Sunday, July 25, 2010

Review: Montgomery Film Festival 2: This time its personal.

The second annual Montgomery Film Festival took place last night at the Capri Theatre in Old Cloverdale.

The Festival accepts submissions from professional and
amateur filmmakers in a number of genres and languages.
This year the festival included eight short films. Only two of the submissions came from local filmmakers, Your Casanova, directed by Prattvillians Jimmie Rogers and Michael Turner, and Find A Way, from Stephen Poff, who was also the cinematographer/director of photography on Your Casanova.

Local by way of association, was a documentary called In Our Shoes, which was directed by Jen Suran and shot on location at Five Points South in Birmingham.

The remaining five shorts came to us from a Brazilian director, Spain, Canada and Michigan.

Here's my short review of each film:

La Barba Brutta
A silent film featuring opera and shaving.
Director: Davi Abreu
Runtime: 2:15

This was a great little short film. Shot in black and white in what is probably the director's suburban bathroom, it features the filmmaker contemplating his beard and the best tool with which to shave it, finally settling on a large butcher knife - all while lip-synching Rossini's Largo Al Factotum from The Barber of Seville. It was cute and got several laughs from its 2 minutes and fifteen seconds.

An afternoon surprise forces two friends to make the best of a bad situation.
Director: Pardis Parker

The filmmaker is Canadian and this short is probably set in Halifax. Racist vandals have spray painted "Go Home Afghan" on the side of a white volkswagon in front of a small house shared by two friends. The white friend comes home, sees the car, comes in the front door and begins a conversation with his Afghan friend about the different ways they can react to this rude message on film. The options range from the traditional "piss on it" to an elaborate image of the Afghan friend wrapping himself in an ET afghan and raising a lighted finger at the car, to driving the car into two tall stacks of cardboard boxes representing the World Trade Towers. This is all discussed in a humorous way, eliciting lots of laughs. The action shifts to outside in front of the car where each of the ideas (except that copyrighted ET moment) are played out. Near the end, the emotional toll of this experience on the Afghan character becomes apparent. When that's started to settle on the audience the camera pans up to show the white friend dressed in a KKK tunic, holding an Apple Pie - part of an elaborate, satirical response they'd
discussed earlier. Big laugh payoff here.

This was a great short, funny and meaningful, and well executed. Strong performances, strong dialogue and smart-funny. Not the most memorable or exciting of the evening though.

In Our Shoes
A documentary exploring the impressions brought on by shoes.
Director: Jen Suran

Ok, this was a good idea, but it could have benefited from more subjects and more footage. There's some nice imagery of the Five Points fountain, and of feet crossing the street, walking down the sidewalk, but it seemed that there were only about twenty people in Five Points that day because we see the same shoes over and over. There was no clear connection between what impression was made on others by the shoes the subjects were wearing, or how that impression was accurate or not based on the words of the subjects. Also, it was hard to really know what shoes each subject was wearing. I think the whole point was lost, and parts of this seven minute short seemed to go on too long, or to have no real relevance.Neat idea, but not well executed. Although it has made me consider a documentary idea... for that I'll give it credit.

The Gynecologist
A gynecologist's day turns upside down when an unusual patient asks for an examination.
Director: Alfonso Camarero
Runtime: 10:00

Despite the fact that a horror short was included in the submissions, this dark comedy wins the gross-out award on this blog. This Spanish film might be pure comedy. It might be soci
al commentary about the health-care system in Spain, which according to this movie, places administrators at the top of the beaurocratic ladder, dictating to a gynocologist that she must examine a patient, who though referring to himself (and his father) as female, has male genitalia. It might also be a commentary on gender roles and political correctness. Its really hard to tell. One thing that's not hard to tell is that most of the men in the audience were feeling some serious sympathy pains by the end of this interesting submission.

High production values, pretty good acting and thought provoking.

Your Casanova
A young man awakens from a recurring dream that proves more real than expected.
Driectors: Jimmie Rogers and Michael Turner
Runtime: 15:51

Remarkably high production values marked this movie which the creative team said cost a whopping $60. A first-time attempt on the part of most of this team, including the writers and directors, that rose the the occasion on gross-out factor, awesome death-screams, and a distinctive, gritty look, including the best titles in show thanks to Stephen Poff.
Our horror story follows a young man who keeps dropping off into a recurring dream
wherein he murders and mutilates a woman he has recently proposed to. As the day goes on the murder scenario begins to replay itself with his current girlfriend.

There's some weakness in the plot, and the actors were too young for the roles and the least experienced of all the actors on screen last night, but great editing covers a multitude of sins. A great first time effort from these locals.

Copper Penny
Director: Jay PulkAfter pulling a prostitute from the street, a desperate man's request puts a twist
on his already awkward situation.
Runtime: 5:45

This was my favorite of the non-local submissions. In it, an awkward late-middle aged man enters a motel room with a street-walker type prostitute. The hooker character is in control of the scene, trying to find out what the man is interested in for the night. He explains that his wife is cheating, and what he really wants is to be told how to be better in bed, so that his wife might stop cheating. He tries to light her extra long cigarette with an impotent lighter that will not flame up. She finally turns him out, explains she wants him to leave. He does, and seems devastated. He walks slowly to the curb outside the motel and as she looks out the window to watch him two cops open the door and ask the prostitute what happened. Its clear this is a sting and she's undercover. Just then, the man steps out into traffic and is run down by an oncoming vehicle. The woman examines the lighter the man left in the room. Its a retirement gift from the police force.

This short was shot well, written well, and acted well. For fiction entries I'd say it was the best. Perfect short story form. Well deserving of the Best Drama Award it received.

Find a Way
The River Region United Way focuses on the need for donations and time in the community.
I don't need to review this. You can see it yourself, and you should.

Stephen Poff and the team at LWT are responsible for this. Its a great public awaren
ess piece, but also beautifully put together.

Two Men, Tow Cows, Two Guns
An unexpected visitor interrupts a family's quite day at the farmhouse. Starr
ing John Dunsworth (Trailer Park Boys_
Director: Purdis Parker
Runtime: 6:40

This thing is too funny to explain, but John Dunsworth plays the stoic father who reluctantly opens the door to find a redneck neighbor covered in cow blood, claiming he has shot a cow and delivered it to the back deck. The redneck neighbor is insistent that they use all of the animal and milk it immediately. A social worker is visiting with the wife, and an (asian? maybe) child of about 8-10 years old is dutifully following the father back and forth from the front door to the back to examine the cow situation, except when he's jumping in his father's green chair. The humor of this piece is best distilled in the line when Dunsworth scolds the child for jumping on the chair by saying "I'll cut your legs off and feed them to homosexuals." That's probably the best way to explain this hilarious film. See it if you get a chance.

If you missed the Montgomery Film Festival 2 you really missed a great night. Please bookmark the web site, friend them on facebook and keep in touch to see what comes around in this festival next year.

Congrats to all the filmmakers featured in this young festival. Keep up the great work!

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