Sunday, March 10, 2013

QWFF 2013 Day 5: Local heroes

The Queens World Film Festival is a six-day event which showcases films from around the world at venues within the New York City borough of Queens. Throughout this week, I'll write about select films from the show. For more information about the festival, visit the website.

l saw nine movies yesterday and they were all outstanding. Forget whatever I said yesterday about burnout. Obviously I just needed to see these films.

At the Jackson, where films by New York-area directors were showing:

"The Feed"
The Feed and The Problem With Cloning Yourself are two tales of weird science. The former is set in a future where people's brains are hardwired into a computer network called "the Feed" and centers on a doctor who gets off on the sensation a little too much. Props and makeup, plus special effects and fancy POV shots of telemetry from the Feed sells the environment well, and the story is like something straight out of Phillip K. Dick or Rod Serling. The latter film is a more lighthearted story about a young scientist who clones himself, but his clones have ideas of their own about how they wanna live. It's a one-man show, and the star (unfortunately I don't recall his name and the film's not on IMDB) does just enough to make all the clones distinct from each other without being wildly different. The visual effects are seamless and convincing, and the story is funny.

Us and Them is more of a speculative fiction story, in which "Us" and "Them" are two firmly entrenched ideological groups that the protagonist is forced to choose from. The best part about this tale is that "Us" and "Them" can represent almost anything you want it to and it'll still make sense.

"528 New York"
528 New York and Sharp Love, Sharp Kittens are two jarringly different visions of New York life. The former deals with the everyday misunderstandings and miscommunications that often divide us when living in a place like New York. Remember that girl Jules I met on opening night? This is her film. In directing a multi-cultural cast (in three days, she tells me) and writing a multi-lingual script, this looks and feels like the New York I live in. The stories here aren't as simple as good-versus-bad, and we're left with no definitive answers as to who's right and who's wrong. Harsh? Yeah, but that's the world we live in.... The latter film is a comedy, but not without insights of its own. It's a father-daughter reunion between the working-class-joe protagonist and the hipster teen. In addition to a colorful cast of characters ("McJagger"??), it pokes fun at the new class of  Brooklyn hipster culture. Lotta laughs here.

Mosquito and Pablo on Wheels both center around African-American and Latino youth, again, from opposite ends of the spectrum. In the former, it's Halloween in the ghetto, 70s style, and the title character spends an afternoon and evening hanging out with his homies and trying not to let the older boys bring him down. The young cast of kids don't act so much as be. The colors really pop in this film, and the hair, the clothing, even the graffiti looks period-authentic! A Curtis Mayfield or Marvin Gaye soundtrack would be the icing on the cake, but the music used here is just as good. The latter film's title character is raised by his older brother after his parents were deported out of the country, and though the older brother tries his best to do right, the crowd he runs with can't help but lead to trouble for both of them. Very well acted all around.

And at the Renaissance Charter School, a pair of Irish movies:

"The Native"
The Native is about a dude who returns to his birthplace of Ireland to claim the ashes of his dead father, and reflects on his childhood with his taxi driver. This was done in Lars von Trier's Dogme 95 style, which basically emphasizes ultra-naturalism and real-world stories in its filmmaking. I wasn't aware there were directors who still practiced this style, but this film certainly follows all the rules, which are helpfully laid out for the audience prior to the beginning. The actors feel natural and relaxed and the story is good.... Return to the Sea is a documentary about a tiny Irish island community where they still speak the Irish language. Split screens, still images, archival footage, Malickian nature shots and more lend an air of timelessness and poetry to this beautifully-filmed doc.

9-for-9. Helluva day.


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