Sunday, December 04, 2016

AIFF2016: Audience Member Talks About Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show

I guess there is sort of a genre category for this film.  The closest I can think of are the comedy acts before an audience on Netflix.  But this one was more than that.  The camera took you back and forth from the nightclub to the streets of New York where the two actors talked about the show and what it means, but then would also go into the routines that were seamlessly picked up back in the nightclub show.  But they also talked to the audience about what they were doing as well.  And there was singing and a violin.

But more significantly, this was two Asian-American women, well, Chinese, well half-Chinese, at least one.  It was a little unclear.  And they talked, sang, rapped about cross cultural, assimilation issues within the Asian-American community,  And they didn't spare anyone.  It's a film that ought to be watched by a lot of folks and then discussed in interracial groups.

While I was taking an advantage of a break between films and trying to write up my comments on the shorts I'd just seen along with Happy Lucky  . . ., John walked into the room so I asked him about his reactions.

He wanted to talk, but not particularly with a camera recording.  But he agreed.  He was much more comfortable when I shut off the camera.  But here's a bit of his reaction.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

AIFF2016: Hard Knocks - Wow! Powerful Shorts Program - UPDATED

The first film in this program blew me away - and it's not even in competition.  Sing For Your Supper takes place in a world where you have to sing to get fed or to buy anything.  A good voice and song is the currency, and the star has lost his voice and ends up a bum.  What an amazing world this film creates.  Plus it's done well and all the little details work.  Great concept, great acting, great everything.  This is my favorite film so far.

But the other ones in the program were noteworthy too.  On Time was powerful, luck a punch in the gut.  I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just say it too was really well done all the way around.

Virgin Territority  was also good, but just not as original as the others.

The next show is starting gotta quit.

It's 2:52 and we just got out of Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show.   This is one I wasn't sure I wanted to see, but it was starting and I figured I could go see Dropka at the museum if this didn't work out.  But really, this one is like Chinese rap - or as they call themselves - the Slanty Eyed Mamas - doing very political racial cross cultural comedy rap.  I'm not sure there's a word for what they were doing.  It wasn't easy to watch, the humor was oppressive (literally and figuratively).  But it's much more important to watch a movie like this that isn't like any movie I've seen quite before, than another slick Hollywood formula movie.

OK, this will be continued . . .

UPDATE again 3:13 - next movie starts soon.  I talked to John who grew up with Cantonese speaking parents and I got him to talk about Happy Lucky etc. on video and I'll put that up later.

We're now waiting for Planet Ottakring, which I'm looking forward to.

UPDATE again Dec. 4 1am - Trying to put this post to rest.  But I did want to say that two more of the shorts program were really powerful.
Pay Day was a black and white Hungarian film that took place in a small community where the money lender comes out to collect his payments.  Grim, but very well done.  And then there was My Mom And The Girl  the story of the director's mom's Alzheimers with her mom played by Valerie Harper.  It took a bit to draw me in, but then it happened as mom walks out of the house with her caregiver in bathrobed pursuit.

Two more - Virgin Territory and No Touching - were good, but not at the same level as the others.  And only two of these are in competition - On Time (short docs) and My Mom And The Girl,  My favorite was Sing For Your Supper which just had such an imaginative premise and was beautifully carried off.

Briefly - Planet Ottakring was lots of fun, a solid move. (The second movie of the day that had sinister loan sharks.)   Demimonde didn't disappoint my high expectations.  (My second Hungarian movie of the day.)  And Shu-De . . . I looked around and guesstimated about 80-100 people at the 6pm showing of what can be described as a documentary about Tuva throat singing.  That's amazing.  But it makes more sense to call this a concert tour movie in the Tuvan republic of Russia.

Past my bed time, but just wanted to get this a little bit caught up.  Saturday was a very good day at the movies.  Everything was worthwhile and quite a bit was outstanding.

AIFF2016: Saturday Suggestions - Demimonde For Sure

My advice is to go to the Festival's Sched Page for Saturday.

It looks like this (for the morning):

Click on this image and it will take you to the whole Saturday Schedule with all the dropdown windows working

It's good and will help you plan.  But it doesn't show the overlaps very well.  Unfortunately they continued what they did last year - program films that end after the next films nearby begin.

My key recommendation for Saturday is Demimonde at 8:15pm at the Bear Tooth.  Attila Szász's The Ambassador To Bern was the AIFF best feature in 2014.  It was a fine movie.  He has the same crew for this film about a famous Hungarian courtesan who was murdered and shocked the whole city.  It's a period piece and the trailer is exquisite.

I had a skype interview with Szász in 2014 about The Ambassador To Bern. At the end we talked a little bit about the new production he was beginning - which turns out to be Demimonde.  You can see it below.

But there are other films in competition showing today as well:

Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Dragon Panda Fun Fun Good Time Show is a documentary about a comedy act  known as Slanty Eyed Mamas.
Dropka is doc about Tibetan nomads.
Both are discussed in the Docs in Competition post.

Planet Ottakring  is an Austrian feature that I've discussed in the Features in Competition post.  (Along with Demimonde).

There are also panels where you can participate in discussions with some of the filmmakers.

Lots of good stuff.

AIFF2016: Full House For Opening Night North American Premiere of Sugar Mountain

Blackwater Railroad Company
Seats were getting scarce 40 minutes before things were schedule to start.  Anchorage International Film Festival director Rebecca Pottebaum enthusiastically welcomed everyone to the festival, thanked all the sponsors, and introduced the Seward based Alaska band Blackwater Railroad Company, whose music is in the film.

I'd note that another Alaskan - Portugal the Man - came up on one of the characters iPod in the movie as well.

Shot in and around Seward, Sugar Mountain was a respectable and interesting film, with very recognizable scenery for most of the audience.  I was impressed that it was made, in part, when there was snow and ice on the ground.  The main characters, facing debt and the loss of their boat, concoct a plot to have one of them get lost in the mountains and then sell their story to the media when he's found.  Things don't go quite as planned but the dig at the media's willingness to pay for such stories is clear.  The acting was good, the story had twists and turns and surprises.  The scenery was spectacular, but the grittiness of Alaska winter also comes through.

Two of the actors - Drew Roy and Haley Webb - were there to answer questions after the movie.  They talked about coming to Alaska (which they loved) to meet co-stars they didn't know, and their relief to find each other to be serious and talented actors.  Haley agreed with a questioner that her character was the antagonist - like a submarine, below the surface, but powerful in directing things.

The film opens in theaters next week, Dec. 9.

After the Q&A, there was champagne and dessert and a time to meet and talk with folks.  I got to talk to some of the programmers for features, documentaries, and shorts.  I asked the features guys for tips on movies that didn't get into competition, but were must sees.  Some suggestions:  Money, The 6th Friend, The Holly Kane Experiment, and Hunky Dory.  I also was assured the film I've been excited about from the descriptions I found on line - Planet Ottakring (Saturday at 3:15) - is a good one.  And, my assumption that Demimonde, the film by Atilla Szász who directed the festival's 2014 Best Feature, The Ambassador To Bern, is spectacular was confirmed.  It plays Saturday at 8pm at the Bear Tooth.

Alex Myung

Among the people I got to talk to was Alex Myung, whose animated film Arrival plays Tuesday night along with the feature Gayla film Real Boy.

Shot from Alex Myung's Arrival

Friday, December 02, 2016


From a Washington Post story that ran in theADN today.  This was supposed to be a post-election forum at Harvard, but it apparently got out of hand:
"At which point, [Kellyanne] Conway accused Clinton’s team of being sore losers.
“Guys, I can tell you are angry, but wow,” she said. 'Hashtag he’s your president. How’s that? Will you ever accept the election results? Will you tell your protesters that he’s their president too?'”
Kellyanne Conway has a gift for talking quickly around any subject with total confidence.  She could talk herself out of being arrested even when a cop caught her red handed robbing a bank.  And this is just one example of her brazenness.  [There's video at the link above.]

She's been Trump's spokesperson.  Trump.  The guy who spent several years denying that Obama was a US citizen thus he couldn't be the president of the US.  He knew it was total fabrication.  It was a power game for Trump.  Like a three year old having a tantrum to get everyone to pay attention.

Given that context,  his spokesperson has the nerve to complain that Clinton folks, whose candidate has over 2 million more votes than Trump, and want a recount in some key states like Wisconsin where Trump won by only 10,000 votes, protesteth too much?

But she goes by the Trump  playbook - Attack, Counterattack, Never Apologize.

I'm guessing that many of the Trump supporters know she's all bluff, but they take great pleasure when the highly educated Democratic spokespeople don't know how to respond to this outrageousness.

"Hashtag he's your president." Really?  We're in Twitterspeak?  Would would George Orwell say?

They were taught in school to be rational, factual, and debate a logical argument.  They - I probably should say 'we' - have trouble debating total nonsense.

This is like when Mao gave kids the power to humiliate and beat their teachers and parents.  Facts and science had lost all their power.  The Communist Party line became truth.

This is the humiliation all people of reason and civility face when ruthless power takes over and all logic, law, decency fall by the wayside.  Truth is what power says it is.

It's going to get worse before it gets better.   Trump doesn't see the law as a barrier.  He simply does what he wants and then if he gets caught, asks, "how much do I need to pay to make you go away?"

This is going to get uglier.  I suspect that the people Trump is lining up for his cabinet are not used to following orders from a grade school bully.  If Mitt Romney thinks that he can help steady the course working from the inside, he's in for a big surprise.  But I'd like to have people like him inside there and keeping a diary of what transpires outside the view of the media.

I'm supposed to give readers positive things to do when I rant like this.  I suggest you read  Lord of The Flies.  It describes where we are right now very well.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

AIFF2016: Sugar Mountain Opens Festival Friday At Bear Tooth

I don't know much about this film, but it takes place in Alaska and looks like it was filmed here.  [Festival description says in Seward and other Kenai Peninsula spots.]

Opening nights used to spotlight one of the films in the festival.  That seemed unfair to competing films and for the last three or four years (maybe longer) opening night has featured a film not in the competition, but having something to do with Alaska.  Some have been very powerful - I'm thinking particularly of documentaries - and others have been movies that simply took place in Alaska, but otherwise I probably wouldn't have watched or missed much.  On the other hand, this looks like a film that is likely to get some folks who normally wouldn't go to the festival to come.  And you're sure to recognize places you know in the film.

Here's the plot from Teaser/Trailer:  (Look for the Alaska mistake in the synopsis)

SUGAR MOUNTAIN Truth gets lost.
 Plot synopsis: “Deep in debt to a local thug (Jason Momoa), Miles (Drew Roy) persuades his girlfriend Lauren (Haley Webb) and brother Liam (Shane Coffey) to help fake a disappearance in the Alaskan wilderness. While the town works together to find Miles, the local sheriff (Cary Elwes) begins to suspect foul play. As he closes in on the truth, Liam struggles to conceal the hoax, and in the process exposes a secret that rocks him and Lauren to the core. Now the two are struggling to stay one step ahead of a sadistic thug and the tenacious cops before Miles is gone for good.”
Tomorrow night we'll find out where Sugar Mountain fits in.  Either way, opening night at the festival is always fun and it's a chance to start meeting all the film makers in town.  Anchorage folks don't need to be shy (and usually aren't) and the film makers appreciate hearing from the viewers and locals who can give them tips on what to do while they're in town.
Did you find the Alaska error?  Look again.  If no one puts it into the comments, I'll add to this post later.

Actors include Drew Roy,  Haley Webb, Shane Coffey,  Jason Momoa,  and Cary Elwes.

Here's the trailer.  says the movie opens December 9, 2016, so we're a week ahead of the opening.

Film plays at 7pm.  Bear Tooth.  This is a pricey film - $25, while the others are $8 - but it's the opening night, a bit of a fundraiser for the festival, and there's a party after.   And the filmmakers and cast members will be on hand.  The price is waived for this gala if you buy a film festival pass ($120).

Random Notes: Origins of Hogwash, Tracks On Snow, Warm Young Fingers, And Überzeugen

Notes I've made in the last couple of days.  None is long enough for a post on its own.  

1.   I noticed that a few people have been finding their way to my post on the origins of hogwash in the last few days, but I didn't really take notice until I got this one:

(Yes, you do leave lots of tracks when you surf the internet.  Some people leave more tracks than others.  This is just part of what you leave.  Proxy servers help hide your tracks and there are other ways that probably will become more important in the future when government and other tracking will become more problematic.)

2.  Wow! The Alaska Dispatch News has a new online viewer and the pages don't randomly skip from here to there as I try to scroll down the story.  Now they scroll smoothly up and down like every other page.  Good move, about time.

3.  What a joy when your 3 year old granddaughter takes your hand in her warm soft fingers as you walk down the street.

4.  I was enjoying the wonderful resources for translation online these days while working on a synopsis of an Austrian film - Planet Ottakring - that's in competition at the Anchorage International Film Festival.  While I was checking my choice of the word 'eager' (not quite right) for überzeugt when this sentence popped up which seemed very appropriate for the times.

A number of sites now give lists of sentences with the word you are looking up so you can see how it's used in different contexts.   From

überzeugen [überzeugte |überzeugt ] {v.i.}
to satisfy [satisfied|satisfied] (be convincing) {v.i 
Example sentence:
Ich entscheide hiermit, dass die Abstimmung zu überprüfen ist, damit sich alle davon überzeugen können, dass das Ergebnis tatsächlich so ausgefallen ist. 
Translated sentence:
My decision is that the vote will be checked in order to satisfy everyone that that indeed was the result. 
5.  We got back last night from Seattle in time to see that our housesitter had nicely cleared our driveway of snow.  With a south facing inclined driveway, it's helpful to keep snow from building up. Otherwise, with vehicle tracks in the driveway pressing down the snow followed by freeze and thaw cycles, we get a treacherously icy driveway that is tricking to walk up and down.

This morning we woke up to about four new inches of snow.  I like shoveling snow and so I did before J drove off to do errands and left compressed snow tracks in the driveway.  It was still snowing  - almost like drizzling salt size pellets - so after I got the driveway and sidewalk and around my car in the street, there was a thin dusting of new snow.  I swept away some of it.  What you see on the right is the track J left on the swept and not swept snow.

6.  The Anchorage International Film Festival begins tomorrow night at the Bear Tooth.  My tab at the top left under the orange heading organizes all my posts on the festival and what's happening.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

AIFF2016 Documentaries In Competition Tibetan Nomads, Tuvan Throat Singers, Slanty Eyed Mamas, Thai Boxing, And Those Ruby Slippers

Here are the documentaries in competition with descriptions below.

Docs in CompetitionDirectorCountryLength
Best and Most Beautiful ThingsGarrett Zevgetis USA 90 min
DrokpaYan Chun S China 79 min
Goodbye Darling, I’m Off to FightSimone ManettiItaly,Australia, United States  73 min
SHU-DE!Michael R Faulkner United States85 min
Happy Lucky Golden Tofu PandaCarrie Preston United States 75 min
The Slippers Morgan WhiteUSA min
The Cinema TravelersShirley Abraham India min

Best and Most Beautiful Things
Garrett Zevgetis
90 min

Tuesday December 6, 2016 5:30pm - 7:30pm *** Warning - one showing only!!

From the film's website:
"In 2009 director Garrett Zevgetis googled the word “Beauty.”
He had been working on a number of darker-themed documentaries and was determined to find an uplifting story for a future project. The search returned a poignant Helen Keller quote that led Garrett to Perkins School for the Blind outside Boston, a renowned institution where a feature documentary had never before been made. He began volunteering at Perkins. On the last day of his scheduled term, a bubbly student introduced herself – Michelle had found him.
BEST AND MOST BEAUTIFUL THINGS is a celebration of outcasts everywhere, following a precocious young blind woman who disappears into quirky obsessions and isolation. With humor and bold curiosity, "

The Cinema Traveler
Shirley Abraham
96 minutes
Thursday December 8, 2016 5:30pm - 7:00pm **WARNING - Just one showing

This film debuted at Cannes last May where it won a Special Jury Prize.  This seems to be one not to miss.  I did get see some films shown in rural Thailand on a sheet across a dirt road in Thailand in the 60s, it wasn't quite what this film seems to be documenting.  The annual visit by the Chinese opera troupe probably was more like this.  From the reviews, it sounds like the film captures the excitement of these events.

From a much longer article at the Guardian:
"In Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya’s understated documentary, we’re given intimate access to a unique experience: two travelling cinemas that travel across rural India sharing films with people who would otherwise have limited access. It focuses on the lives of the men who put the show on the road, faced with a changing medium and a demanding audience.
Shot over five years, we follow a set of men with different key roles in the process of the two companies. There’s the easygoing manager trying to provide for his family while on the road, the 70-year-old projector mechanic whose weathered hands have helped bring the joy of cinema to thousands and the many serious-minded cineastes who work around them."
From the Hollywood Reporter:
"The traveling cinema world, mostly based around Maharashtra, the vast state whose capital is Mumbai, has been bringing the magic of the silver screen to remote villages for some 70 years. Setting up tents in rural fairs that often are several hours from anything even approaching a local multiplex, the screenings draw hundreds, who line up to see the latest Bollywood hits, old Hindi classics and even the odd dubbed Hollywood title.
But it’s a tradition that is nearing extinction. "There are very few of these cinemas left," says Shirley Abraham, who together with her co-director Amit Madheshiya, has spent eight years tracking those remaining in the industry for The Cinema Travelers, screening in the Cannes Classics sidebar on May 15. 'It has been petering out over the years. I don’t think they’re going to survive the march of time and technology.'"

The film's website's press page has lots and lots of links to articles about the film.
The video below features a discussion with the film makers talking about the film. The video isn't great. I haven't found a trailer.

Screenshot from Dropka trailer

Yan Chun Su
79 minutes

Saturday December 3, 2016 2:00pm - 3:30pm 
Anchorage Museum
Saturday December 10, 2016 12:00pm - 1:30pm 
Alaska Experience - SMALL

The site only lists three other festivals in addition to AIFF so we're some of the first people to see this film.  From their website:
"DROKPA (Nomads of Tibet) is a portrait of the lives and struggles of nomads on the Eastern Tibetan Plateau. Through intimate individual stories, the film reveals the unprecedented environmental and sociopolitical forces that are pushing the nomads to the edge of their existence. "

Goodbye Darling, I’m Off to Fight
Simone Manetti

Wednesday December 7, 2016 8:00pm - 9:30pm 
Sunday December 11, 2016 2:00pm - 3:15pm 
Alaska Experience - SMALL

The trailer of this Italian movie is in English with Italian sub-titles. The trailer has the title in English, Italian, and Thai.  It's about boxing.  And that seems to be confirmed in the English description I found at DocsMX:
"After a painful break-up with her boyfriend, Italian actress and fashion model Chantal Ughi discovered that Muay Thai was the only way to confront the violence she suffered as a child. She went to Thailand to train for four weeks, but ended up living there for five years—training and fighting, becoming stronger than a man."

Happy Lucky Golden Tofu 
Carrie Preston
75 min

Saturday December 3, 2016 1:30pm - 3:00pm 
Alaska Experience - SMALL 
Saturday December 10, 2016 6:00pm - 7:30pm 
49th State Brewing Company 

Where do I start this?  There's a duo called Slanty Eyed Mamas.  I'll let their own words from their website explain:
Thoroughly modern, urban, sexy sounds from the very fresh, street infused Asian-American duo that always causes a stir...You've never seen anything quite like it--part hip hop, part rock, part electroclash, from two rock n roll asian chicks. Slanty Eyed Mama sees the world through the searing electric violin and beats of virtuoso Lyris Hung and the iconoclastic rants from Kate Rigg, aka. Lady K-Sian. Kate is also a Juilliard trained actor/playwright and a well known comedian, who has been on Fox's Family Guy, 2 seasons of the Dr. Phil show where she talked about the Asian American Experience to 5 million people, and has toured extensively as a stand up comic. Electric violinist Lyris Hung is also a Juilliard graduate who also has a metal band called HUNG, tours with The Indigo Girls and has played with Jay Z, Bono, Quincy Jones, and many others."
And the movie?  On her website, Kate writes about the movie:

"In addition to keeping busy with theater and TV work, 2016 sees the release of the thoroughly original, mind bending, but gusting, comedy music and spoken word mashup film Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Tie Fun Fun Show- The movie. Shot on location in New York and directed by Emmy Award Winning actress Carrie Preston. The movie captures the downtown New York spirit with live portions filmed in an East Village Club, with musical numbers and sketches blown up and shot on location throughout the City. It examines the "East meets west experience" ways in which we see "Asian-ness" in the West through culture, media, commodities and familiar images-- Hello Kitty, Nail Salons, Chinatown bargain shopping, Pokemon, bowl cuts. Kate's Stand up weaves the show together, with sharp observational, political and outrageous out-there jokes."
 It premiered in New York in June, but I can't find much except their own promotional stuff.  Eclipse Magazine mentions it in passing when discussing what people will find at the SOHO film festival:
"intriguing oddities like Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show" 
Here's the teaser.

Michael R Faulkner
85 min

Saturday, Dec 3, 2016: BearTooth 6:00 PM Sunday, Dec 11, 2016:Alaska Exp - SMALL, 
4:00 PM

I remember first seeing live Tuvan throat singing 20 or 30 years ago at the Fly-by-Night Club in Spenard.  It's other-worldly.  So this one piques  my interest.

From the Shu-De website:
"Khoomei (hoo-may) or Tuvan throat singing, is an ancient vocal tradition originating in the remote Republic of Tuva, which is located in the center of Asia in Siberia, and now, part of the Russian Federation. Considered to predate modern linguistics, Khoomei, involves a remarkable technique for singing two or more pitches simultaneously. The sounds are said to come from the land and harmonize with nature itself. The Alash Ensemble are masters of this vocal art and have been touring the world, sharing their music with other cultures, for years.
Shodekeh, a beatboxer and vocal percussionist from Baltimore, with a vision for creating an "oasis of unity through musical collaboration," has spent his life mastering new sounds and using them, while fostering seemingly unlikely collaborations. SHU-DE! is the story of what happened when these artists came together, utilizing their common instrument: the voice and body."
The Baltimore Sun did a profile of the film maker, Michael Faulkner.  Here's a snippet from it:
" . . .The resulting film, "Shu-De!" – Tuvan for "Let's go!" — was one of the crowd favorites at May's 18th Maryland Film festival, where it had its East Coast premiere (its world premiere was a few weeks earlier, at the Nashville Film Festival). Its mix of local interest and exotic locales, not to mention its haunting melodies, proved a crowd-pleaser of the first order. It's since screened at several other festivals, and will be going on a seven-city tour in October
"It's amazing to see your work on a big screen — especially me being a cinephile, someone who loves movies and story in general," says Faulkner, a freelance location manager and film producer who moved from Kalamazoo, Mich., to Baltimore in 1998. 'I was really happy to notice — it's a real movie. It's there; it stands up on the big screen.'"
There's something very film-festivalish about this film, and I mean that in the best possible way.

We don't learn much about what the film is about in the trailer, but we learn a lot about what it feels like.

The Slippers

Morgan White
90 minutes

Saturday December 3, 2016 4:00pm - 6:00pm 
Anchorage Museum 
Sunday December 11, 2016 12:00pm - 1:30pm 

Alaska Experience - SMALL

From Letter Box:
"THE SLIPPERS pulls back the Wizard’s curtain on the unbelievable story and cultural impact of Dorothy's Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz.  Through first-hand accounts and archival interviews, THE SLIPPERS will detail the life of the Ruby Slippers after their sale at the famed 1970 MGM auction. Discovered by costumer Kent Warner, it is unclear how many pairs were found and how many pairs exist. That mystery has only helped to propel the shoes to the forefront of the Hollywood memorabilia market. They have been bought, stolen, and coveted by many. They are considered the most important piece of Hollywood memorabilia and the catalyst for the creation of Hollywood memorabilia collecting."
From an interview with director White at Hammer To Nail:
HtN: So how about access? Did you have any issues there, interview-wise, or footage-wise?
 MW: Footage-wise wasn’t so hard. I spent a lot of time trying to collect stuff. So I became very obsessed with the idea that I should collect as much of the material that’s in the film as possible, because I’m making a movie about collecting. So a lot of the things that are in there come from 16mm prints that I bought, on eBay, or on the black market of 16mm-print collecting. Or I bought magazines and newspapers and articles and…whatever I could find on eBay. So in terms of that stuff, it was just me spending time looking for it. Access-wise, for interviews, I mean, everybody was pretty great. Michael Shaw, who was one of the owners of the shoes, he was a little bit complicated to get, because he’s a little bit complicated of a person…
From the interview, it's clear this is movie is about collecting movie memorabilia, not just the Ruby Slippers.

Monday, November 28, 2016

AIFF 2016: Features In Competition

Features are full length fictional films.  Films in competition are those chosen by the original screeners to be eligible for awards.

  • a list of the super shorts in competition
  • list of the programs where they appear and when
  • description of each super short in competition in alphabetical order

I'd note that while these are the screeners picks, screeners don't always agree, so some would have chosen other super shorts as the best.  I often disagree with the screeners, but this is a good start.

Features in CompetitionDirectorCountryLength
Attila Szász
Donald Cried
Kyle Martin
First Girl I Loved
Karem Sanga
Carlos G Vergara
Planet Outtakring Michi Riebl
Youth in OregonJoel David Moore

Attila Szász

From Huniwood (Hungarian Film Festival Berlin):
"In January 1914, a horrific murder shocked the city of Budapest. Elza Mágnás, a famous courtesan, was strangled and her body thrown into the icy waters of the Danube. The film which is based on a true story chronicles the last four days of Elza’s life through the eyes of a naive maid, portraying Elza’s complex relationship with her housekeeper, her sugar daddy and her young lover. (HFM)"
 Director Szász's The Ambassador To Bern won the best feature at the 2014 AIFF.  It was an excellent film and I'm sure this one will be a contender this year.  I did a Skype interview with Szász then and part of it was about this film.  I'll try to edit it to focus on Demimonde.  But it's in sections with transcript so it is easy to find.

Here's what he said two years ago:
"Q: What's the new film about?
The assassination of a famous courtesan….Years ago that shook up the entire city of Budapest, everybody was talking about it because the courtesan was very famous, everyone knew about her and they were shocked because someone famous was getting murdered.
Q:  Was that before or after the Arch Duke got shot?
It’s before.  It takes place in January, so it’s maybe a couple of months before the assassination [of the Arch Duke].  It’s a style piece.  It’s the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy.  So it’s very difficult to recreate the era, because we have to start from scratch, the costumes, the props, set, everything.  And we have so little money again, but I just couldn’t refuse this chance because the script is again something I love very much.  I was warned, do you remember the first time you had to shoot in 17 days with so little money, you suffered and you were frustrated, and you want to do it again?  I said, yes, because it’s a good script and we have now, nineteen days so it’s two more days, - piece of cake - probably it's a bit longer,  the story. so it’s very difficult to shoot again, but hopefully next time we’ll have the backing of the film fund and we’ll have maybe three or four times the time and money, because it’s normal that Hungarian films are being shot in 35, 40, maybe 45 days and we had less than 20 both times."

Donald Cried
Kyle Martin

From the Donald Cried website:
"Peter Latang (Jesse Wakeman) left working class Warwick, Rhode Island to reinvent himself as a slick, Wall Street mover and shaker. Fifteen years later, when he's forced to return home to bury his Grandmother he loses his wallet on the trip. Stranded, the only person he can think of to help him out is his next door neighbor and former childhood friend Donald Treebeck (Kris Avedisian). Donald hasn't changed a bit, and what starts as a simple favor turns into a long van ride into their past."
And interesting point from the director's notes from the same link:
"For me specifically it had a lot to do with the guilt of how I treated people in high school and the guilt I carried with me.  Jesse and Kyle  (co-writers) come from the same really small town in Northern California and brought elements of their experience going home. All the Rhode Island elements, the people the neighborhoods, were very specific to my experience growing up there in the 80's."

Donald Cried from Groove Garden on Vimeo.

First Girl I Loved
Karem Sanga

From Variety:
"Anne (Dylan Gelula, from Netflix’s “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”) is a mildly quirky 17-year-old who lives with her single mom (Pamela Adlon) and exercises her arty side as photographer for the school yearbook. It’s in the latter capacity that she encounters softball-playing senior star athlete Sasha (Brianna Hildebrand), and is instantly smitten. "

Image also from Barranquilla
Carlos G Vergara

I was trying to find something on this film more than just the Bear Tooth blurb, but there isn't a lot out there.  I suspect this is pretty close to what the Bear Tooth says in English.  From Festival Internacionale de Cines Barranquilla
"Sinopsis:  Tati  y  Pedro  llevan  una  vida  rutinaria  hasta  que  él  amanece  convertido  psicológicamente en un niño. Buscando la cura Tati lleva a Pedro a donde él vivió su infancia,  allí Pedro se reencuentra con su familia y a ninguno reconoce, en cambio juega y es feliz como  cuando realmente era niño. Después de que su madre lo ve en una de sus crisis decide revelar  un secreto, esto hace que Tati lleve a Pedro a seguir las huellas de su padre. Encontrarlo para  que haga catarsis es la última esperanza."
Again, you can get this in English at the Bear Tooth link.

Screenshot from outtake on Planet Ottakring's website
Planet Ottakring
Michi Riebl

Bear with me on this one.  This some interesting background that will add depth to your understanding of the movie.  I couldn't find a good English description for this film, so I started with the German synopsis from the film's website:
"Eine Krise zieht ihre Kreise um den Planet Ottakring: Disko, der letzte Pate stirbt, Frau Jahn, Kredithai vor Ort, übernimmt die Macht. In dieser Situation gerät die Wirtschaft des Bezirks ins Strudeln. Sammy ein junger und nicht sehr überzeugter Kleinganove, aber Erbe Diskos, ist gezwungen zu handeln. Valerie – Wirtschaftsstudentin aus Deutschland – gerät im Zuge ihrer Masterarbeit ins Zentrum des Geschehens. Gemeinsam mit Sammy und seinen Freunden bilden sie eine Allianz gegen die heimtückische Vorgangsweise von Frau Jahn und finden dabei ein Wirtschaftssystem, von dem eigentlich alle profitieren können. Wären da nicht auch noch Gefühle mit im Spiel. David gegen Goliath in Wiens 16. Bezirk!"
Here's my translation with some help from internet dictionaries.  I was still a little uncertain, but checked with an Austrian friend, who confirmed I'd gotten the gist and then I was able to tweak it into more idiomatic English.
"A crisis erupts in the Viennese neighborhood of Ottakring.  Disko, the last godfather, dies.  Mrs. Jahn, a local loan shark, takes power.  The economy of this district then goes to hell.  A younger, and not very eager minor hoodlum, Sammy,  Disko's heir, is forced to act.  Valerie - a business student from Germany [it's an Austrian film] - while working on her masters thesis, finds herself in the center of the action.  She builds an alliance with Sammy and his friend against the malicious approach of Mrs. Jahn and through this finds an economic system in which all can profit. If only there weren't feelings coming into play.  David and Goliath in Vienna's 16th district."

Poking around with my sketchy German that is certainly no match for Viennese dialect, I did discover that the movie's ideas go back to an experiment in the 1930s in a place called Wörgl where they had a "money-experiment" to deal with the desperate economic situation.  This comes from a post about the film when it was shown in Wörgl.  

I did also find something on this in English at
"One of the best-known applications of the stamp scrip idea was applied in the small town of Wörgl in Austria in 1932 and 1933.  When Michael Unterguggenberger (1884-1936) was elected mayor of Wörgl, the city had 500 jobless people and another 1,000 in the immediate vicinity.   Furthermore, 200 families were absolutely penniless.   The mayor-with-the-long-name (as Professor Irving Fisher from Yale would call him) was familiar with Silvio Gesell‘s work and decided to put it to the test.

He had a long list of projects he wanted to accomplish (re-paving the streets, making the water distribution system available for the entire town, planting trees along the streets and other needed repairs.)  Many people were willing and able to do all of those things, but he had only 40,000 Austrian schillings in the bank, a pittance compared to what needed to be done.
Instead of spending the 40,000 schillings on starting the first of his long list of projects, he decided to put the money on deposit with a local savings bank as a guarantee for issuing Wörgl’s own 40,000 schilling’s worth of stamp scrip.   He then used the stamp scrip to pay for his first project.   Because a stamp needed to be applied each month (at 1% of face value), everybody who was paid with the stamp scrip made sure he or she was spending it quickly, automatically providing work for others.   When people had run out of ideas of what to spend their stamp scrip on, they even decided to pay their taxes, early."
The post goes on to say it was so successful that other Austrian towns wanted to copy it and the Central Bank clamped down.  They were sued, but the Austrian Supreme Court backed the bank and these schemes became criminal.

From the first post above, the writer also says that director Michi Riebl says that the Ottakring district no longer has the gangsterism in this form.

Image from

Youth in Oregon
Joel David Moore

There's something here for everyone.  Youth in Oregon is the directorial debut for Avatar actor (Dr.Norm Spelling), Joel David Moore.  It takes place in Oregon with acting greats like Frank Langella and Billy Crudup.  There's  Married... with Children's Christina Applegate and  Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman's Mary Kay Price.

From the YouTube description:
"When 82-year-old curmudgeon RAYMOND Ingersol tells his family that he has made arrangements to be euthanized in Oregon, his daughter KATE is determined to stop him. But when another family emergency arises, Kate’s husband BRIAN finds himself with the unlucky task of driving his father-in-law from New York to Oregon AND convincing the crotchety old man that he doesn’t want to die. The problem: Brian hates Raymond. And with Raymond’s wino wife ESTELLE tagging along for the journey, it’s just in-laws and the open road for the next 3000 miles."

Variety reviews don't pull punches.  But they aren't looking for film-festival flicks, as the last line of this quote suggests:
"Rarely has euthanasia seemed more desirable than it’s made to appear in “Youth in Oregon,” a torturous saga about a man dying of an incurable heart condition who sets out on a cross-country journey to Oregon, where killing oneself is legal. Maudlin and mannered, this contrived indie squanders another fine late-career performance from Frank Langella, dousing its treatment of the subject in affectations until it’s snuffed out any trace of genuine life. While it fits comfortably into the fragmented-family drama subgenre prized each year at the Tribeca Film Festival, its groan-worthiness is apt to get it buried at the box office."
But here's from a more sympathetic reviewer.   Mary Kay Place on her character from The Mary Sue   answering the question, "Did you feel their marriage had gone through a change before the film started that altered their dynamic?"
Mary Kay Place: I did, and I think that’s when she became a heavy drinker. Because he was withdrawing and becoming angrier and more isolated. And that was infuriating to her, because I image them being a solid couple and had been true partners. And that partnership started dissolving as he became more isolated and cranky. Well, I think he’s always been cranky, but now he’s become crankier than ever. And it’s been difficult on my character, because she felt as if she’d lost her partner before he died. He had already slipped away.

There's a note on this YouTube video - "This video is unlisted. Be considerate and think twice before sharing." - but this seems an appropriate place for it and I can't find any easy links where I could ask for permission. I can't find a website or FB page for this film.

**Screenshot from IMDB

Let me get this up so I can start on the Documentaries in Competition.  I don't usually get more than a few of these up each year as a preview.  Let's see how far I can get. I'll also try to add the times and locations for each of the film showings.   This one went pretty easily until I got to Planet Ottakring which took a while.  This looks like a solid group of films and there's still a bunch more other Features, many of which I'm sure are going to be well worth watching.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

AIFF2016: All The Other Films In Competition

Generally, I've got posts on the films in competition for the major categories up this close to the festival opening, but only the shorts and super shorts categories have had those films 'in competition' marked on the AIFF website.  So I checked today and got the lists.

I'll put up fuller descriptions of each category's films in competition in the next few days, or at least as many as I can.  Shorts and Super Shorts I've already done.  For now, here are the lists:

  • Demimonde (Hungary)
  • Donald Cried (USA) 
  • First Girl I Loved (USA)
  • Heredity (Columbia) 
  • Planet Outtakring (Austria) 
  • Youth in Oregon (USA) 

Documentary Shorts
  • I’ll Wait Here (Austria) 
  • Pickle (USA) 
  • Starring Austin Pendleton (USA) 
  • The BlindSide (India) 

Feature-Length Documentaries
  • Best and Most Beautiful Things (USA)
  • Drokpa (China)
  • Goodbye Darling, I’m Off to Fight (Italy) 
  • SHU-DE! (USA)
  • Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show (USA)
  • The Cinema Travellers (India)
  • The Slippers (USA) 

  • Murderous Tales (Czech Republic)
  • Green Light (South Korea)
  • A Space in Time (France)
  • Adija (USA)
  • Alike (Spain) 
  • Arrival: A Short Film by Alex Myung (USA) 
  • Hum (USA) 
  • Just Like it Used to Be (USA) 
  • My Life I Don't Want (Myanmar) 
  • Pearl (United Kingdom, USA) 
  • Red (Iran) 
  • Under the Apple Tree (Netherlands) 

  • Alaska's Mind-Blowing Aurora
  • Find Me
  • I am Yupik
  • Interior
  • Speaking from the HeART
  • Super Salmon
  • Il Campione (The Champion) (Italy)
  • Like a Butterfly (USA)
  • Thunder Road (USA)
  • My Mom and The Girl (USA)
  • Gorilla (USA)
  • Curmudgeons (USA)

  • How To Lose Weight in 4 Easy Steps (USA)
  • Death$ in a $mall Town (USA)
  • 20 Matches (USA)
  • A Reasonable Request (USA)
  • A Magician (UK)
  • On Time (USA)