Sunday, November 23, 2014

AFI FEST 2014: Day Four

AFI FEST 2014 is a wrap, 73 features and 45 shorts screened across eight (8) days. This year I highlighted 24 films I found to be a high priority, of those 24 films I caught 15 of them. In order to give a fair amount of coverage to the 15 films viewed across five (5) days, I've broke my festival coverage down by day(s) including a brief review of each feature.

Day Four:
directed by Diao Yinan
Diao Yinan's "Black Coal, Thin Ice" is a prime example why I love watching world cinema. First, its structure comes in the form of a familiar shell, a noir crime thriller. Second and more importantly, the components within the shell are from another culture. A wonderful aspect of watching film is seeing and gleaning perspective's from various cultures and voices around the world. Here, the audience is placed into a frigid working class provence within northern China. The dissecting drama spans nearly a decade, at the front is a shamed detective whose career is ruined over an unresolved murder case.
Director and screenwriter Diao Yinan makes atmosphere a priority in Black Coal, Thin Ice. He's concentrated on submersing his audience in the desperation of his murder mystery. The wintry setting easily allows for the bleak narrative to feel icy, while the pulpy plot points and grieved characters compound the thriller into a stinging tale. Fan Liao is excellent as the shamed detective hellbent on solving the case that cost him his career. Opposite Fan Liao's cutting performance, Lun Mei Gwei delivers a studious portrayal of a woman stuck in a very unfortunate situation.
The Chinese title to Black Coal, Thin Ice is "Daylight Fireworks," something director Dia Yinan has stated helps to explain the "difference between reality and fantasy." The American title reflects something real that plays a role in the film, while the Chinese title reflects something fantastic that plays out in the film. The director believes that these two sides together are a way to highlight "what we use to coat ourselves from the cruel side of this real world." The director's explanation of the two titles and how they explain fantasy and reality are ultimately two sides of the same coin is widely engaging. Match that with seeing the film run its course and you have a nice example of my enthusiasm with culture perspective that comes in foreign cinema. Finally, there's plenty of appreciation in the fact Black Coal, Thin Ice while being a recognizable and stirring noir thriller, also delivers a riveting portrait from a pocket of society I might not have otherwise seen.

directed by Joel Potrykus
A slacker comedy with a brand of humor, that while being very identifiable, isn't for everyone. Writer and director Joel Potrykus weaves a yarn following a twenty-something who swindles his way through life. Marty, an obnoxious temp, given opportunities to succeed at work takes those opportunities in the opposite direction. What follows is a laugh-out-loud downward spiral chronicling the numskulled Marty as he deals with ramifications of his ill-advised actions. Potrykus is fixated on exploring the humor in bitterness and poor decisions throughout "Buzzard." That exploration is where the comedy could be polarizing for audiences. Simply put, the film parades stupidity. Actor Joshua Burge delivers an unbridled performance as Marty. His portrayal not only matches Potrykus's dark sense of humor, but will indubitably keep him working the indie circuit. Buzzard and its airheaded scheme, reminded me of a low-stakes version of Mike Judge's "Office Space" if you will. Where the central characters in Office Space are planning to extort potential millions, Marty is only cheating mere thousands if not even less in Buzzard. Lastly, there's a nice bit of 90s nostalgia thrown in for good measure that original NES Nintendo Entertainment System users and Nightmare on Elm Street fans alike will get a kick out of.

directed by Jason Banker
"Felt" is an important film. It bravely confronts rape culture and the affect on victims. In a society where men have continually pushed their impulses upon women, it is critical we understand the repercussion those horrific actions will have on the victims. Actress and co-writer Amy Everson delivers the best performance at AFI FEST 2014. She brings a passionate raw energy to the screen that is acute and also delightfully vulgar. She furthermore, has a voice that is very refreshing to see represented on film.
The social drama directed by Jason Banker has plenty to say about trust and intentions within the day-to-day relationships we have in our lives. Everything from friendships to dating. There is a honest and approachable independence on display, but also a very tangible threat of breakdown. Felt uses real-life art that mimics the male form, allowing Amy to take on traditional supremacy or hierarchy associated with it. The suit is used in multiple impending sequences that serve as a mechanism to cope with the trauma haunting Amy. The result is a passionately piercing piece of art that callously flips the rape context. Felt is tell all your friends good. It is the kind of film that will leave you talking and deservedly needs your attention.

That's a wrap on my coverage from Day Four at AFI FEST 2014. Here's my coverage from Day One (here), Day Two (here), and Day Three (here) in case you missed it. Stay tuned for more from AFI FEST 2014...