Welcome to Hollywood. Out on the street you can find Batman, Spiderman, Charlie Chaplin, Sonic the Hedgehog, et al., willing to have their picture taken with you for tips. Inside is a different environment with filmmakers from around the world who are here to show their wares.
I started the day with a lighthearted film from Spain, Extraterrestrial. I had seen and enjoyed director Nacho Vigalondo’s earlier film Timecrimes at Newport Beach Film Festival a couple years ago, so I was happy to get another look at his work. Vigalondo was on hand to introduce the film and told us that unlike some of the difficult concepts in his previous film, “this film is filled with bullshit.” He meant it in a good way – really. It is the story of life in the aftermath of an alien invasion – only it really has nothing to do with that invasion. Julio wakes up in Julia’s apartment. After a few awkward morning after moments, Julio prepares to leave. They note that there’s no one in the streets. The TV and internet are out. Then they see the huge flying saucer in the distance. What are they to do now? Add a neighbor who pines for Julia and Julia’s boyfriend and soon lie is built on lie to keep their affair underwraps. Who will end up with the beautiful Julia?
Mexico’s official submission for Oscar consideration is Miss Bala, a crime drama set in Tijuana. Laura wants to enter the Miss Baja California beauty pageant, but things go wrong the night before rehearsals start. She is swept up into the volatile world of drug cartels. Soon she is involved so deeply we can’t imagine her surviving. She is overwhelmed by the threats and power arrayed against her. She is violated by the head of the drug gang. That violation is at first non-sexual, but a physical violation all the same. It makes the sexual violation almost seem mild. This film reflects the way that the crime and drug cartels that have become so violent in Mexico are taking all that is beautiful in the country and destroying it. A powerful and important film from our southern neighbor.
Green is one of the films in the Young American collection at AFI Fest. Director Sophia Takal draws on her own experience with jealousy to tell the story of Genevieve, a young woman who moves to the country with her boyfriend Sebastian as he works on his writing. She becomes friends with Robin, a working class local. But soon she begins to imagine that Robin is a rival. Is it imagination? The film shows the destructive power that jealousy can have in life. Green will screen again on Nov. 5.
Restless City is one of the New Auteurs section. It is the story of immigrants from Africa trying to make a living in New York City. Djibril is trying to hustle his music. When he falls for a girl, he gets involved in the underground economy and the violence that grows out of it. What I wanted to know more about was if these people had dreams or if all hope had been drained from them.
With Every Heartbeat (Kyss Mig) from Sweden is one of the “Breakthrough” films of the festival. Mia and her new fiancé Tim go to her father’s engagement party. There she meets Frida, whose mother is marrying Mia’s father. After a few days together, Mia and Frida are falling in love. Frida is comfortable with her sexuality, but Mia is very confused and upset. The film has times where we hope Mia will reconnect with her love for Tim, other times where we hope Mia and Frida will find happiness together, and times when it seems everyone is doomed to lives of frustration. One of the things that is hard to do in film, sometimes, is show actual love. Being “in love” is not necessarily the same as loving. I think eventually, Mia and Frida manage to find love that will transcend the period of being in love.