Los Angeles Film Festival Diaries: Day Ten

It’s the end of an era…well, just a film festival one for the year. Yep, the Los Angeles Film Festival™ has now come to a close, the jury and audience awards have been decided, and all we have left is for me to deliver my final diary entry. This will serve as a last hoorah for the festival — it was incredibly fun, overwhelming, but most importantly it provided me a venue to see films I normally might’ve missed otherwise. The fact that I could have gone all my life without seeing the incomparable Summer Games or the heartbreaking Call Me Kuchu has me so thankful for partaking in this incredible film-going/news reporting experience. 33 films, 10 days, and a whole lot of popcorn later…the festivities have finally ended. I can look back on my journey, and swell in pride that I can say I was a part of it. Without further ado — and for the final time — here is my last LAFF diary session of the festival:

12pm – 2:00pm:

My penultimate screening of the day was Brazil’s Neighboring Sounds, directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho. Neighboring Sounds doesn’t stray too far from its title — a Brazilian neighborhood is linked together by its estate owners who are forced to accept a group of private security/mercenaries as protectors of their street. Filho’s narrative drama has an experimental feel to it that at times distracts and randomizes events but nonetheless fascinates. Where the film goes wrong is in the character of Bia (Maeve Jinkings). Her scenes are often the most unique and well shot in the film, but as a thread in the plot, Bia serves little importance overall, unless of course you factor in her “sound” control when it comes to shushing a neighbor’s dog. Neighboring Sounds is made up of very well-acted, well-written scenes that attempt to interweave but somehow get disheveled in the process. The unknown ending is a nice artistic touch by Filho, but it still doesn’t quite make up for the threadbare narrative. In pieces, Neighboring Sounds is astounding, but it ironically falls short as a compelling story by its lack of subplot fusion.

3:30pm – 5:20pm:

The final screening of the day was the 2012 Sundance Documentary Winner, The House I Live In. Directed by Eugene Jarecki, this documentary attempts to awaken us to the reality of the existing “War on Drugs.” Despite showing us — in great persuasive detail, no less — how the drug laws and justice system have turned this “War on Drugs” into a “War on Class” and a “War on Race,” Jarecki’s real question is this: why are we punishing drug offenders and abusers instead of rehabilitating them? Throughout history, the answer to stopping drugs in America has been to “blame, blame, blame” and “condemn, condemn, condemn” these criminals, the majority of whom are inner-city African-Americans who grow up viewing the drug lords as versions of Robin Hood. To some of the people in these neighborhoods, the drug lords were “Santa,” bringing shoes, food, and all kinds of expensive apparel and amenities for any impoverished resident who was willing to help sell drugs. The House I Live In is effective and powerful in its grim portrayal of the current state of drug affairs in America. Jarecki has a great host of interviews — The Wire creator David Simon is easily the most compelling and persuasive — and an infinite amount of facts to wield, but he just lacks some finesse as a director. The documentary has some pacing issues, the editing could be more polished, and Jarecki needed to find a better balance between telling the personal story of his African-American nanny who lost her sons to drugs and the unfolding of each drug factoid interview. The House I Live In has remarkable footage, and for that alone it could be up for an Oscar™ come next spring, but it’s just a bit lacking on the professional filmmaking front.

Well, that’s a wrap everybody. I hope you all had a chance to check out each of my diary entries, and please stay tuned for more potential LAFF entries that may spring up this week. Once again, it’s been an absolute pleasure covering LAFF. I want to thank Clayton Davis for sending me out to cover the festival, the Los Angeles Film Festival™ itself for giving The Awards Circuit the opportunity to report on this yearly film venue, and most importantly a big thanks to our readers who have shared and devoured all that I have provided. It’s been an incredible experience, one which I look forward to doing all over again come 2013! Thank you all, and keep on reading!