I'm starting the 2nd to last day of the Sedona Intl Film Festival and I for once got plenty of sleep last night since I made a successful effort to skip the nightly party.
In a few minutes I have to head off to a 9:30 film but I want to quickly mention something I realized yesterday: there is one thing that sort of in a way magically makes up for all the things I've been cynically and grumpily griping about for the last few days regarding the fest and film fests in general. The thing is THE FILMS THEMSELVES, or at least the cream of the crop of them, the few that really stand out and you see and you think, wow, that is one of the best films I've seen in a long time, or maybe ever, and I may have never seen it ever, because so many films in festivals never get distribution, never even get to DVD, or if they do they perhaps don't get the proper promotion and you never hear about them.
So I glad I'm here, namely for 2 films in particular that I have seen and really stand out: The Speed of Life by Ed Radtke and Selfless by the Pander Brothers - both of these film totally blew me away and made me happy to be here. And I should add that the Pander Brothers are from Portland (and are good friends of my Tucson pal Carl Hanni), and have been an absolute pleasure to meet and talk with at the various festival parties, and their film has lots of beautiful art direction and locations from Portland - but it's a sort of dark, soulless version of Portland, a critical vision of the yuppified, gentrified, "creative class" zones of Portland. And there's lots of great music and score by Portland music folks including Auditory Sculpture.
Neither of these film have distribution yet, but I pray that they will because you all need to see them!
Every night is literally a party here at the SIFF. Other than getting to bed later than is probably healthy, that and all the other fun and free stuff is mostly what it's all about, for me. From the start I never thought the festival would lead to anything particularly useful to me or my career - like "a big break" or something. My goal has been just to see some possibly good indie films and have fun and enjoy the food and hotel and stuff.
But it's funny how many people go through the hollywood-style motions of schmoozing and offering help and networking, like anyone you meet might have a phone number that will lead to your or your film's ship coming in.
Last night I met a local Sedona couple who, acccording to them, were making a new reality TV series called "The Truth" that will start airing on Fox this June. The guy, who is one of the hosts of the show and whose gregariousness borders on obnoxiousness, commented quietly to me at one point, "let's stop talking about work. Why is everyone working? There's no studios or distributors here that I've seen. Everyone's just jerking each other off." And it's true, as far as I could tell - there are no big companies represented here, waiting to offer deals or even hand out business cards with instructions to "call, let's talk." It's just a bunch of filmmakers gabbing to each other, and a few rich local businessmen and retirees who donated to the fest for a chance to pretend like their little festival is something important. For a chance to pretend that cool culture happens in their little slice of boring paradise. And it does, for one week, and only because they pay for it.
But it's not important. It's a 2nd- or 3rd-rate fest. Nothing will come from this festival for any of these filmmakers, other than another fest to put on a list of fests their film was in, whatever proto-friendships they make, and whatever lessons they may learn from the workshops, the panels, and watching each other's films.
For instance, today is the all-day documentary workshop, which is one of the main things I've been looking forward to. But I have no illusions that the fest will be any sort of boost for my film. It's a semi-fun little game to play, with full consciousness that that is really all it is.
Waking up early (I couldn't sleep even though I was up till 1-something AM) and taking a bath and seeing the sun rising over the famous red rocks, I do have to say a few more earnest words about being here at the SIFF. Not that I was totally joking about any of what I wrote last night.
But I want to say that I am happy to be here at the first film festival that I have been honored to be at as the maker of an official selection (I've been at others but as featured musician or panelist or just observer), and it's fun and it's great to see all these cool films for free, and go to the workshops and stuff. But there are still many annoying and ludicrous things about the festival and about film fests in general. The most annoying thing about this one so far, other than the logistics hassles of getting to and from my hotel, is that everyone I meet I have to say what my film is and tell them that it's a documentary, because in the "festival biz" or at least at this one, there are really only 2 categories: doc and drama - both modified by the adjectives "feature" or "short". But my film is NOT a doc. It's an advocacy film that I was paid, contracted, to produce by the Sierra Club.
So I feel a bit like a fraud every time I tell people, "oh it's a short doc about the border wall." I guess I should be more real and honest but then I have to spend all this time explaining it.
The other thing is that because of that not-in-category status, I don't even feel like the film should even be in the festival, at least listed as a doc, and I think the only reason it is in the festival anyway is because the guy hired by the Sierra Club to promote the film has a friend that works for the Fest. And this is what pisses me off about festivals in general - it's really about who you know, and who you are, and not about your film.
Anyway, off to breakfast and then our first screening, and then a day of seeing other films. Hopefully i'll get a nap in at some point.
I'm not sure what the definition of "live-blogging" actually is and I'm too tired to look it up, but I'm going to just claim that that is what I'm doing right now even if it might not be really true (after all what is truth?). I'm in Sedona, Arizona, for their film festival, the 15th annual. I have a film in the festival, Wild Versus Wall,
and I have a computer that's on the internet and I'm posting something to my blog. Right now. Boo-ya!
And it's way later than I usually am awake so I'm going to keep this short and in list form. Grumpy, snarky observances I will now make about this festival: 1) as I tweeted a few hours ago, Sedona is really just a big ugly strip mall, painted in tasteful earth tones, surrounded by beautiful nature that would be a lot more beautiful if the town were not there; 2) Our schwag bags that the festival gave out contain many wondrous ads and products, including not 1 but 2 containers of something called "coconut water" - which tastes like if you mixed a few drops of really spoiled milk into 6 ounces of tepid tap water. Mmm. 3) I really hate fast-talking hollywood types but sometimes it's hard to tell from a distance which people they are; 4) They put me in a nice hotel with a nice view of "the red rocks," and under the red rocks is a nice view of a new hotel they're building in the mud down by the river. It's beautiful; 5) said hotels (mine and the one down in the mud) are 2 miles from where all the festival is happening, and there's no shuttle or other transit between. And taxis cost $10. Yes, to drive 5 minutes, 2 miles. I assert that this is inconsiderate. 6) Did I mention the strip mall? Yes, even the theater, a Harkins multiplex, where the festival is happening, is literally in a strip mall. 7) the cost of taxis and soul might be offset by the money I save on the special VIP dinners, which doubtless are a 10 dollar value (20 if you're in Sedona). 8) Festival director Patrick Something stated in Red Rock Tourist Trap Ragazine that the festival's "dark" film to "light" film ratio is down somewhat to 50/50 this year, compared to the usual 70/30. Is this a race thing, Patrick? No, he says it's beacause people have been "challenged" in the last year. Yay lightness! Yay lightness and beauty!
Anyway, back to you, Joe. I'll be here all week, snarkblogging live from the SIFF. Stay tuned.
P.S. I think I might have at least the 2nd most disturbing mustache at the festival. boo-ya.
I've been extremely busy and feeling very overwhelmed for the last few weeks. I'm involved with so many projects and obligations these days that it's hard to keep them all straight. Some of them are:
So anyway, like I said, I'm busy.
Last night Greta and I went to see the celebrated animation about the 1982 Israel-Lebanon war, "Waltz with Bashir" - for one thing, if you don't like disturbing or violent films, don't go. Greta had to leave in the middle and was shaken for hours afterward.
Some have criticized the film for breaking from its beautiful animation at the end and showing real video of the aftermath of the massacre at Sabra and Shatila.
I didnt have a problem with the use of actual footage at the end, but overall, and I will probably get yelled at for saying this, but I don't thinkg WwB was such a great film. It was beautifully drawn, yes. It drew attention to one of many atrocities in the history of Israel, yes. But narratively the film was disappointing. It "contracted with the audience" at the beginning that it would be about one man's transformative journey to remember his past, but in the end it broke that contract - there was no sign of how he reacted and grew and changed from re-discovering his memories. Which is fine if it was a straight documentary, but we were set up to read the film as a story, a personal, character-driven story.
Also, I don't think the film did enough to put the massacre in context and call Israel to task for it. At this point it's not enough to make yet another film about the horrors of war in general - if it's about Israel's wars it must specifically address the details of Israel's crimes and why they are crimes, not just the unavoidable consequences of unavoidable international conflict.
I'm getting tired of listening to/reading the news lately. The economic crisis is really a bummer. It's like watching a car crash, or a plane crash, but one that takes 6, 12, who knows? how many months to happen. You can see about now the windshield spiderwebbing into a million little fragments, and some of the fragments are starting to bend outward as the passengers' heads start busting through it. The front bumper is crumped and up where the carburator is usually, and you can small gas leaking out somewhere but it hasn't caught fire - yet.
It's really a bummer.
Randall Kuhn gives us a more accurate, complete, and compelling analogy than the simple ones made recently about the Israel-Gaza situation:
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor ended an opinion piece by saying "America would never sit still if terrorists were lobbing missiles across our border into Texas or Montana." But let's see if our political and pundit class can parrot this analogy.
Think about what would happen if San Diego expelled most of its Hispanic, African American, Asian American, and Native American population, about 48 percent of the total, and forcibly relocated them to Tijuana? Not just immigrants, but even those who have lived in this country for many generations. Not just the unemployed or the criminals or the America haters, but the school teachers, the small business owners, the soldiers, even the baseball players.
What if we established government and faith-based agencies to help move white people into their former homes? And what if we razed hundreds of their homes in rural areas and, with the aid of charitable donations from people in the United States and abroad, planted forests on their former towns, creating nature preserves for whites to enjoy? Sounds pretty awful, huh? I may be called anti-Semitic for speaking this truth. Well, I'm Jewish and the scenario above is what many prominent Israeli scholars say happened when Israel expelled Palestinians from southern Israel and forced them into Gaza. But this analogy is just getting started.
Be sure to read on.
The New York Times opinion page ran a great piece about Nativists, the extremist anti-immigrant right-wingers and why they are racists.
It's an encouraging sight to see this sort of open analysis and decryal of the racism that still permeates our society. Hopefully this is just the beginning of even more to come.. Obama's rise to the presidency is not a sign that we are in "post-racial" times, but perhaps it is rather a harbinger of times in which racists are no longer allowed to hide in the darkness but are brought into the light, exposed, and stamped out.