FFF 2018 Day 7 My Indiana Muse, Tatterdemalion & Call Me Brother

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Amazing Art From an Unexpected Source

My Indiana Muse
This documentary epitomizes the reason Mrs. LanceAround and I are huge fans of the FFF.

Robert Townsend is an amazing artist. One day, he encounters a box of vacation slides and becomes smitten with a woman whom he says has a “superstar quality.” Her name is Helen. He then begins a several year process of painting huge, eight feet by ten feet paintings based on several of the vacation slides.

At the end of the film Ric and Jen Serena, directors of the documentary, are available for a Q&A. They talk about the time they first met the artist and he spoke at length about Helen’s shoes and how he was working to get them just right in the painting. He was so passionate, they were convinced this was the perfect subject for a documentary. They also talk about how Robert projects the slides onto his canvas and creates the outline. Robert likes to joke that, from that moment, it’s more like a glorified “paint by number.” But it’s clear that his artwork goes well beyond that. These amazing creations almost look like a photograph from a distance, but as the camera zooms closer, it’s clearly a painting.

Also in attendance was Helen’s niece, Cheryl. In the documentary, Cheryl explains that when she was cleaning out Helen’s garage after she passed, she encountered a box of vacation slides which she was prepared to throw into the trash. However, a friend told her that people actually buy old slides. She listed it for sale on the internet and someone purchased them and then sold them to the artist.

After selecting several slides for his paintings, Robert decides he will try to find out who this woman is. By luck, one slide featured a photo of Helen and her husband with name tags. By doing a search online, Robert located a funeral home that did the service for Helen who passed in 2014. He contacted them and the funeral home passed his information along to Cheryl who arranged to meet Robert. In the movie, the tour of Helen’s home provides even deeper insight into Robert’s muse and further encourages his artwork.

This documentary perfectly captures an artist and his muse; the creative process and the real life that inspired it. The artwork is amazing, the film is compelling and we highly recommend you seek out this movie.

Preceded by Samantha’s Amazing Acro-cats
It’s hard to believe that someone who makes a living doing theatre shows across the country could be extremely shy. Welcome to a wonderful documentary about Samantha and her fourteen trained (somewhat) Acro-cats. A self proclaimed spinster who has difficulty establishing long term relationships, Samantha is clearly in love with her feline performers.

The documentary demonstrates how difficult life can be on the road, especially when traveling with a group of divas who need to be fed, cared for and cleaned up after. Samantha is always looking for the big break that will help her achieve financial freedom. When you see her on Stephen Colbert’s show or performing with Steve Harvey, you think she just might be making it. But finding success with a traveling cat show provides many difficulties which this documentary showcases.

Sometimes the film creates more questions than answers about its subject matter. But it shows enough to allow the filmgoer to experience the ups and downs of life on the road in show business–particularly for someone as shy as Samantha.

Tatterdemalion
FFF programing director, Matthew Curtis, spoke very highly of this narrative feature film. The story revolves around a young woman who comes home from a military tour of duty to bury her father who passed away at her childhood remote Ozark cabin. As she seeks out her estranged brother, she encounters weird tales from local mythology about mysterious creatures in the Ozarks. When she discovers an abandoned boy, she needs to determine if he’s an orphan in need of help or one of the mysterious “Tatterdemalions” who, legend has it, reside in the woods and cause sickness to anyone who helps them.

While the movie is skillfully directed and well acted, especially considering that several of the leads were cast directly from the local town with zero acting experience, Mrs. LanceAround and I were split about the movie. She found it more compelling while I thought the story line was a little weak and needed some additional work.

To give a glaring example, the protagonist finds a clue in an old address printed on a discarded magazine. Locals tell her that streets have been named and renamed so many times over the years no one will remember this address. She finds an ancient town elder who muses, “I haven’t heard that name in a long time.” She manages to find the street and has to call the police. Somehow, while this is a street that only the oldest of old timers knows the name of, yet the police gives that name to EMS to get assistance.

It’s a relatively minor continuity error, but, for me, it gave some insight into why I thought the movie did not work very well. I believe if the author had spent more time creating a larger back story and working the depth of her myth, she could have created a very compelling suspense movie–and perhaps even a few decent sequels.

Call Me Brother
Although we were tired and Mrs LanceAround really wanted to go home, I encouraged her to see one more movie because I was so disappointed by Tatterdemalion that I didn’t want to end the day on a down note. Earlier that day a FFF regular recommended the movie Call Me Brother. We asked Matthew Curtis about it and he said it was a good film and very funny.

Was it good? Not really. But the thing that annoyed me most is that the movie featured what might normally have been an unexpected denouement. However, the advertisements for the film and the filmmakers themselves prior to the screening revealed what this denouement was. Instead of being an unexpected, surprise ending, I spent the entire movie looking for what was advertised so that, when it finally occurred in the final scene, it impacted me like someone had told me Bruce Willis’ character was actually dead before watching The Sixth Sense.

The gratuitous sex and teenage party antics were enough to turn off Mrs. LanceAround.

In short, rather then buoying us after Tatterdemalion, Call Me Brother only let us down a little more. Still, we spent the long car ride home talking excitedly about My Indiana Muse which we thought made this year one of the FFF best for feature documentaries along with This is Home, Dark Money, and especially Mole Man.

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