That Girl in the Yellow Boots (2010)
Amid the modest fanfare and opening night regalia, That Girl in the Yellow Boots opened the AFF with its just below the radar buzz and resilient independent spirit. Ruth (played by Kalki Koechlin, who also co-wrote the script) is a British citizen who has come to India to find her Indian-born father who left when she was five. Already months into her mission to find a man she has no picture of and little memory, Ruth has submerged herself in the culture by learning Hindi and taking a job as a masseuse where, for extra money, she give handshakes or happy endings or whatever other euphemisms there are for a hand job. She takes her profession in stride with a savviness that is unexpected, but, in contrast, is far too gullible to the ways of her drug hound boyfriend. And perhaps this is the biggest flaw with That Girl in the Yellow Boots, Ruth is too much of an idealized emotive chameleon. Perfectly naive and perfectly confident, she is somewhat impenetrable as a character. On the other hand, as much as the film acquiesces to embracing independent film conventions with a very personalized story sans glamour, it also thankfully kicks expectations for warm fuzzy conclusions out the door. The finale for Yellow Boots is extremely bold if not a little over-the-top. Gritty and uncompromising, That Girl in the Yellow Boots gets slightly muddled in its subplots, but eventually settles into an engaging ride.
Open Season (2010)
Mark Tang and Lu Lippold
In November 2004 a horrifying story emerge from the woods of northern Wisconsin: a hunter had shot eight people killing six of them. But the real horror had yet to sink in. This was no accident and it was no random act of violence. The shooter was Chai Vang, a Hmong man from St Paul, Minnesota who had been hunting in Wisconsin. When another hunter discovered him on his property in a tree stand, Vang was asked to leave. Meanwhile the hunter went back to his hunting camp, told his friends about the incident and eight of them on three ATVs headed back to the sight to confront Vang. These facts, once they settle in, produce a terrifying situation of conjecture both for Vang and events that led to six deaths. Mark Tang and Lu Lippold's incredibly brave documentary of this incident resurrected all the dread and sadness of the story that was so sharp six years ago: dread of society's ability for blind hatred and sadness for the seemingly irreconcilable divide of race. At the time, I was living in the Frogtown neighborhood of St Paul, with a large Hmong population, and the incident weighed heavy on everyone. You could feel it in the atmosphere. Open Season maintains an even hand with a very volatile subject, interviewing family and residents on both sides of the story. From the haunting testimony of Vang in what happened that day to the heartbreaking confessions from family members of the people who were killed, not to mention the disturbing images from when the hunters were first found, the footage powerfully resonates long after the lights go up. Chai Vang represents a tipping point for a much larger problem of institutional racism and extremely dangerous circumstances involving conflict within the hunting culture (read: people who carry guns.) Directors Tang and Lippold hope to get the funding necessary to submit the documentary on PBS. Open Season will screen again on Sunday, November 14. Keep your eye on the AFF site for times.