulting in an intense awareness not normally experienced when watching a movie.

I’ve heard it said the other senses of a blind person become more acute because of the loss of sight. In many ways, my experience of this film, with no verbal dialogue or background music, was heightened in a similar way. I don’t know that I want to see it again. But I’m glad I saw it the first time.

Reactions From the Audience
“I couldn’t hear anything,” a film goer tersely states.

“Intense!”

“Not for me, a pretentious failed experiment,” says another movie goer. When I ask how he would like to be identified for the blog, he replies, “Cameron Meier from the Orlando Weekly.” I think to myself, “I don’t believe he’s going to give it a good review!”

“I really enjoyed it. I did.  I was a little worried about it,” says UCF student Kelly Nettleton. When I tell her that I was surprised to see a young lady attending a film like this all by herself, she says, “It was hard to convince someone to go to it when you give them the description.”

“Pretty intense,” say Jim Gunshanan.

Ellie Hodgkins adds, “You know the saying, ‘Once is enough.’ It’s like Requiem For a Dream where you want to see it once. And you saw it…”

“And you don’t ever have to see it again,” chimes in Jim. “Would you recommend other people to see it?” I inquire. “Some people,” he says. “Select audience,” she adds. “You probably have to be pretty careful in considering who I would recommend it to,” he continues.

“Some of it was gratuitous, I think. For shock effect. But it did make me think…” muses Jennifer as she exits the theatre with her faithful, trusty male companion. She goes on to speak about several elements of the movie that I can’t repeat for fear of being a spoiler. I ask her if she recommends this film. “I knew what I was coming into and I’m not easily shocked, obviously” she begins. “That’s tough…Yes…Let’s go with the, ‘Yes’!”

As often happens during the FFF, Mrs. LanceAround and I share a wonderful conversation with her and her faithful, trusty male companion as we walk to our cars in the parking lot. She tells us of an Independent Theatre in Lakeland that we had never been to. When they lived there, they went to it almost every week. Now they live in Winter Park and are Enzian faithfuls.

Mrs. LanceAround and I feel like we’ve made new friends. We look forward to seeing them during other movies. These are the experiences that make going to FFF so much richer than just going to see an ordinary movie at an ordinary movie theatre.

 

FFF 2015 Day 6 The 100 Year Old Man…

April 16, 2015
The Funniest Film of the Festival So Far!

The Funniest Film of the Festival So Far!

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
This is a very funny film.

Sometimes, in this day and age, it’s difficult to find comedies that are really, really funny. This film delivers on so many levels; part slapstick, part smart and mostly whimsical. A 100 year old man who spends his lifetime loving to blow things up, is relegated to a nursing home. When he discovers he can climb out the window, he disappears from his birthday party and begins a serendipitous journey filled with good luck and timely interactions.

The audience is sent on a hilarious romp. As his adventures unwind, we’re treated to multiple flashbacks. In his younger days, the old man has encounters with everyone from Harry S. Truman, to The Manhattten Project (I told you he loves to blow things up,) Stalin, Reagan, Franco, Gorbachev, concentration camps, Faberge eggs, TNT and lots and lots of explosions. Reminiscent of Forrest Gump, this box of chocolates has wild moments of elephant murder (no, it’s not the elephant who gets killed) crated cadavers and an unexpected suitcase full of money that propels the action along.

This Swedish film, featuring Robert Gustafsson who has been dubbed, “The funniest man in Sweden,” has a wry wit and satirical genius that only a Swede could bring. It’s a trip worth taking.

Reactions From the Audience
Jerry says, “It was great. It was funny. Remember the movie Being There with Peter Sellers.  It was kinda like that.”

Three movie goers chime in with their opinions:

“It was great!”

“It was excellent!”

“It was fantastic, give it a five!”

Wayne Heller of Winter Park can hardly contain his enthusiasm. “Best film of the festival!” “Of this festival?” I ask. “One of the best ever!” he replies.

“Very, very good,” states John Drackett. “It was original. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I’m a screenwriter. I’ve sold a screenplay and I’ve seen a lot of movies. I think it has potential to go moderately wide in general audiences. I write and I understand screenplays. This was an amazing film. It starts with the screenplay. It’s mostly the writing that makes this amazing. If you don’t have a good screenplay, you’re sunk from the beginning. If you do have a good screenplay, you can still screw it up.”

I ask John how many screenplays he’s written. “I’ve written three feature lengths,” he replies. I ask if any of them have been made into films. “Not made,” he admits, “But I made $30,000 on one, selling it about five or six years ago.” I wonder if there’s any chance his screenplay could still be developed. “Possibly, but it’s in a legal tangle,” he laments. “because of multiple owners and legal things that have nothing to do with me.” Referring back to the movie we just saw, he ends by saying, “And I’m also part Swedish so I have a fondness for Swedish things. My grandmother was Swedish.”

FFF 2015 Day 5 A Brilliant Young Mind with * Spoilers *

April 16, 2015
Sally Hawkins and Asa Butterfield Give Excellent Performances

Sally Hawkins and Asa Butterfield Give Excellent Performances

A Brilliant Young Mind

*** SPOILER ALERT ****
It would be impossible to give my impression of this movie without revealing its major plot point. If you don’t want the movie to be spoiled for you, please stop reading now.

The movie is about a young teenage boy (Asa Butterfield) who has some kind of unrevealed disorder, such as autism or aspergers. It is  difficult, nearly impossible, for him to hug, hold someone’s hand or sit in the front seat of a car. His sandwiches, lovingly prepared by his dotting mother (Sally Hawkins) must have all the crust sliced away and be cut in four perfectly symmetrical triangles. All food on his plate must be served in a quantity that is a prime number. Despite his social awkwardness, he has an incredible mind for mathematics. A supportive, outcast teacher (Rafe Spall) who once was involved in the math Olympiad at the prestigious Trinity College in England, encourages him to try out for the Olympiad team.

Whether or not he makes the team or succeeds at the Olympiad is not the spoiler I’m going to reveal. The spoiler is that the movie ends with him kissing another teenage girl, crying, hugging, holding his mother’s hand and riding in the front seat of the car.

I didn’t buy it.

The experience of a child with this condition suddenly connecting to other humans in a way that would be considered normal would be like Forrest Gump suddenly getting smart, Rain Man suddenly able to tell a joke or Kayne West suddenly behaving in a civilized manner–it’s just not going to happen. It’s what makes the condition so difficult for those who love someone inflicted with it. It’s like expecting an Alzheimer’s patient to suddenly regain their memory. Everyone hopes for the miracle, but the miracle seldom occurs.

I could have accepted it had the scenes of personal connection been revealed to be a fantasy the mother had. I would have loved the movie had such a fantasy been reinterpreted as a new understanding of his current behavior. Much like the movie Rain Man, had the other characters simply accepted the young teenager, with all his social foibles, and found a way to love and admire him exactly the way he is, this movie could have been transcendent. Instead, it is a movie which I believe is unfair to anyone inflicted with such a condition.

Reactions From the Audience
“It was heartfelt, moving, interesting, well done. An excellent movie. I enjoyed it,” commented Sara “without an ‘h’.”

“It was just amazing,” says a woman with tears in her eyes. “And how shall I identify you for the blog?” I ask. “An anonymous person,” she replies, “but I loved it. It was excellent. That didn’t tell you much, I know that. ”

The lovely elderly lady in the lobby has a nice dialogue with me. “I thought it was a beautiful movie. I thought it was absolutely beautiful. It showed what love can do. You can have all the brain cells in the world, you still need love. It was lovely.” Hearing her say that, I am compelled to ask the question that has been on my mind since the movie ended, “Do you believe that love can do that?” I ask. “Yes, I do,” she emphatically replies. ” I continue, “And is it possible that I don’t like the movie because I don’t believe that love can ‘cure’ such a condition?” “Uh…Yea…If you were real cynical about love you would think it was real sappy there at the end…But I know you believe in love.” I respond, “I know I believe in love, but what if my cynicism is I believe there are some conditions that can’t be overcome? Stephen Hawking will never walk again. The character in that movie will never hold someone’s hand.” “But he did!” She points out. “In the movie,” I counter. She goes on to say, “There are some things you just have to accept. You have to face reality.”