Many of the films that play at festivals never see any other life. Some will eventually be picked up for distribution, or will make it to the DVD market or cable. Yesterday there were four films playing at NBFF that either have already made it to theaters or will be coming soon.
Girl In Progress is a coming-of- age story that actually critiques that genre. Ansiedad is probably more mature than her mother. When she learns about coming-of-age books in school, she uses them as a template for how to get her life to come together. Of course, it is her mother who really needs to grow up, and Ansiedad really needs to be free to be her own age.
The Woman in the Fifth is a French/Polish psychological thriller that spends most of its time setting up the questions that are meant to tickle our minds, and not enough time actually exploring those questions and providing the explanations for some of the questions that our minds come up with. The film has excellent production values and excellent acting from Ethan Hawke and Kristin Scott Thomas, but in the end never really gels.
Hirokazu Kore-eda provides interesting films. I Wish is the story of children seeking to make a wish on a new bullet train. Kore-eda often visits the concept of innocence and the loss of innocence. There is a certain kinship here with Stand by Me as a road movie with kids. As in his earlier film Nobody Knows, this story shows us children who seem to be more aware of life than we expect.
The film that topped my list of expectations for the festival was My Way, a Korean epic film about two rivals who must rely on each other for survival in World War II. I wasn’t disappointed. Japanese runner Tetsuo and Korean runner Jun-shik grow up in the same town (of course, Tetsuo has much more status under Japan’s imperial rule). Throughout high school they are rivals, but event lead to enmity growing between them until the bitterness seems more than can be overcome. When they both become POWs in the Soviet Union, they escape together, eventually ending up fighting for the Germans on Normandy at D-Day. The themes are very close to director Je-ryu Kang’s Tae Guk Gi—perhaps a little too similar. This is a bloody and violent film. War is indeed hell in this story.