Been attending a few screenings at SIFF this week. Here are a few thoughts on what I have seen:
1. Opening night gala screening of In the Loop: Overall, I found this film frustrating despite its awesome cast and consistently acerbic wit. I rarely felt drawn into the narrative of this film and felt little sympathy for its primary characters. I wanted to cheer for the hapless but principled Parliamentary representative, but I never felt connected to him. There wasn't enough of his basic humanity revealed to me. He felt like a clown. I never bought that any of these people were really running the country in US or Great Britain. Which I kinda needed to do even if it was a political farce. Thus, I didn't invest me in the stakes of the story, tragic as they were (war).
2. Warlords: I have enjoyed big Hong Kongese historical epics in the past, so I figured I would give this one a shot. I immediately got drawn into the love story, which I hoped would have more primacy throughout the film and I hoped for some badass martial arts scenes a la Crouching Tiger... The crux of the story however was about the relationship between the 3 main male characters of the film, who take an oath as blood brothers to honor their bond no matter what comes their way. They survive years and years of a grisly, bloody war which they seemed to have a pretty good time fighting represented by lots of montages of them battling, then laughing together, brothers in arms. Then, the political tide turnes against them. After months of starvation and misery, terrible choices must be made with tragic results.
Ultimately, for my taste, there was too much blood and gore and the only female character was a pawn. No Michelle Yeoh kicking ass anywhere in the vicinity.
3. About Elly: This Iranian film is about an extended family going to the coast for a long weekend. One of the family's young nursery school teacher joins them in order to meet a recently divorced friend of the family who is looking for a new wife. The film takes a startling turn halfway through and explores the consequences of a series of little half-truths innocently told throughout. I found this film riveting despite the fact that SIFF staff accidentally started the screening in the middle of the film, opening as the pivotal point in the drama unfolded. I was so drawn in that I actually didnt notice that no titles or credits rolled. The screening continued to be plagued with technical difficulties resulting in seeing the entire film out of order. But no matter. The story was terrifyingly familiar and plausible, as were the family dynamics that events ignite. I also really appreciated the window into contemporary Iranian culture this film provided.
4. It Takes a Cult: This documentary explores the 40 year history of the Love Israel Family here in the greater Seattle area. Weaving back and forth between the history of the Family and his own nuclear family's experience of being part of the Family, the filmmaker offers both positive and negative perspectives on growing up in a, well, cult. The archival footage of the community over the years was a real treat to watch. The bonds among the community are profound despite many problematic narratives shared by its members of drugs, sex, folk music, brainwashing, Jesus, book burning, and patriarchy.