SIFF 2014: (The Good), the not bad and the Ugly

SIFF 2014:

Part 1: The Good–Four awesome movies (reviewed in last post)

Part 2: The Not Bad–Movies that had both flaws and redeeming qualities:

Five Star

This is a slice of  life in the projects. It is about a gang leader who wants to get out of “the biz” (dealing drugs) and a teen whom he tries to bring into the gang. It was decent, didn’t blow me away, but what is amazing is that the

The excellent leads in 5 Star
The excellent leads in 5 Star

actors are nonprofessionals who are playing fictionalized versions of themselves. So  James ‘Primo’ Granta former gang leader, for example, plays the gang leader in the movie. His acting is stunning. Afterwards Keith Miller, the writer/director. answered audience Q’s about what the actors are currently doing, his methodology (went to the projects in Brooklyn and interviewed people), and what the projects are like. One member of the audience asked what happened at the end of the movie. Unfortunately the question was justified. The director, however, did not answer the Q because he wanted viewers to draw our own conclusions. But the ending is way too ambiguous.

America Ferrera gets her sexy on
America Ferrera puts her sexy on



Written and directed by Ryan Piers Williams, who also stars in this movie, alongside America Ferrera (The Sisterhood of the Traveling PantsUgly Betty), who is his wife in real life. They play a couple (unmarried) who break up and then explore their sexual options. The acting was fine, but the movie was a little dull; even the hookups and other sexual relationships didn’t hold my attention! The film seemed pointless until the Q&A afterwards with America Ferrera and Ryan Piers Williams. America F was very impressive. She is extremely intelligent and eloquent. What she said clarified what the movie is about.

If  I didn’t stay for the Q&A’s, would I have liked this movie? Probably not.

Attila Marcel

This film is about a piano prodigy who was brought up by his two pushy aunts after his parents died when he was a toddler. With the help of a quirky neighbor and her magic

Triplets of Belleville--Grandma
Triplets of Belleville–Grandma

potions, he begins to remember his parents and what they were like. It was a fun movie, but that might be because I loved one of the director’s earlier movies, The Triplets of Belleville. (director is Sylvain Chomet.)

The Triplets of Belleville is an animated movie in which the characters are drawn with quirky hyperbole. This movie is about a grandmother who takes care of her grandson after his parents died, which was when he was very young. He grows up to be a biker and is kidnapped in the Tour de France. There is no dialogue in this movie–we get to know the characters by their looks, facial expressions and actions–as well as by the movie’s score and color palate.

The characters in Attila Marcel look like the live versions of the animated characters from Triplets. The main character does not speak (everyone else does). But of course you get to know him and the others based on their appearances, actions and facial expressions and the music he plays. The  background comprises wildly bright colors.

Marcel Attila is  by no means as strong as Triplets–it doesn’t even compare–but I loved it. It was reminiscent enough of Triplets to entice me. Its plot, however, was too complicated for such a simple, light movie and it made the movie drag.

Stanley Ann Dunham
Stanley Ann Dunham

Part 3: The Ugly–Movies beyond help

Obama Moma

I am familiar with Stanley Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother, and her  philosophy and her many achievements. She  graduated from our local high school in the early 60’s and there is an annual scholarship given in her honor to girls in our high school. Maya Soetoro-Ng Obama’s sister, spoke at the awards ceremony last year.

Dunham was a pioneer for women’s rights world-wide. Among other accomplishments, she helped women in third-world countries (such as Indonesia) run their own businesses. The film was disorganized. It did not even focus on her life; instead it focused on the times in which she lived. With the exception of a college professor, most of the interviews did not shed light on her life. There were no interviews of President Obama (understandable) and his sister (not understandable).

I’m not sure whether the director finished the film; the quality was really poor.

Leading Lady

Exactly one week after I saw this South African film, I had already forgotten its synopsis, so I read about it on IMDB. Apparently it is about a British teacher who aspired to be an actress; she is cast as a South African character. So she goes alone to South Africa to get to know South African customs, language, etc. Her bus breaks down and she needs to stay on a farm and asks the peeps to teach her about South African culture. In exchange she will direct the annual concert put on by the local kids. This exchange of promises was not clear. There were many more holes in the plot.

There was a Q&A with Henk Pretorius, writer and director and one of the actors, Gil Bellows. Either the audience didn’t ask enough provocative questions or Gil Bellows was hogging the microphone so much that the Q&A was dull.

Last year, Pretorius brought Fanie Fourie’s Lobola to the fest last year. The movie was great and it won the “Golden Space Needle Award,”  in the Q&A afterwards, he was informative and fascinating.

Needless to say, we were very, very disappointed this year.

Part 4: Movie I wish I saw

Boyhood, coming out this July

bhThis is the darling of the film fest circuit. It is said to be groundbreaking and fabulous. It is about a boy’s life from ages 5 to 18. The director, Richard Linklater filmed the movie  in bits and pieces over the course of 12 years–the actors aged alongside their characters. (Linklater directed Before Sunrise, and its two sequels, School of Rock, and Dazed and Confused.)


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