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Favorites From IFFBoston

Rain, rain, rain…what great weather for sitting in the theater all weekend. The festival is now over and I saw about a dozen programs (it is not physically possible to see all films in a festival, I have discovered). Not surprisingly for an independent film festival, anti-commercialism was a clear theme in many of the films, one of which was my favorite from the festival–Jem Cohen’s fantastic experimental feature, Chain (other notables being Hal Hartley’s The Girl From Monday and several documentaries such as Deborah Koons Garcia’s highly upsetting The Future of Food). Chain hovers somewhere between documentary and fiction in a Sans Soleil-like essay-film set in the sterile locales of corporate chain hotels, shopping malls, and the interstate. One assumes the film takes place in one specific area, as it follows two characters and their movements throughout this seemingly lifeless space, but in possibly the most powerful intro to a credit sequence ever, Cohen reveals the list of shooting locales – dozens of cities all across the world. You’d never know it by watching the film, where each hotel, shopping mall, and stretch of highway looks identical. The two characters in the film, a Japanese businesswoman on a business trip in America, and a homeless teenager who squats in abandoned housing and spends her days wandering the mall, engage with no one and speak only in monologues to the camera or in voiceover. It’s the loneliest film I’ve ever seen. But also a very exciting one. I advise everyone to see it if you can.

Another of my favorites from the festival is I suppose anti-commercial in form if not explicitly in content. It’s Andrew Bujalski’s Mutual Appreciation. (It turns out that the main actress, Rachel Clift, is someone I know from grad school at BU. That was a surprise. Go Rachel.) This is a wonderful film about pretty much nothing – a bunch of twentysomething creative types do a lot of talking in New York. That’s pretty much the story. I want to compare it to Jarmush, but I daresay the acting is better than pretty much every Jarmusch film out there. It has a similar tone though (and was shot in black and white). I’d also compare it to Cassavetes, though there’s much less drama here than in most Cassavetes films. But these two are clearly influences for Bujalski, though the film is all his own. If I had to classify the film I’d say it’s a beat film. It’s about connections between people, both random and lasting, it’s about creativity, and community, and love and respect. I haven’t seen Bujalski’s first film, Funny Ha-Ha, but I have heard raves about it from all the right people, so I do plan to see it soon. It opens next week at the Coolidge, as a matter of fact, so I’ll definitely be heading over there at some point.

Then there were the obvious anti-conventional selections like the program of freaky Finnish experimental shorts, most if which were actually pretty conventional, I thought. The curator of the program warned us that there were two films that were extremely disturbing and difficult to sit through and said she’d understand if we walked out–I was bracing myself for animal mutilation or diarrhea-inducing low-frequency sonic effects but none of that appeared, and I never figured out which films were supposed to be so disturbing. Methinks she underestimated the tolerance of the Boston crowd. No one walked out.

Much more disturbing was Garcia’s The Future of Food, a straightforward documentary about genetic engineering of food and its effects on farmers, on health, and on the world. Possibly the most upsetting film I’ve ever seen. Monsanto comes across as a truly evil giant corporation which must be stopped, and the government its knowing accomplice.

More to come…

2 Responses to “Favorites From IFFBoston”

  1. George
    April 27th, 2005 | 5:23 pm

    a few points: yes i agree “future of food” felt like a horror film. I bought the DVD from the director after the screening. The last short “nichts” of the finnish experimental shorts program was definately disturbing in that it was extremely annoying.

  2. cynthia rockwell
    April 28th, 2005 | 4:48 am

    yeah nichts was annoying but not particularly original–when she warned us that anyone who was epileptic shouldn’t watch it, i knew it was going to be flicker-esque.