Monday, 25 July 2016

Film fest '16: Day One

Another year, another festival.

Missed the first week of the festival, so no Green Room review. Sigh.

Anyway. Day One was all ushering. To prepare I did no research on any of the films so you lovely people can get completely fresh takes on these movies.

Let's get into it.

The Road (Zhang Zanbo, 2015)

A fly-on-the-wall documentary about the construction of a new highway in central China, The Road is fascinating. As construction progresses, we follow a variety of different people affected by the massive project — from the people building the road to the people whose lives will be affected by it. 

From an elderly woman complaining about the lack of compensation for the damage to her house, to a local village trying to save their temple, the film does a good job of documenting the collateral damage of the highway’s construction. 

An eye-opening look at the people affected by such massive endeavours. It feels like the same kind of graft and corruption seen in 19th century America — people get rich, others get hurt, and those in power look the other way.

Because the focus is so broad, it does lose some steam in the middle, but overall, The Road is a warm, occasionally sad and funny ground-level view of one of the major political and economic powers of the 21st century.

Kate Plays Christine (Robert Greene, 2016)

A queasy mix of documentary and fiction, this movie tracks an actress attempting to get into character as Christine Chubbuck. Chubbuck is infamous for her on-air suicide in 1974 — an incident which inspired the classic movie Network. 

It’s been a day since I watched it, and I’m still not sure if I liked it.I admire its attempts to examine how we re-construct and remediate tragedy, but at the same time, its focus on the central character comes off as self-serving an pretentious. It may be the intention to juxtapose the harsh reality of Chubbuck’s life with that of the actress trying to play her, but it just doesn’t sit well. Despite the filmmakers’ efforts, it feels like they end up repeating the sins they are trying to skewer.

The final denouement is easy to predict, and just feels extremely contrived — you don’t feel like you’ve learned anything new.

It’s a strange, troubling movie, and I don’t think I liked it, but I would recommend it just on the basis that it feels like a good catalyst for a conversation about the issues the movie tries to tackle.

Operation Avalanche (Matt Johnson, 2016)

A by turns hilarious and terrifying mock doc about a pair of hapless CIA agents trying to fake the moon landing, Operation Avalanche was the highlight of yesterday’s screenings. 

No spoilers. Check it out for yourselves. 

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