Beasts of the Southern Wild had its gala showing last night. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and the Camera d’Or at Cannes, this is one of the most anticipated indie films of the summer. Set in the backwaters of a Louisiana bayou, a young girl named Hushpuppy finds the joys of life interrupted by a storm and then by her father’s failing health. This film has a strong esoteric bent to it. My review will run when the film starts its theatrical run later this month.
Ostentation and the American Dream are front and center in The Queen of Versailles. This doc (with a theatrical release in July) shows us the billionaire Siegal family who is building what will be the largest house in America—but then the Great Recession hits. Do financial problem look the same to them as to the rest of us? To what extent is the American Dream tied to materialism? People laugh at the foibles that are part of their lifestyle, but there is also an ache at the pain they go through that is not unlike the pain of people facing foreclosures of homes. The Queen of Versailles will play again at the festival tonight.
The Strawberry Tree looks at everyday life in a small Cuban fishing village. Italian/Canadian filmmaker Simone Rapisardo Casanova spent about a month in Juan Antonio filming people grinding coffee, mending nets, tending to animals, repairing a tire with a condom. He didn’t know it at the time, but he was making the only real record of the life of that village. It was completely destroyed by a hurricane after he left. The leisurely pace of the film is reflective of the pace of life in this isolated place. The film was preceded by a short film, Kendo Monogatari. The Strawberry Tree plays again on Tuesday.
(There is an interesting dynamic in watching The Queen of Versailles and The Strawberry Tree back to back. Two very different experiences of life and what makes for happiness.)
Red Flag (world premiere) is the story of a filmmaker who’s pretty much a loser—even his dog rejects him. He goes off on a tour with his film, but has trouble finding anyone willing to take the trip with him. As he shows his film at various places throughout the South, we get a hope for second chances, but in the end those hopes are dashed. Red Flag will play again Sunday.
Four (world premiere) follows four people over a steamy July 4th holiday. Joe is out on an internet date with a young man who may be experiencing all this for the first time. Joe’s daughter is out with a young basketball player. Each couple has struggles with the intimacy they desire, but are not sure how to find. It is a struggle of truth and lies and of connection and solitude. Four will play again Monday.