On my second day, I set out to see 4 films…but I really only saw 3. I sat down for my first film, and I simply couldn’t take it. After 5 minutes, I thought I might leave. After 10 minutes, I couldn’t stand it…but I thought I needed to give it more time. After 30 minutes, I simply couldn’t tolerate seeing one of my favorite actresses in such a terrible film. So I left.
A couple hours later, I made my way to LABOR DAY – the new film by Jason Reitman starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. This is the story of a mother and son who live alone in a small town in the late 1980’s. Winslet’s character is extremely lonely and depressed, and her son (a nice performance by Gattlin Griffith) tries to keep her afloat. An escaped convict works his way into their home, and rather unlikely relationships ensue – new lover for mom and a father figure for her son. The movie is shot beautifully, and the performances are really wonderful – Winslet’s melancholy is palpable. I really loved a lot about this film, but it sadly has a few big annoyances…a couple bad situations and a couple moments of laugh-out-loud bad screenwriting. A slight recut could fix a lot…but I don’t think that will happen before its release.
Next up was the world premiere of the first animated feature by Chomet (director of THE TRIPLETS OF BELLVILLE) – ATTILA MARCEL. As a big fan of PARIS JE T’AIME, I was already familiar with the fact that he can direct live material with great success – he did the short about the little boy with mime parents. This film is highly stylized with lots of charm and a lot of great music. It’s the story of a mute piano player who is raised by his overbearing aunts. After meeting an herbalist who lives on a secret floor in his building, he begins to explore hidden memories of his deceased parents. Though a bit clunky (a couple devises just don’t work) and a bit long, it’s got enough magic to keep you invested…and you’ll root for the protagonist all the way through. (Sorry…there’s no trailer with subtitles.)
My last film of the day was BAD HAIR from Venezuela. This is the story of a curly-haired boy who lives in the projects with his mother and her newborn. It’s a gritty existence – surrounded by gunfire, violence and rough terrain. More than anything in the world, the little boy wants straight hair so he can be “like a singer.” The mother fears that her son is gay, and her lack of education and fear for his well-being makes her take strides to eventually “heal” her son. This is a grim film – but not without moments of sheer joy. The performances are incredible from everyone, and the material is transportive. Though I wish the film had been 10-15 minutes shorter (not a whole lot happens…it would be stronger if it was tighter), I think it’s my favorite film of the festival so far (it brings to mind two other films – the great performances of childhood in TOMBOY and the gritty style of FISH TANK).
After screening 3 films, I met up with Glenn Kiser – director of SABBATICAL (which won the Audience Award at last year’s Dayton LGBT Film Festival). We had a great time catching up, and he mentioned that Dayton was one of his favorite festival experiences during his travels with SABBATICAL. I don’t think he was just feeing me a line – he mentioned the great sense of community, the friends he made, and his overall experience. I think we can be proud of that!
I’m currently in line for tickets…then off to 3 films today and a big party tonight. More soon. Thanks for reading!