Los Angeles Film Festival Diaries: Day Six

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Another day, another concession-spent dollar! Hah! Although that popcorn they sell at the concession stands sure is tasty, the real fun lay in the trio of films I was fortunate enough to see yesterday. I like days where each screening I see is completely different from one another. Some days, it”ll tend to all blend in, but thankfully last night’s screening events were each their own individual specimen. So which films did I end up screening on my sixth day at the Los Angeles Film Festival™? Find out after the jump…

5:30pm – 7pm

For my first screening, I saw a rather unusual film that caught me by surprise. Malik Bendjelloul’s documentary Searching for Sugar Man is a fascinating journey of unspeakable discovery. To say anything more would be to give it away, but let me pose you this question: if there was a chance that somehow Elvis, Michael Jackson, John Lennon, Buddy Holly, or Richie Valens was alive today, would you embark on a mission to find out the truth? Well this documentary is an affirmative answer to that question, and the lengths that these South African music enthusiasts go to uncover the background of their nation’s most iconic musician of all time will astonish you. That is all I am saying, mouth zipped and keyboard strokes moving on to the next subject.

7:50pm – 9:30pm

Following the amazing Beasts of the Southern Wild and the surprisingly affecting Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Middle of Nowhere was the third Gala screening I was lucky enough to attend. These Gala events are massive, literally housing 1,000 excited spectators by the time everyone finds their seats. To my surprise and delight, the legendary Angela Bassett came out to introduce Middle of Nowhere as well as the director of the film herself, Ava DuVernay. I’d already met Ava DuVernay before when I went to a screening of a film she was promoting on behalf of AFFRM (African American Film Festival Releasing Movement), Restless City. In that sense, I was rooting for her on a personal note, and I fully love the dedication she has to bringing African-American cinema to the forefront of our spectatorship. Ava DuVernay is the first African-American woman to win the “Best Director” prize in Sundance’s 30 years as a festival. She received this accolade from Middle of Nowhere, and so it was great to see her get so overwhelmed by the positive response in the room toward her talent and the greatness she brings to cinema. As for the film itself, I’ll have a more in-depth review on it soon, but DuVernay does not disappoint here. She does something a lot of films that focus on African-American women fail to do: give various African-American women their own voices that aren’t anchored down by any kind of “Angry Black Woman” stereotype. Middle of Nowhere is wonderfully shot by cinematographer Bradford Young (Restless City and Pariah), and he once again knows exactly how to highlight African-American imagery to its most crisply beautiful and striking. What I was most impressed by with Middle of Nowhere was DuVernay’s screenplay. It’s very raw and empowering, yet has traces of humor and sass that I rather enjoyed. It felt like an entirely human story, and even the monologues seemed authentic without the usual flair of pompousness that we sometimes witness on screen. I’ll get into the plot in my future review, but Ava is truly a talented director and writer who will one day soon get her Oscar — count on it.

9:50pm – 11:40pm

The last movie I saw was disjunctive, confusing, yet eerily fascinating. Director Kongdej Jaturanrasamee’s P-047 really reminded me of a Wong Kar Wai film. Nothing made sense, the story was fragmented into bits, and things you may think are real actually might not be. I’ll need to take a second look at this film to really piece together everything, but right now I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place trying to decide if I liked the movie or not. I guess you’ll find out in my review, but it was difficult to turn away from this Thai-based foreign language film. The acting is incredibly strong, although the characters don’t always behave like what they initially portray themselves to be the further along the film progress, but I assume that’s intentionally so. If you thought Prometheus was confusing, then P-047 may just leave you forever stumped. If you find the thread that connects each piece or unearth the hidden meanings behind every scene and piece of dialogue, then I proclaim you a genius. P-047 both baffles and stimulates, but Kongdej Jaturanrasamee has a ways to go before he can contend with Wong Kar Wai, although this was a valiant attempt.

Overall, yesterday evening provided more food for thought than I was expecting. It never ceases to amaze me how enraptured people are by movies and those who create them. It leaves me with a great sense of pride and hope for the future of filmmaking. Once again, I’ll check in with you all in another 24 hours! May the “Films” be with you!