I've been home nearly a week now and find that when people ask me about the film festival, I keep recommending the same films. I've already mentioned my enthusiasm for Troll Hunter and Attack the Block, so today I'm linking to a few of my other favorites.
This is a feature film about a teenager with cystic fibrosis, surrounded by visions of the paths his future might take. His older brother is wasting away with a more advanced form of the disease. His companions at the hospital are pushing the limits of their endurance, trying to make the most out of what is likely to be a limited lifespan. His best friend, who's never had to live with compromised health, lives his life unburdened by the consequences of his actions. Under the constant pressure of other people's expectations for him and an awareness of his physical limitations, Tom must cope with his disease and decide which path his life will take. Hans Van Nuffel manages to direct a compelling story without sappy sick kid cliches.
This is a charming, if uneven, first effort from Canadian director Aaron Houston. A mockumentary about "the seedy underbelly of puppeteering" in the style of Christopher Guest, Sunflower Hour focuses on the auditions of four wildly inappropriate candidates for a children's television show. The ending's a bit sloppy, but the film as a whole is entertaining and very funny, with excellent performances by Amitai Marmorstein and Ben Cotton in particular. (For the record, they know about the typo -- they just haven't had a chance to fix it.)
The Other F Word
This trailer doesn't really do it justice, but The Other F Word is a really touching documentary about punk rock icons who have become fathers and struggle to reconcile their anti-authoritarian careers with the need to become authoritarian figures in their own families. Ultimately, it's not about punk rock so much as the process of growing up and deciding when to challenge the system and when to embrace it. And the soundtrack rocks, naturally.
I'd also give a nod to Win Win, Flowers of Evil and The British Guide to Showing Off.
In a lot of my classes, we've discussed the cultural influence of films -- specifically in terms of how Disney and Hollywood have helped define people's images of the United States, and how Bollywood and Nollywood and the BBC have done the same for their respective countries. But at an international film festival, it's easy to see how quickly the lines get blurred, in part because so many movies are international co-productions and in part because it's clear that the audiences for such productions aren't strictly domestic.
I think it's probable that film industries contribute to a nation's reputation, but I think measuring that influence would be almost impossible. And that got me thinking about the USG-Sundance project Film Forward, which I wrote about last year. It may be time to revisit that thread and see what progress it's made...