Tuesday, November 26, 2013

AFI FEST 2013: Day Five

Another year of AFI FEST is over, 83 features and 36 shorts screened across eight days. This year I highlighted 33 films as high priority, set out to see 25 and ended up seeing 17. In order to give a fair amount of coverage to all 17 films viewed, I've decided to break the festival down by day(s) including short reviews for each film. Below you'll find my coverage for the fifth day of AFI FEST 2013.

Day Five:
directed by Frank Pavich
Alejandro Jodorowsky is the type of person that you would want to have over for dinner. He has a type of magnetic personality that would catch and keep the attention of every person in the room. He's a visionary and a storyteller. "Jodorowsky's Dune" is the embodiment of Alejandro Jodorowsky's passion for his craft. This documentary illustrates his undeniable passion for filmmaking, his magnetic energy that attracts the best in a particular field, and almost more importantly, this is a film documenting how this unmade project has had more influence then numerous completed projects. As this documentary explains how the seeds of this unmade film are seen in so many movies, it becomes a surreal experience. More specifically, realizing the heavy impressions this visionary had without ever putting a single concept to film is mind blowing.
"Jodorowsky's Dune" is overall a really fun documentary. You may think a documentary chronicling a 70 something year-old man explaining a movie he didn't get to make almost 30 years ago might be tedious or boring, but it isn't. Jodorowsky is a genius storyteller and combined with the photography from the famed concept book, this doc is a real inspiration. It reminded me how important it can be to see our own vision through at times. Lastly, "Jodorowsky's Dune" is the only time I have heard someone use the phrase "rape with love," not to mention, get an entire audience to laugh at the turn of phrase.

directed by Emir Baigazin
"Harmony Lessons" is a complex account of Kazakh youth delving into the causes and effects that circulate around bullying. The thriller is a terrorizing account that contains a calm balance that left me enamored. In the quiet opening, director Emir Baigazin establishes a methodical tone that is both cold and unique. The cold is literal, with the drama being set at the first signs of Spring, but it is also a representation of the somber disposition we find our protagonist in.
Our protagonist is Aslan, an outcast teen who lives a very desolate life with his grandmother. Part of the immediate appeal to Aslan is his deliberate proclivities. Baigazin does a compelling job of thrusting the audience into his day-to-day experiences. The audience is introduced to Aslan as he captures and slaughters a lamb with precision and cleanliness. Aslan is a character that I could not get out of my head. He stayed with me for some time after viewing this film. Watching as Aslan is driven to taking matters into his own hands is the real terror within "Harmony Lessons," more so than the bullying on display. The audience watches as a boy becomes a product of the bullying, and what he becomes is one of the real highlights to this film.
The pacing that director Emir Baigazin plays with will be off-putting to some audiences, however I found it fitting to the nature of the subject matter. It also tells me that Emir Baigazin isn't afraid to allow scenes to play out from one, maybe two angles in long form. Blocking, there is some exceptional blocking going on. For instance, the hierarchy of teens within the Kazakh school system. It is not often that I go out of my way to bring up blocking, but here Baigazin does a proper job of adding character development as well as depth with the blocking of his cast.
The effects bullying can have on a individual is not easy subject matter to sit through. "Harmony Lessons" does a tremendous job of building a traumatic experience and balancing it with a web of intrigue along with corruption. The audience slowly realizes that the bullying seen in the schools is only the tip of the iceberg, the system goes much deeper, to a point where the audience is made privy to a broken system. "Harmony Lessons" is a film that grabbed me from the onset and never let go. It is a film that I want to share with everybody. It is a film I want to talk about with people who have seen it. Like all great films, it is a movie that will leave you with an active mind that is reeling from what you just witnessed. See it!

Stay tuned for more breakdown of each day at AFI FEST 2013. Check out more coverage from Day OneDay TwoDay Three, and Day Four.