Beeswax (2009) directed by Andrew BujalskiFirst let's just do a mumblecore definition: Mumblecore, coined by Bujalski's sound editor, refers to films that are generally low budget and focus on personal relationships between twenty-somethings, improvised scripts, and non-professional actors. If you want a couple other cool terms to throw around, it has also been referred to as "bedhead cinema" and "Slackavetes." Examples are Bujalski's Funny Ha Ha, Jay Dupless' Puffy Chair and Joe Swanberg's LOL. Now that you have had the primer, I will admit that mumblecore is not my favorite genre...by a long shot. With all odds stacked against it, Beeswax actually won me over. Sometimes up-talking Austin hipsters that say "you know" more than me can be quite charming. The film is centered on twin sisters at different places, but very much connected. Some things happen, some things are resolved and some other things are unresolved. More than anything, these characters convinced me and I didn't spend the entire movie being painfully aware that they were non-professional. There are no more screenings of Beeswax at MSPIFF, but it will surely make it back to town. Recommended.
Letters to the President gives voice to the people of Iran. Just like the US, the views and politics across the nation represent a very diverse mix. Every year 10 million people write a letter to President Ahmadinejad, mostly asking for help. These letters represent an unbelievable faith in their President, but there are, of course, many who see no point. It's a fascinating snapshot with some pretty brilliant observations. I couldn't help but think about Roxana Saberi, and wonder how Lom didn't meet the same fate. Letters to the President screens again Friday, April 24 at 5:10pm. Recommended.
Helen (2008) directed by Joe Lawlor and Christine MolloySeeing a film like Helen is what the Film Festival is all about. Uniquely structured and emotionally taut, Helen left me pleasantly stunned. The point of departure is a tragedy we never see. Joy, a teenage girl, goes missing. In hopes of finding some clues from people who might have seen Joy, the police reconstruct her last day and film it. Helen, a reserved girl from Joy's school, volunteers to be Joys stand in. Both Joy and Helen are equally important to this film, but we know nothing about either one of them. In many ways we are discovering Helen at the same time that she is discovering herself. Some of the things Helen admits to are so painfully personal, that it invoked awkward laughs from the audience. The final scene offered a resonating punch to the gut. Tonight was the only screening of Helen. If this film comes back to town, do not miss it. Highly Recommended.