Monday, March 29, 2010

all things must pass

what has passed has been an absolutely wonderful event - the 34th cleveland international film festival. this year I put normal life on hold, and spent many hours sitting in the dark traveling the world. I was far from alone - I met many others who took days off work or worked abbreviated schedules in order to attend. word is getting around that the cleveland international film festival is a happening and it turns out that 2010 was another record breaking year; at last night's closing night festivities, it was announced that over 70,000 people attended the film festival; if memory serves me correctly I believe they said attendance increased 100% in the last five years and 500% in the last fifteen years. yowser!!

last tuesday I posted a list of the first six films that I saw at the ciff; today I will list the rest of the films I saw and follow this list with a short list of the films I wish I had caught.

continuing the list of films I saw at the 34th ciff, in order seen:
  1. ward no. 6, a narrative film from russian. my attraction to the film was reading that it was based on a 1892 short story by chekhov. while the concept of the film was unique and the setting was intriguing - the filmmakers morphed a classic chekhov short story into a fake documentary and set the story in a real life mental institution that also was once a monastery. while worth seeing, I believe my expectations for the film were too high and I was a bit disappointed and I wouldn't list this film in my top ten.
  2. cultures of resistance, a documentary film which definitely would be in my top ten - in fact, it is in my personal top 3. the filmmakers devoted two years touring the world capturing footage (both live and recent archival) in order to document the creative methods that people adopt in their quest for peace and social justice. if this has piqued your interest, check out the cultures of resistance website to learn more.
  3. mrs. moscowitz and the cats, a narrative film from israel and france. this mouse couldn't resist a film with such a delightful title. an entertaining and poignant story about friendship, loss, love, and personal transformation. rita zohar is absolutely brilliant in the role of mrs. moscowitz.
  4. the girl on the train, a narrative film from france. like the us tv show law and order the story behind this film was "ripped from the headlines" - the result is a tense quasi-psychological thriller / love story of girl meets (wrong?) boy with the added bonus of seeing the divine catherine deneuve in the role of the girl's supportive mother. sure to be available via netflix if not at your local cinema.
  5. short program #10 -which featured 7 shorts from the us, germany, australia, france, and spain. one of the three shorts in this set which had the audience rolling in the aisles can actually be seen in it's entirety on youtube: pigeon impossible
  6. best of times, narrative film from thailand. a thoughtful and creative exploration of friendship, love, and memory which uses a pair of 'love-stories' that feature couples at two very different spots along life's journey. this may be the first thai film I've ever seen. here's the official trailer (no subtitles with the trailer, but you get a good flavor for the film)
  7. small crimes, narrative film collaboration between cyprus, greece and germany. an absolutely delightful, madcap romance set on a small beautiful, very sparsely populated island somewhere in the aegean. if you don't laugh out LOUD watching this quirky and sweet film you need to get your funny bone adjusted.
  8. villon's wife, narrative film from japan. a powerful and complex drama which captures the tension between the genders and the gradual changes of social and community life in post war japan. superb acting and I got lost in the film's portrayal of japan circa 1946.
  9. short program #11 - a collection of nine short films from the us, ireland, spain, pakistan, and australia. three of the films in this collection rightly went on to win various awards for this year's film festival. they are heal, matt faust's home, and the animated the mouse that soared.
  10. paper man, narrative indy film from the us written and directed by kieran and michele mulroney. utterly odd, wonderful, and unforgettable. the film features a handful of well known talent including jeff daniels, kieran culkin, and lisa kudrow. this was my first exposure to emma stone, who I expect is a young actor with a promising future given her graceful portrayal of abby. this film furthers my appreciation for jeff daniels when he accepts these challenging indy-film roles and reminds me not to write him off (afterall, he was in the movie dumb and dumber? which okay I confess I didn't actually see because it sounds so dumb!). I doubt this film will make to the the local multiplex, but if you are fond of stories that touch your heart and your brain, then seek this film out - I'm sure it will be on netflix and who knows maybe even get to your local art house theater.
  11. a room and a half, or a sentimental journey to the homeland, a russian narrative film and an imagined memoir of the russian poet, artist, philosopher, and nobel laureate in literature joseph brodsky. I'm ashamed that until I read the blurb about this film I only knew the name, but not brodsky's work, but this will change after seeing this beautifully crafted film with mixes live action and animation. after the first third of the film passed, I lost complete track of time, which was a good thing since this is a fairly long film, and I was totally carried away by this gorgeously rendered film and was sad when it ended. the title of the film is based on an essay brodsky wrote entitled "in a room and a half" a meditation on growing up in a converted apartment shared by several families - under the laws of the soviet-era state each person could be provided a half a room to live in.
  12. mid-august lunch, an italian narrative film. a beautiful, touching, and subtle comedy which celebrates friendship, family, food, and respecting one's elders.
  13. selections from the 34th ciff jury awarded shorts - unfortunately time did not permit us to view all of the shorts that were awarded awards by this year's short judges, but the seven or so films shown were all top notch. the ciff is a qualifying festival for shorts that will go on for oscar consideration - the two shorts that will be advanced for consideration are: ana's playground (a powerful and provocative anti-war narrative film) and the animated lost and found (which was not shown during this program, because of time constraints, but I did find this trailer, it looks marvelous)
  14. protektor, narrative film from the czech republic directed by marek najbrt. a multi-layered complex drama set in czechoslovakia during the late 1930s and early 1940s. a taunt, well acted, artistically crafted film. the film ingeniously shows not everything or everyone is what it is...
  15. looking for eric, a narrative dark comedy from the uk by director ken loach. once I got past the simple fact that I was watching a different film than the one I intended to go to (whoops!) I relaxed and enjoyed this oddly affecting and memorable film. there are two erics in the film; eric bishop a somewhat sad sack of a fellow whose life has gotten away from him and eric cantona a superstar all-star soccer player. through the power of friends - both real and imagined, finally working on making right past wrongs, eric bishop mends a broken and tattered life and he (and we) discover that there may be an eric cantona in all of us.
so all totalled I watch a total of 18 feature length films and probably as many short films. wow, that is sitting in the dark!

for a variety of reasons I didn't see everything I wanted to, so I left this year's festival with another list of films, rather than listing all of the films on this list, here are the top 5:
  1. hipsters (russian) the co-winner of the central and eastern european film competition
  2. honeymooners (serbian, albania) the other winner
  3. louder than a bomb (usa, documentary) winner of two prestigious festival awards.
  4. inside hana's suitcase (canada, czech republic) a documentary which was my friend pat's favorite film of the festival.
  5. journey from zanskar (usa, china) this documentary aired twice, unfortunately both times when I had non-festival things planned. but as soon as this film comes out as a dvd, I'll be ordering it and having a house party!
okay, the film festival has passed, now it's time to get back to reality (whatever that is)

oh, I did do things other than watch films over this last week-plus. along with movie madness in march, march also brings college hoops, and baby animals. saturday, f and I took our annual trek out to lake farmpark to see the baby lambs, piglets, and calves. this year we took ms t who even tried her hand at milking a cow.

photos: top - closing night party, cleveland; bottom - a few of the babies at lake farm park, kirtland, march 2010

george harrison's song all things must pass


Roy said...

An interesting line-up of films; some of them sound right up my alley, so I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for the.

Good ol' George! I have a copy of the Concert for George DVD, and I often find myself watching it when things are bugging me.

Unfortunately I can't see the photos; Blogger seems to be having problems with image files today.

Roy said...

Ah! There they are! The problem seems to have been cleared up while I was typing. It must be Spring - look at all the lambs!

Megan said...

Sounds absolutely fabulous! How great that you were able to take all that time! Thanks so much for sharing the list.

California Girl said...

the film fest sounds fun. I miss the days of going to see brand new films, foreign and otherwise. Can't do that when you live in bumf*#!@

Coffee Messiah said...

Glad to hear it was an interesting mix.

Like cg, nothing like that occurs out here either ; (

Merle Sneed said...

Wow, Cleveland rocks! Hooterville on the other hand, is a wasteland.

Damn my kids for not having enough moxie to move away. It's their fault I'm stuck in this place.