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Thread: San Francisco International Film Festival 2018

  1. #16
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    I AM NOT A WITCH (Rungano Nyoni 2017)

    RUNGANO NYONI: I AM NOT A WITCH (2017)


    MARGARET MULUBWA IN I AM NOT A WITCH

    Captive child

    [CAPSULE REVIEW]

    Witches attached to long white ribbons, and a girl who wishes she had chosen to be a goat. It was shot in Ghana and concerns Zambian stories of witches confined to limited spaces, centered upon a nine-year-old.. The director, a woman, was born in Zambia and raised partly in Wales. The film combines satire and surrealism and has a mercurially expressive young star, Margaret Mulubwa. It was shot by David Gallego, dp of Embrace of the Serpent. This feature film debut introduces a vibrant new talent with a distinctive vision.

    I Am Not a Witch, 92 mins., debuted at Directors Fortnight at Cannes 2917, and has been shown in nearly 40 international film festivals. Screened for this review as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival, Apr. 2018. Film Movement will release it.

    SHOWTIMES SFIFF:
    Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. at Roxie Theater
    Friday, April 13, 2018 at 8:15 p.m. at YBCA Screening Room
    Saturday, April 14, 2018 at 5:30 p.m. at BAMPFA
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-19-2018 at 09:12 PM.

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    THE OTHER SIDE OF EVERYTHING (Mila Turajlić 2017)

    MILA TURAJLIĆ: THE OTHER SIDE OF EVERYTHING/DRUGA STRANA SVEGA (2017)


    SRBIJANKA IN THE OTHER SIDE OF EVERYTHING

    Personal and political

    The Serbian filmmaker Mila Turajlić had good reason to turn her camera on her mother, Srbijanka. And on their Belgrade apartment. Both are full of modern Slavic history. Back in the day, it was a handsome, spacious place. But one day many years ago, during the long rule of Marshall Tito, when Srbijanka was only a child, a woman in leather representing the communist party came, and divided it up. The Party thought the bourgeoisie was taking up too much space. Srbijanka is a big woman in slacks with cropped hair and glasses. She has a husky smoker's voice and a cigarette is rarely out of her hands. She speaks fluently, with good humor. She is the welcome and articulate spokesman of this professional "home movie."

    During the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Mila's great-grandfather had settled his family into a space of about twenty-six-hundred feet. It was posh, and located on the second floor of a building in the same part in the middle of Balgrade as embassies, the Supreme Court, and the Ministry of Defense. roughly 2,600-square-foot space on the second floor of a building in a Central Belgrade neighborhood that was also home to the Ministry of Defense, the Supreme Court and foreign embassies. No wonder the communists didn't like this one family occupying so much space! The family knew when they were being observed from the other apartments by click sounds of spy holes.

    They gave sections of the apartment to three or four other families that were sectioned off. This is the wall, these are the walls, that "everything" is on "the other side" of. The family managed to hold onto plans of the apartment, on which Srbijanka shows where the divisions were made. The remarkable thing is that the family remained in a central part of their apartment and remain there to this day. It still looks large. This is a family of dissidents. Srbijanka tells that her lawyer parents advised her not to go into the law to avoid being repressed. You're good at math, he said, so do that. And she married a married a professor of applied mathematics, studied electrical engineering and became a professor of physics. But she was still a dissident and she was still repressed. She want to Paris in '68 to participate in the student protests.

    The university of Belgrade became a center for protests against Slobodan Milošević of which the Turajlić family and their apartment were a busy part. Mila weaves interviews with her mother and friends with archival films and photos to tell the story of the politics of the decades from Tito to today. Her mother was active in the Otpor! civic protest organization, and it becomes clear that she was a powerful orator, and speaks in public with authority even today. We get a glimpse of the time of Yugoslavia, and the events since, including the Serbian nationalism which Srbijanka, who has said it is her duty to remain in the country, is still vocal in opposing. An example of living history, this provides useful background on the Serbian civil war. Of course those on the other side won't approve, and there is a Citizen Review on IMDb that trashes this film. But it's an enjoyable film that will send those interested to the history books to fill in further background on Srbijanka's personal account.

    The Other Side of Everything, 100 mins., debuted at Toronto Sept. 2017, receiving more attention at IDFA in Amsterdam - the VPRO IDFA Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary. In about a half dozen other festivals, with numerous Best Documentary nominations. Screened for this review as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival, where it is a nominee for the Golden Gate Award.

    SFIFF SHOWTIMES:
    Tuesday, April 10, 2018 at 6:30 p.m. at Roxie Theater
    Wednesday, April 11, 2018 at 8:40 p.m. at BAMPFA
    Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 12:45 p.m. at Creativity Theater



    LOOKING AT "THE OTHER SIDE"
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-11-2018 at 08:00 PM.

  3. #18
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    WAJIB (Annemarie Jacir 2017)

    ANNEMARIE JACIR: WAJIB (2017)


    MOHAMMAD AND SALEH BAKRI IN WAJIB

    Culture clash: Palestinian abroad vs. Palestinian at home

    This film (whose title means "Duty" in Arabic) opened theatrically in France Feb. 2018 as Wajib: Invitation au mariage, receiving fair reviews (AlloCiné press rating 3.5). Libération (Marcos Uzal) said : "The film's strongest element is the marginal one, its way of suggesting by little touches the deepest and most profound tensions." Indeed. Thus the overheard Arabic radio news in the opening frames, as a Palestinian father and son, the protagonists, head off in a car, the old family Volvo, in which we learn later the son learned to drive.

    "Following complaints," the speaker says, "the Ministry of Transport has agreed to remove Arabic announcements from public buses."Luckily for Mohammad and Saleh, they have their own transportation. Later an announcement comes of lumber shipments cut off from Gaza, barring reconstruction after the latest siege. All just routine. Sounds of the city, of Palestinian life, but nothing original, and a bit heavy-handed.

    The son, it appears, is taking the wheel of his father's car. Evidently he hasn't seen him for a while, asking him if he still fishes, and if he's been smoking. There is a distance of information, and of understanding. And yet there is intimacy, the intensity of a close, cherished culture that Saleh knows well but lives outside of now. He can be an idealist. His girlfriend's father was a member of the PLO. He refuses to take an invitation to an Israeli official of the school where his father teaches, who he says is a government spy, and controls the school's life. But his father has to get on with the system - and says this man is a "pal." If he's going to become headmaster, he must invite Robbie. It's a "duty," in his sense - one of the many things that must be done to survive and preserve the cohesion of the local society and of his life.

    But this is just the beginning. This is a picture of restrictive Palestinian society, and a clash of generations, especially when the younger one has lived abroad, in Europe. Saleh, in Italy now, is only there for the wedding of his sister Amal (Maria Zriek), and it's Christmastime. (Most of the local community seen is Christian.) They are going around, "the Nazareth way," delivering the invitations by hand one by one, so this becomes a very local road trip. His father is a teacher, and might be promoted to headmaster, but he reinforces conservative customs at every turn.

    Everything that could go wrong does, but very quietly. They hit a dog, and Mohammad rushes away. It's dangerous not to, especially if it's an Israeli dog. They park in someone's way, and the car is vandalized, with a nasty note. Some drivers get into a street fight and Mohammad jumps out to stop it, and Saleh rescues him. The mood seems ugly. People are testy with each other. There's no solidarity. Surely there is not, here, the gentle humor of Elia Suleiman, the Jacqaues Tati or Jean Renoir of Palestinian Cinema. Jacir comes off as a more bitter chronicler, though, being a woman, also a more homely one.

    It turns out Saleh's mother ran off years ago to another country, for another man, and that man is now dying, so she may not be able to come for the wedding - another humiliation for the family. It turns out the invitations have been misprinted, with the right date but wrong day of the week, and the printer refuses to reprint them. They must correct them all by hand.

    To a certain extent this is about Saleh, and his discomfort becomes ours. He is the reactive one. And his reactions are almost continually, to various degrees, uncomfortable. There are things he misses, the food, the warmth, maybe even the language, but he could never really live here now. People want Saleh to come back and get married here and his father pretends to all they meet that this is a possibility. It's not going to happen, but they don't want to see that. This is part of Saleh's discomfort, that his point of view is simply not accepted or listened to. Even his look isn't acceptable. He has long hair tied back in a man bun, rose pants, and a pink shirt. He's a designer. Or is he an architect? But his father has told one relative, a doctor, that Saleh went into medicine, lying to please him with the thought that he was an influence, and still doesn't correct this lie. Anyway, nobody understands. Most assume Saleh has gone to America. One woman when he says it's Italy smiles and says, "Ah! You know languages!"

    Now, there's a question if the wedding will even take place. Deep down Mohammad disapproves of it being in the winter and would like to postpone it till his wife's husband, who he detests unseen, dies, and till the summer, "when normal people get married." Well, things turn out alright, sort of.

    The film's weakness and limitation is that it focuses on the clashes between father and son to the exclusion of much else. But these two actors, Mohammad and Saleh Bakri, who really are father and son, and these finicky details, ending in a grand argument between the two men, may be conventional and obvious, but still can be enlightening, and sometimes even heartbreaking. By defining the differences between a Palestinian who has stayed at home and one who has gone to live abroad, the film, written as well as directed by Annemarie Jacir, may define what Palestinian life is as well as any film you're likely to see.

    واجب WAJIB 96 mins., debuted at Locarno 5 Aug. 2017, and was in at least 40 other international festivals in 2017 and 2018. It was screened for this review as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival, Apr. 2018. Pyramide International is the distributor. Full review posted 5 Aug. 2018, the one-year anniversary of the film's Locarno debut.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-05-2018 at 01:18 AM.

  4. #19
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    GARY WINOGRAND: ALL THINGS ARE PHOTOGRAPHABLE (Sasha Waters Freyer 2018)

    SASHA WATERS FREYER: GARY WINOGRAND: ALL THINGS ARE PHOTOGRAPHABLE (2018)


    GARY WINOGRAND

    American eye

    [CAPSULE REVIEW]

    Gary Winogrand was the preeminent New York "street photographer" of the years from midcentury to the Eighties. He was fast, prolific, and messy, and such is his extraordinary work. In this short film we get a sumptuous feast of his photographs (not necessarily organized to best show off their compositions and themes or to illustrate the best of them), with many opinions and recollections from gallerists, museum people, and a few (perhaps not enough) photographers, plus a couple of ex-wives. Not the best introduction, perhaps, but something, and long overdue, since he died in 1984, at 56.

    Gary Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable, 87 mins., debuted at SxSW and won the Jury Prize there. Included in the US public TV American Masters series, it was screened for this review as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival.


    AN ICONIC PHOTO BY GARY WINOGRAND

    SHOWTIMES SFIFF:
    Saturday, April 14, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. at SFMOMA
    AT RUSH
    Sunday, April 15, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. at BAMPFA
    AT RUSH
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-13-2018 at 01:20 PM.

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    MINDING THE GAP (Bing Liu 2017)

    BING LIU: MINDING THE GAP (2017)


    KIERE IN MINDING THE GAP

    Filming best mates: skateboarding and open heart conversations

    [CAPSULE REVIEW]

    Three guys growing up in the failing blue collar town of Rockford, Illinois are Bing Liu, Asian, who is the filmmaker, following for five years himself and his two best friends, fellow skateboarders Zack, who's white, and Kiere, who's black. All seem to have had abusive fathers, and find in each other and skateboarding family that was lacking. Sometimes, skillfully filmed, they skateboard away the pain. Bing must get his mother to talk on camera about how his stepdad beat both of them as he grew up. Zack marries Nina and has a kid called Eliot, is a roofer who drinks and parties too much, turning abusive. Kiere's father dies, which breaks him up, and he works as a dishwasher, wondering about having white friends and feeling trapped in this dead end town.

    With this limited raw material Bing fashions something that is a portrait of skate passion, father-son issues, male irresponsibility, a disadvantaged community, and intimate film-making as therapy, among other things. The film is raw and scattered and yet somehow healing, touching, and brave.

    Minding the Gap, 93 mins. Mentored by Steve James and distributed by Kartemquin Films, was created at Sundance for the PBS POV series. It debuted at Sundance Jan. 2018 and showed in six other festivals. It as screened for this capsule review as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival, Apr. 2018. Longer revivews will be found in Roger Ebert.com, Indiewire, Hollywood Reporter, and Village Voice.

    SHOWTIMES SFIFF:
    Friday, April 13, 2018 at 9:00 p.m. at Creativity Theater
    Saturday, April 14, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. at BAMPFA
    Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at 8:45 p.m. at Roxie Theater
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-16-2018 at 12:18 AM.

  6. #21
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    GODARD MON AMOUR/LE REDOUTABLE (Michel Hazanavicius 2017)

    MICHEL HAZANAVICIUS: GODARD MON AMOUR/LE REDOUTABLE (2017)


    LOUIS GARREL, STACY MARTIN IN GODARD MON AMOUR

    A film not clever enough for its subject

    Michel Hazanavicius is noted for his pastiches of films - the one made up of reimagined bits of old silents, The Artist, did very well - though his earlier pastiches of a French James Bond, "OSS 117" never made it to anglophone audiences and his stab at seriousness, a story about Chechnya, The Search, bombed.

    This time he's back to the semi-serious mode with a film about Jean-Luc Godard and Anne Wiazemsky, the very young actress he was briefly married to in 1968, based on Wiazemsky's memoir about this experience. Godard, with Anne, participates in the May Paris student strikes and they go to the Cannes Festival, which is cancelled. The young demonstrators scoff at the director, and he eventually breaks up with Anne. Louis Garrel and Stacy Martin look great and are quite adequate as Godard and Anne.

    What is Hazanavicius trying to do here? Well, pastiches again, this time of the stylistic devices of Godard's most brilliant early pictures, and of course of his mannerisms and looks. Garrel is a good sport, and gets a slight chance to show off his gift for comedy, being uglied-up to look like Godard, and imitating his odd way of speaking. A mildly amusing tone of passive-aggressive homage is maintained. But it is surprising how uninteresting a movie about such people and such a time could be. Hazanavicius is good at pastiches and there are plenty of those . But that's all there is. There was a great deal more to this man and this time than what gets into Hazanavicius' film. What's glaringly absent is the brilliance of his subjct and the importance of the times.

    Godard is still alive, and when he said this film was "a stupid, stupid idea," he was not far wrong. Assuming (which is doubtful) this film needed making, Godard himself would have been the one to do it.

    Godard Mon Amour/Le Redoutable, 107 mins., debuted at Cannes May 2017; 19 other festivals. Screened for this review as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival. US theatrical release 20 Apr. Metascore 67%. Released in France Sept. 2017, AlloCiné press rating a fair 3.5,lacking favorable comments from any of the hip journals.

    Maybe the always contrarian critic Armond White had a point in his review in saying that for younger people who don't know Godard, this, though a bad movie, will at least have the virtue of arousing their interest in his genius. That's exactly what he says in his <a href="https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/04/movie-review-godard-mon-amour-terrible-but-important/">National Review piece</a>. The film came to US theaters (Quad Cinema in NYC) 20 Apr. 2018 and will tour Landmark Cinemas. It comes to the UK 11 May.

    Originally reviewed as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival.

    Quoted from A.O. Scott by Mike D'Angelo on Letterboxd: "Godard, for better and for worse, is a cinematic thinker, someone who has tried, over the course of a prolific and contentious career, to locate the philosophical potential and the intellectual essence of the medium, to make it a vessel for ideas and arguments as well as for stories, pictures and emotions. Mr. Hazanavicius is the opposite: an unmistakably skilled maker and manipulator of images and styles with nothing much to say and no conviction that anything needs to be said at all."


    ​SHOWTIMES SFIFF:
    Saturday, April 14, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. at Victoria Theatre
    Sunday, April 15, 2018 at 8:15 p.m. at BAMPFA
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-04-2018 at 10:23 PM.

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    RBG (Julie Cohen, Betsy West 2018)

    JULIE COHEN, BETSY WEST: RBG (2018)


    RUTH BADER GINSBURG IN RBG

    Dynamo

    [CAPSULE REVIEW]

    While you're waiting to see this film you can watch the hour-long interview with RBG by Nina Totenberg at Sundance in January: click.

    An extraordinary woman, Brooklyn daughter of working class immigrants, for 25 years a Justice of the US Supreme Court, appointed by Bill Clinton. Her husband, Marty Ginsburg, met in law school at Cornell, was everything to her, and her greatest support and inspiration. In her early years as a lawyer, after law school with a small child, brilliant and ferociously hard working, she achieved milestone decisions before the Supreme Court, defining equal rights for the sexes. This is an admiring homage and review of her career. Notable: her warm friendship with the extreme right wing Justice Scalia, showing a capacity to ignore politics person to person and promote the collegiality of the Court. Now, at 84, criticized by some for not retiring during Obama's Presidency so a young liberalreplacement could be appointed, she affirms she will keep her pledge to work as long as she is able. AT the age of 84, Ginsburg has created a breathtaking legal legacy for feminism and equal rights.

    RBG, 97 mins., debuted at Sundance Jan. 2018, nine other US film festivals. Screened for this review as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival. In US theaters from May 4, 2018. Current Metacritic rating 81%.

    SHOWTIME SFIFF:
    Saturday, April 14, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. at Castro Theatre
    AT RUSH
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-14-2018 at 04:32 PM.

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    HALF THE PICTURE (Amy Adrion 2018)

    AMY ADRION: HALF THE PICTURE (2018)


    AVA DUVERNAY IN HALF THE PICTURE

    Report from a sexist, misogynistic industry - that governs the culture

    [CAPSULE REVIEW]

    A documentary that considers the question of why there are so few women movie directors working in Hollywood. It emerges that they they have taken their cas to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and that it has, after considering the matter, brought charges against all the major studios. This film is nothing but a string of talking heads - all women, or at least no men - and they tell many of their stories of internalized prejudice and external obstacles. Sexual harassment (rape, sexual coercion) is a relatively minor issue for them. These are directors. They have encountered such a level of prejudice that, though some of the best directors are clearly women, only a miniscule percentage of the skin in the game is from women.

    Half the Picture, 95 mins., debuted at Sundance Jan. 2018, also at SxSW. Screened for this review as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival, Apr. 2018

    SOWTIMES SFIFF:
    Saturday, April 7, 2018 at 12:45 p.m. at SFMOMA
    Monday, April 9, 2018 at 5:45 p.m. at Creativity Theater
    Monday, April 16, 2018 at 1:30 p.m. at Victoria Theatre
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-14-2018 at 10:20 PM.

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    TIGRE (Ulises Porra Guardiola, Silvina Schnicer 2017)

    ULISES PORRA GUARDIOLA, SILVINA SCHNICER: TIGRE (2017)



    Tropical decadence

    Compared, for good reason, to Lucrecia Martel - but the Latin Americans in general have a knack for decadent atmosphere - this debut film by the couple, Ulises Guardiola and Silvina Schnicer, delivers a heady, sensuous but surreal gabble of people and place. The scene is a boarded-up island family estate in the semi-tropical Argentinian Tigre Delta, a musty house revisited by three generations, there to decide whether or not to sell the property. Or, in the case of the young, to hang out, to flirt, and to play strange, menacing sexual-ish games. The roar and hum of developers, it it said, can be heard upriver. Unfortunately, as you can clearly tell in the first five minutes, there's going to be more mood than plot. This is a bit strange, because the issue of whether they must sell, and if they can do so advantageously, is such a clear-cut one. But the tropical heat makes people lazy, and obstreperous, and the wine flows, as well as the whisky.

    As the family navigates their relationship to their home and local kids engage in forbidden games, various interpersonal conflicts that arise lead to a powerful crescendo that will make up for all the meandering: the filmmakers have admitted they have thrown together multiple stories, evidently with an aim to create a pleasing complexity, the mystery of the real, with resolution far from anybody's mind most of the way (which fits Martel's Zama rather well too).

    I refer the reader to Jessica Kiang's Variety review from San Sebastián, an impressive effort in which she describes Tigre in lush and appreciative detail. The main thing is that the film sketches in the separate action of the matriarch and younger women, her quietly adversarial, covertly hostile son (he wants to sell the property, she insists it "non se vende," is not for sale), while the younger people meander around playing their jeux interdits. The frazzle-haired Rina (Marilú Marini) is sixtyish, but there's life in the dame yet. She tells her friend Elena (María Ucedo) about a recent mating she's staged in a motel, though it didn't go well, and she ditched the app, and lost or broke the phone, it's not clear which. The son is Facundo (Agustín Rittano), whom Kiang calls "middle-aged," though he doesn't look that old; no doubt he's still a player too. His and Rina's conversations are clear, but always at cross-purposes. Elena's daugher Sabrina (Magalí Fernández) is around, with best friend Meli (Ornella D’Elia) and the gawky but cute Estebán (Tomás Raimondi). As a contemporary note, some of the young people have tattoos and piercings. Here in the wilds, these play-tribal markings look more serious.

    As Variety points out, a local boatman's preteen daughter is the center of attraction for a gaggle of smaller younger boys, whom she dominates "with primal 'Lord of the Flies'-style wildness." But of course Lord of the Flies is all boys, and this whole scene, old to young, has sex in the air. Also menace, as Estebán finds a cache of weapons that used to belong to Facundo, including a brace of hand-crafted spears and a big powerful sling that he hastens to use to down some poor bird. A feral-seeming boy from the village covets them. And one boy apparently is becoming paralyzed. The varied, meandering population wallows in sensuality, while some menacing practical boom waits to be lowered, a decisive step to be taken, as in a play by Tennessee Williams.

    Some of this celebration of sensuality seems borderline implausible. If this house is so remote and boarded up, how did they got all this food and drink in, a whole goose, free-flowing wine, and how come everything, such as the fridge, works so well? But the filmmakers weave the increasingly menacing atmosphere so well, and the dp Ivan Gierasinchuk uses sweaty closeups with such vivid effectiveness, we rarely stop to question, merely holding our breath, as things get tenser and crazier, as the owls hoot and the crickets whir, for the inevitable violence, from whence it will come, we know not. (There is rarely music, mostly a satisfying wealth of ambient sound.) In the end, the mood and plot catch up with each other, and this accomplished first film justifies its meandering with its richness.

    Tigre, 91 mins., debuted at Toronto Sept. 2017, also San Sebastián, Atlanta, Fribourg, Miami, East End and others, and screened for this review as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival, Apr. 2018.



    SHOWTIMES SFIFF:
    Friday, April 13, 2018 at 8:30 p.m. at BAMPFA
    Saturday, April 14, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. at Roxie Theater
    Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at 1:30 p.m. at Victoria Theatre


    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-20-2018 at 12:33 AM.

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    THE WHITE GIRL (Jenny Suen, Christopher Doyle ( 2017)

    JENNY SUEN, CHRISTOPHER DOYLE: THE WHITE GIRL (2017)


    ANNGELA YUEN IN THE WHITE GIRL

    Al allergy to vigorous filmmaking?

    A girl who has always been told she is allergic to the rays of the sun.

    "White Girl is a more focused and conventional film than Doyle’s Hong Kong Trilogy, which Suen produced, but it is still much more concerned with mood and vibe than crass plot points. Without doubt, we can see its aesthetic kinship with some of the classic Wong Kar-wai films he shot. It is a quiet, lulling film. . ." -J.B. Spins (Joe Bendel).

    Lulling is right, as in putting to sleep. This is a misfire attempting to bring together misfits and present somewhat obvious allegories about Hong Kong, once a crowd of fishing villages, with its focus on a fishing village and a young woman who lonogs for her mother (the old UK connection, get it?). A young woman whose supposed sensitivity to sunlight keeps her sheltered except at night. One night she goes out and encounters a young Japanese man, Sakamoto (pop star Joe Odagiri) who is living in an abandoned historic tower "which houses a camera obscura that captures village life and projects it onto a decaying wall" (Screen Daily).

    Also wandering round is a street kid called Ho Zai (Jeff Yiu) who sells mosquito coils with a singsong chant. He lives with a mute Buddhist monk with the hobby of fashioning Rube Goldberg devices. It is all shot in pale foggy blue. Those who think the visuals at times evoke Doye's cinematography for Wong Kar-wai in the great days of their Nineties collaborations are imagining things, though of course, Doyle is incapable of making uninteresting images. It's just the nonexistent, meandering story and terminally low-keyed quirkiness that are a bore. It is strange that Suen and Doyle returned to Hong Kong after both being long away only to produce such an anemic effort

    Conversation with Jenny and Chris: click.

    SFIFF SHOWTIMES:
    Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 9:00 p.m. at Creativity Theater
    Monday, April 16, 2018 at 6:15 p.m. at Victoria Theatre





    JENNY SUEN AND CHRISTOPHER DOYLE
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-17-2018 at 10:20 AM.

  11. #26
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    THE BIG BAD FOX & OTHER TALES ( Patrick Imbert, Benjamin Renner 2017)

    PATRICK IMBERT, BENJAMIN RENNER: THE BIG BAD FOX & OTHER TALES/LE GRAND RENARD MÉCHANT & AUTRES CONTES (2017)



    [CAPSULE REVIEW]

    Whoever thinks that the countryside is calm and peaceful is mistaken. In it we find especially agitated animals, a Fox that thinks it's a chicken, a Rabbit that acts like a stork, and a Duck who wants to replace Father Christmas. If you want to take a vacation, keep driving past this place. French hand-drawn animated doesn't really bring anything too negative into the picture. It's notable for its lightheartedness and intentional simplicity.

    The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales/Le grand renard méchant & autres contes, 83 mins., debuted as a work-in-progress at Annecy; about a dozen other international festivals, including the San Francisco International Film Festival, where it was screened for this review.



    SHOWTIMES SFIFF:
    Sunday, April 8, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. at Castro Theatre
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-16-2018 at 05:10 PM.

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    CITY OF THE SUN (Rati Oneli 2017)

    RATI ONELI: CITY OF THE SUN/ბერლინი) (2017) მზის ქალაქი



    A fading mining town in Georgia poetically examined

    Oneli lived in New York for years, then came here to Georgia, made this cool, elegiac documentary, and has remained. The city of Chiatura once was a major supplier of the world's manganese; no more. It is a big empty shell. The film moves around with a cool eye following a few people. Much distinctive use is made by cinematographer Arseni Khachaturan of middle-distance and long-distance shots, and editing where camera position changes but continuity of sound and dialogue is never lost. This craftsmanship belies an editing style that shifts subjects with ironic randomness.

    Some What do they do in the mine? How many buildings are empty, abandoned? men are still working in the mine. From a toast declared, they are still dying there. One miner performs in a local amateur theater. A music teacher, frustrated with his ten or twelve year old boys, performs songs for adults, and the rest of his time tears up a building to get the metal wiring that he sells to support himself. A phone call shows it keeps getting stolen. Two girls train as distance runners for the Olympics. They are promising athletes, but money needs to be raised to feed them: they are getting only one meal a day.

    The camera observes these things, and dreary celebrations in partly abandoned buildings, with a distant, patient eye.

    In one particularly fine shot the camera is twenty or thirty feet away from a large square window. Inside we see young girls at a party, dancing back and forth, perfectly framed. Sometimes the camera, still, simply observes a landscape, an overgrown mine hillside, or a crossroads in a sudden heavy rain. Or people traveling on what seems rickety public transport. It follows the music teacher to a former "Ministry of Communications" that is now just a shabby hall, where men and women, dressed up a bit, or the women anyway, joke, eat, drink and dance and get drunk, while he sings for them a song of his own composition, which they ignore. They say loud goodnights outside, and inside, the musician sits at the big table and consumes their leftovers. You can't make things like this up, and normally, you can't capture them on film.

    See the discussion in Cinevue, and a live interview with Oneli (not as revealing as it might have been) in Fred. This film may feel stingy or disjointed to the casual viewer, but it contains the fruits of extraordinary patience and a distinctive vision. A dreamlike adventure in a nowhere wonderland of bygone mysteries. Stay around for the men drinking in an abandoned mine place by the golden light of an open fire toward the end clinking glasses to a "Grey world, grey century, grey town. Amen."

    The title comes from an early utopian work by the Italian Dominican philosopher Tommaso Campanella, written in Italian in 1602, shortly after Campanella's imprisonment for heresy and sedition "A Poetical Dialogue between a Grandmaster of the Knights Hospitallers and a Genoese Sea-Captain, his guest." The closing end-quote it provides to the film is "They are rich because they want nothing, poor because they possess nothing, and consequently they are not slaves to circumstances, but circumstances serve them."

    City of the Sun/მზის ქალაქი (Mzis kalaki), 104 mins., debuted at the Berlinale, and was shown in six other festivals, including the San Francisco International Film Festival, where it was screened for this review. There, it received Special Jury Mention, McBaine Documentary Feature. The jury granted this mention to Oneli’s film 'for its stunning use of cinematography and sound design that immerses us in a place that is at once stark and stirring."

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-16-2018 at 04:44 PM.

  13. #28
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    THE NEXT GUARDIAN (Arun Bhattarai, Dorottya Zurbó 2017)

    ARUN BHATTARAI, DOROTTYA ZURBÓ: THE NEXT GUARDIAN (2017)


    GEMTO AND TASHI SHARE A LAUGH IN THE NEXT GUARDIAN

    Family misfits at a Buddhist monastery in Bhutan

    The filmmaker pair closely follow their subjects for a while, then leave them with all up in the air. We meet the goofy dad, blessing people for money with a giant phallus and dancing clumsily with a mask. He runs a family inherited Tibetan Buddhist temple-monastery in Bhutan and he and his wife have two grown kids. We see them, Gyemto, the son, and Tashi, the daughter, joyously playing and training in soccer ball-handling. They gossip together about girls, which both are interested in, and they are on Facebook.

    Dad wants Gyemto to attend monk training and take over the temple with more religious education than he had time to get, but he must finish studying in English school too; his mother sagely advises that people need English now, and he would need it to take foreign visitors around. We follow Tashi, who, as dad says, has long had "the soul of a boy," to girls soccer camp where she expects to get chosen for the national team.

    Tashi does not get chosen. Dad takes Gyemto to the monastery where he wants him to train. It sounds grim. At this point, Gyemto stops talking to his father. And the father rattles on in a sort of singsong voice, with many gestures. No pressure, but if you don't do this, our patrimony will be taken away from us by the Buddhists or the government. But do what you want. No wonder Gyemto doses off that evening, as the drone goes on. But while he shuts down, he does not actively rebel and has told Tashi that if told to go to the monastery, he will do so.

    Gyemto and Tashi still are best mates, still look at girls together. She begs him not to go to the monastery because then she will be alone. But at film's end, it's all up in the air.

    This is another example of a documentary where the filmmakers have done a skillful job, mostly, of completely concealing that they are there, or hidden from us how much they may have influenced events. Congrats to everybody for not looking into the camera. But one feels a little cheated in more ways than one, though the scenery and settings are colorful and beautiful and the siblings are cute. Often documentaries fall into more or different things happening than they bargained for. This time less seems to happen than might have been expected. In a way this is novel and it takes a certain courage for the filmmakers to sit with it. But maybe they should have sat longer.

    The Next Guardian, 85 mins., debuted at IDFA, also playing at Five Flavours, Budapest International Documentary Festival, True/False and the SFIFF, as part of which it was screened for this review.


    GEYEMTO AND HIS FATHER IN THE NEXT GUARDIAN
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-17-2018 at 01:24 PM.

  14. #29
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    THE RESCUE LIST (Alyssa Fedele, Zachary Fink 2017)

    ALYSSA FEDELE, ZACHARY FINK: THE RESCUE LIST (2017)



    Slavery still exists

    Slavery is alive and well and practiced in various forms and venues. Studied here and vividly depicted by the recently formed San Francisco anthropologist-filmmaker team of Fedele and Fink is what happens on Lake Volta in Ghana, the largest man-made lake in the world. Boys are sold by poor families to work on fishing boats here, presumably short-term. But they often seem to disappear, and regularly remain slaves to their fisherman masters for years.

    First we meet Kwame, a former slave himself, who goes around on the lake, by boat or to remote villages, demanding that boys be given up. Surprisingly, Villagers and fisherman
    do listen to reason. Then Kwame takes the boy to a secret rehabilitation center called Challenging Heights were they live for a year with other boys and go to school, which whether they are 14 or 18, may be for the first time. The center searches for their families, who have to swear they will never let them go again, on pain of jail.

    We meet several newly rescued boys. Edem longs for his friend Teye to be rescued too and it happens. Peter was sold at age three and not rescued till he was 18. Steven is sad and can't function. Kwame takes him to the water for a healing ritual. He seems to feel survivor guilt for another boy who died diving to untangle the fishing nets in the murky waters, a common occurrence. We can see the damage and hurt in these boys, their estrangement from normal life and from education.But we also see beautiful smiles, fresh faces, and health. The boys seem to thrive at Challenging Heights. It's like an orphanage whose members arrive with an unusually unified background experience. They eat plenty of food, play sports, watch TV, and, most of all, attend the center's school classes where they learn reading and writing and English.

    After the time is up we see a boy reintegrated with his family or, in one case, taken in by the village chief, who offers him the choice of that or living with his mother. He chooses the chief over his mother.

    Rarely has a film been so moving, simple, hopeful, and sad. Kwame and Challenging Heights are credited with rescuing 1,000 boys, but it's believed that 10,000 are currently slaves on the lake. It is a miserable life. They are beaten, worked and given no respite, and may drown.

    The Rescue List 78 mins., debuted at the San Francisco International Film Festival, where it was screened online for this review. Also in the Full Frame, DocLands film festivals. See review by Dennis Harvey at San Francisco for Variety.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-16-2018 at 09:17 PM.

  15. #30
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    SULEIMAN MOUNTAIN/SULEIMAN TOO (Elizaveta Stishova 2017)

    ELIZAVETA STISHOVA: SULEIMAN MOUNTAIN/SULEIMAN TOO (2017)


    PERIZAT ERMANBETOVA IN SULEIMAN MOUNTAIN

    About a boy - or two

    A rare film made by an outsider, Russian filmmaker Elizaveta Stishova, in Kyrgyzstan, about a boy and shifty parents who reclaim him from an orphanage, then go on a road trip enacting various con games. Uluk (Daniel Daiyrbekov), who has a dour, astonished face, is more circumspect than the gypsyish "family" he gets saddled with, but he knows he's fortunate too. He gets to travel, and they buy him a toy helicopter.

    Uluk's father, Karabas (Asset Imangaliev), is a charmer in his floppy-haired way, tall, with mustachios, in need of a haircut when, after an exorcism, they're flush enough to buy him a nice suit (which he doesn't seem to pay for). He frightens and then awes Uluk, then smashes his helicopter, childishly playing with it by himself.

    The boy also has to contend with two wives. His mother, Zhipara, is a middle-aged woman who looks plain but does flashy exorcisms and other rituals. The pretty young wife, Turganbyubyu (Turgunai Erkinbekova), is pregnant, and emotional. Zhipara is uneasy, and has to make sure Karabas stays hooked to her in more ways than one.

    One incident or village scene follows another as they travel around in an ancient East German truck, scamming money that Karabas hastens to throw away. The incidents are full of authentic local color. But they don't have quite enough dramatic meat on them. Fellini or Emir Kusturica might have done more with this potentially rich material. Here, the characters don't matter enough, particularly not enough attention is given to the little boy. And Karabas isn't ever quite awful enough so that we can enjoy forgiving him. But the road trip flavor is captured.

    Much of the action is shot on location in and around the mystic World Heritage Site of the Suleiman Mountain in Osh, Kyrgyzstan.

    Suleiman Mountain, 101 mins., debuted at Toronto Sept. 2017 in the Discovery section; also Palm Springs Jan. 2018; screened for this review as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival, Apr. 2018. There was a meetup watch and hike for the Sat. date.

    SFIFF SHOWTIMES:
    Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. at BAMPFA
    Friday, April 13, 2018 at 5:30 p.m. at YBCA Screening Room
    Saturday, April 14, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. at Roxie Theater



    DANIEL DAIYRBEKOV IN SULEIMAN MOUNTAIN

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-17-2018 at 04:34 PM.

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