Sunday, May 1, 2011

MSPIFF log 04.24.11

(I'm behind on my log. What are you gonna do.) Skipped another day at MSPIFF. In this case I missed 4/23 for a little softball training with my Ghost Monkeys (Minneapolis E League, look out!) and to give space for Meek's Cutoff which is likely going to be the best film I saw during the Fest that wasn't at the Fest. Here's what I saw on Sunday:

Position Among the Stars (2011)
dir. Leonard Retel Helmrich

Day 11
20th Film
(8/10) Recommended

A snap decision to check out this documentary set in Indonesia was a good one. Situating himself right alongside the fly on the wall, director Leonard Retel Helmrich gets more than a snapshot of Jakarta life. A girl graduates from high school, a boy steals some cloths, a grandmother takes her Muslim grandson to a Catholic church, a wife fries her husband's prized fighting fish, and an old woman escapes the hustle and bustle of the city. There is definitely more to Position Among the Stars than meets the eye. Buried under the personal stories is a framework of specific structure and rigorous documentarian formalism. Position is the third in a trilogy. I must see the others! (Check out the trailer linked above! People with vertigo beware!)

Street Days (2010)
dir. Levan Koguashvili

Day 11
21st Film
(3/10) Not Recommended

Ten years ago, when you bought a cake in China, you couldn't really be sure what you would get flavor-wise. The few times I did buy a cake, I made a point of asking if the cake was sweet or salty. Inevitably, the person behind the counter would excitedly say 'Both!' as if that would be the best answer. This is kind of the case with Street Days: does it have tragedy or drama or comedy? It has it all! Jarring suicides, apathetic adults, funny costumes, depressing situations and drug use! The mixing pot was a little too full on this one and I could not reconcile the lead character's inability to pull his shit together.

The Interrupters (2011)
dir. Steve James

Day 11
22nd Film
(8/10) Recommended

Steve James change the landscape of documentary film with Hoop Dreams 17 years ago. (Was it really that long ago?) It, along with Roger and Me, help shepherd a new era of US documentary films with a rich and vibrant representation of the potential power and populism of the medium. The Interrupters brings James back to Chicago to work with author Alex Kotlowitz in documenting the amazing work of "violence interrupters." A part of CeaseFire, these interrupters work to mediate violence on a street level. Needless to say, the stories and personalities are riveting. At 2 hours and 20 minutes (slimmed down from 2 hours and 40 minutes), the film is a completely engaging work. Picked up by Cinema Guild, this film will certainly make the rounds.

Who Killed Chea Vichea? (2010)
dir. Bradley Cox

Day 11
23rd Film
(7/10) Recommended

Short but concise documentary about the murder of a union leader in Cambodia. Look for it on PBS.

Small Town Murder Songs (2010)
dir. Ed Gass-Donnelly

Day 11
24th Film
(6/10) Take It or Leave It

An odd film set to chapters and murder songs that stars Peter Stormare and Martha Plimpton. Unassuming and strange.


YTSL said...

It's interesting to see from your blog entries some overlaps in offerings between the Hong Kong International Film Festival and MSPIFF... and also the non-overlaps.

Kathie Smith said...

Unfortunately The Ditch is not making an appearance. The Asian films programmed at MSPIFF are pretty uninspired, but that is my only major complaint. That's why I need to come to HKIFF!

YTSL said...

Hi again Kathie --

FYI, the HKIFF usually takes place around Easter (though this year, it was around Ching Ming). Start planning now! ;b