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We Raise the White Flag of Surrender

Monday 12 April 2010

The last day of the festival is always the hardest. The awards are over so there is no balloting, and most of the filmmakers have left, so those of us left can feel like the step-children of the event.

And, you’re really, really tired.

But there were more excellent films to (try to) see, so here we go with the wrap-up.

Bag It: Some docs, I’ll even say most docs that have a specific political agenda, go way, way overboard in trying to convince viewers of their viewpoint. “The end is nigh!” is the rallying cry that usually just alienates the audience.

This film takes a humorous, over-the-top fun approach to talking about plastic recycling. Lots of colorful animation, a presenter who looks like a human-sized Beaker, and a really good script make you want to change your habits–in this case, about using plastic bags–without making it seem like a chore. The filmmaker/director/presenter walks the walk, showing how he changed just a few little things, like not using plastic grocery or produce bags. There is a certain amount of dry statistics and some really gory scenes of examining fish entrails, but the saccharine count is very low. Highly recommended.

Marwencol: This guy is a mad artistic genius–the subject of the film, that is, Mark Hogancamp. He was attacked and had his memory scrambled, and while that’s tragic, it’s not the focus of the film. The subject is the unusual self-directed therapy he came up with–creating a miniature (1/6 scale) fictional town in Belgium during WWII, and the stories behind the characters. And the characters are all (or almost all) himself and his friends. It’s a long, complicated story, starting with his crash-landing near the town, being adopted by its bevy of beautiful women who had recently fought off an SS attack, opening a bar, other soldiers, both Allied and German showing up, and how they all interact. It’s a really amusing narrative, and one can see the transference of his personal tragedy into the story through his character. He slips in and out of his character’s history without seeming to realize it; he talks of his wife, who is only a character in the town and not in his human life, with the familiarity of a real person.

But it’s the photos of the town and the residents that are the real art. They are exceptional in their detail and realism; the ones of Patton and his entourage in a jeep, and a soldier carrying a buddy, fireman-style, while shooting at pursuers across a riverbed, are especially riveting.

Highly recommended.

On the Road to Tel-Aviv is a short that played with Marwencol. Bing Crosby and Bob Hope are no where near this; it’s a story about a girl who is taking a bus trip to Tel-Aviv, her fiancé, and terrorism as a part of daily life. Think Twelve Angry Men Try to Take the Bus and you’ll have right feel of it. Very disturbing and very good.

Local Shorts 2 is the adult-authored section of the Locals Only films. Four good entries, from the sublime to the zany. Bro Support is a short about a guy who needs a little help in his love life. Detective Story is a campy take on a 30’s film noir. It’s send-up tongue-in-cheek with a gritty underbelly. Lateral Shift is a more complex set of themes–love, loss, grief, betrayal, surrender–in a 24 minute wrapper. Finally, The True Believers is the goofy tale of a man in search of Sasquatch with a troop that makes the Scooby Gang look like Scotland Yard. We enjoyed all of these.

That’s it! My favorite feature remains The Four-Faced Liar; favorite short was a toss-up between Tales of Mere Existence (“Mom, I don’t like fish”) and The Mouse That Soared. Best docs: Bag It and Marwencol.

See you next year!

One Comment leave one →
  1. cynthia permalink
    Sunday 18 April 2010 12:44 PM

    loved it! what a fun time at the film fest I got to have vicariously thru reading your blog. and a few of your favs i actually got to see and heartly concur. bag it and the mouse that soared were exceptional. and tales of mere existence is like the dude’s in my head with just a slight gender perspective to remind me that he and me aren’t one. thanks for blogging ashland.

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