Tara Judah who can recall her past MIFF experience…

August 15, 2010

This will be my final post on what was a joyous two weeks of MIFF related mania. A few frustrating projection issues aside (I never once saw a film at the Forum where the masking was properly set) and after a near full recovery from entertaining if not embarrassing closing night exploits, it has to be said that the festival as a whole was rip-roaring success.

Operations:

After one or two hiccups over the opening weekend, sessions almost always ran as scheduled and with little exception (The Ghost Writer) accurately reflected the advertised run times. Again, although it took a couple of days, details of director Q&As and other festival guests scheduled were eventually added to the website so that punters would know in advance if the session was likely to overrun. The box office staff and especially the volunteers were commendably always pleasant and helpful, my only real gripe was having to pay another additional booking fee on top of the alteration fee when changing a session over the phone or online (as I live a long way from the city I couldn’t always manage to do it in person at the Box Office.) The daily e-mailout of Widescreen was a welcome effort for both informative last-minute updates and also for the opportunity to win tickets to additional screenings (thanks to which I was able to fill a festival gap with the incredibly entertaining Innerspace.)

Atmosphere:

I must give a shout out to the two poor bastards who spent the festival running around town dressed as the oversized and overzealous Choc Top and Popcorn mascots from the festival promo vid, “It’s a Matter of Taste”. I particularly enjoyed the mockumentary short played at closing night ahead of Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll and sincerely hold out hope for it being a legitimate documentary in next year’s official program. The contemplation of which brings me to the advertisements – I do wish we could either have the ads play when the doors are opened for admittance (after thirty odd sessions they become a little tiresome) or perhaps MIFF could run a competition for filmmakers’ 30 second shorts ads on festival sponsors?

Finally, to the festival lounge. I can’t stress enough how incredibly useful it was having the Macs set up in the lounge when faced with excess time between screenings, the only issue being the actual opening & closing hours of the venue itself: almost always closed before the final sessions ended during the week and sometimes closed off for invitation only events, preventing festival goers from catching up over a cold beer between screenings. Speaking of beer, Coopers were the official festival sponsors this year, a beer that doesn’t phase me either way, I’ll happily admit that I’m hardly picky when it comes to beer and so long as there’s a lager or a pilsner of some variety in the mix I’m a happy camper, and the Coopers 62 sufficed.

Program:

Obviously I didn’t see even anywhere near half of the films shown in the festival so clearly whatever I write here has to be taken with a proportionate viewing pinch of salt. That said, I thought the program was successfully diverse and catered to a healthy balance of mainstream and art house cinema. I would however have liked to have seen more experimental works showcased beyond the one screening there was. And in lieu of that one screening, perhaps the programming staff might consider not scheduling the sole festival screening of experimental film for exactly the same time as the sole retrospective session of Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar? It seems likely to me that fans of a mode of short cinema often theorised and popularly thought of as ‘art’ might also be fans of the mode of feature cinema that is also theorised and popularly thought of as ‘art’. My other complaint is one that I don’t imagine will ever be resolved due to the understandable economic implications for festival organisers, BUT, I would like to put in a request for lengthy sessions – namely The Movie Orgy (280 mins duration) – being scheduled a little earlier in the evening so that one isn’t expected to stay awake till four thirty in the morning mid-festival. Of course, I do understand that this would mean the film would take up more than one slot during the regular programming thus meaning the festival would lose money having one instead of two or three sessions’ admission fees. In my defense though, they managed to do it for World on a Wire and a lot more people turned up to that in comparison to the too late screening of once in a lifetime opportunity screening The Movie Orgy.

There seemed to be a fair few films that I thought would have worked really well as shorts rather than features; Air Doll, Rubber and Catfish spring to mind and even more that were “good” but not “great”; The Killer Inside Me, Paju, The Tree, Uninhabited, Splice… that one truly outstanding film in the festival seemed to evade me this year (it was from what I hear either I Love you Philip Morris, Lebanon, Nostalgia for the Light or Winter’s Bone.) But, overall and my final impression of the festival was positive and inspirational nonetheless. Instead of heading to the GU to see Scott Pilgrim vs the World, I headed for one last stint at the Forum where Apichatpong Weerasethakul commandeered my senses with his latest in stunning slow cinema: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.


Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives:

“My past lives as an animal and other beings rise up above me.” A tethered bull sheds his ties and wanders off into the forest only to be re-called by a human being. Such is the nature of our lives as we are all recalled by Others, our individual subjectivity second to our connectedness to all other “life” on earth.

“Aren’t you afraid of illegal immigrants?” We often fear that which is Other when really we ought to accept and embrace difference as being a minority player in the concept of our existence as a whole.

“Heaven is overrated.” Instead of searching for a life beyond this one we ought to make connections and act sincerely now as the way in which we go on living is through the memory, affect and effect we have on Others during our lifetimes.

“I was born in a life I can’t recall.” We move easily between one life and another and forget at whim the events of what has come before. We are intrinsically linked to our histories and are responsible for the actions of all humans.

There is a great deal of provocative ethical questioning in Uncle Boonmee and Weerasethakul is on top form in creating a beautiful and contemplative reflection upon the way in which we conduct ourselves individually within a greater, philosophical understanding of “life”. There is a complex ease with which we move between worlds and cultures that he is interrogating in the latest of his masterful and meditative feature films. An instant classic amongst his oeuvre, Weerasethakul once again asserts himself as one of the most poignant and insightful filmmakers of our time.

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