Saturday, December 10, 2016

AIFF SAT Sched - Lots, A Few In Competition, Nothing At Bear Tooth

I've taken the online guide and matched it with the written guide to add locations.  But click here to get to the online guide so you can see descriptions of the films.

There are shorts in competition in the Shorts Programs.  My favorite short is "Sing For Your Supper" in the Shorts 1 program.  It's NOT in competition, but should be.  [I was wrong.  It's in Hard Knocks which isn't playing again.]

I really, really liked Planet Ottakring which plays at  7:30pm in the AK Experience Small Theater.  It's a fun, light, but serious, almost fairy tale story that takes place in a Vienna neighborhood.  A Feature in Competition.

Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show is a Doc in Competition that is good, but much edgier, Slanty Eyed Mamas rap and sing and talk about being Asian American.  6pm at 49th State Brewery.

Friday, December 09, 2016

AIFF2016: Donald Cried Follow Up

I sent a long list of questions to Kris Avedisian last night (well, early this morning) about his film Donald Cried.

I heard back from Kris and Kyle Espeleta (one of the producers.)  I sent the questions via the Donald Cried website contact page, so I don't have a copy of all the questions I sent.  But one was about who Tom Luke was (the film was dedicated to him in the credits).  Kris wrote,
"Tom Luke is my beloved uncle who passed away right before the film was made. I believe he was in some way responsible for all the snow given to us during production."

For anyone else for whom the characters in the movie were like real people you felt you knew, and about whom you still have lots of questions, here's an April 7, 2016 interview Kyle shared with me of Kris and others at the Film Society of Lincoln Center that addresses some of those questions.  

AIFF2016: John Serpe, Producer of The Happys

I met John Tuesday night, I think.  I missed his film The Happys last Sunday, but it's playing again Saturday at 2pm at the 49th State Brewing Company.

He's also on the panel today (FRIDAY) at noon at the Bear Tooth.  Here's he briefly talking about his film.

AIFF2016: A Trip To Rural India, Donald and Peter, Susie and Liz Great Night

Wow.  This year's festival is offering lots of good films and film makers visiting.  I was tied up all afternoon and got to the Bear Tooth just as Cinema Travelers started.  Travelers documented one of the last cinema teams that traveled from community to community with huge ancient projectors in equally ancient trucks to show reel to reel movies at outdoor night fairs in and around Maharashtra Province.  I'm guessing that because they occasionally announced that the films were in the Marathi language.

We saw them laboriously take down and put up the big tent, break down the camera, load it on the truck, and then put it back together again in the next town.  We saw the crowds of people at the fairs and getting in to see the movie.  We also visited the projector repairman who said he was about 13 or 14 in 1958 or 59 when he saw his first movie.  He said while the others wondered about the story, he wondered about how they got the pictures on the screen and the sound, and he eventually got involved in showing movies.  He demonstrated how he'd created a camera where the rewind was on the bottom instead of the top so the cinema showers didn't have to lift the reels, which looked close to three feet in diameter.  And we watched the cinema traveler buy his first digital projector and learn how to download the movies and take an old projector to a scrap metal man.

It was a touching film that recorded the end of an era.  And it spoke directly to me because I spent two years in a rural Thai community that had similar (though much smaller) night fairs, though we had a movie theater in town.  But we did have traveling troops of actors - both Thai likae (dramas) and Chinese opera who would come through each year.

But the second film grabbed me like no other film in the festival so far.  There have been very good films, but this one seemed to reach out to me and left all sorts of unanswered questions.

Donald Cried starts with Peter coming back to the small town where he grew up to sell his grandmother's house and settle things after she's died.  You don't know all this as the film starts - you pick up more and more details as things progress.  He's lost his wallet on the bus and so he has no money and goes across the street to a neighbor's, who greets him like a long lost pal and practically kidnaps him taking him around town.  The neighbor, Donald, seems like he's got Asbergers or something as he constantly crosses normal conversational boundaries in politeness and topics.  But the history of Peter, Donald, the grandmother, and others slowly is revealed.  But there were still so many questions I had.  And reading the credits - Kris Avedisian was listed as the writer, the producer, the director, and actor - I knew exactly who I wanted to talk to.  My wife asked, which one was he?  I assumed he played Donald, but then I had this thought, whoa, what if he played Peter?  That would have been so weird.  But as the cast scrolled by, he did play Donald.  So I was ready to go home and start looking for an email address for Kris

I hope I've gotten you curious enough to check out the trailer for Donald Cried which I posted in my rundown of the Features In Competition.  It has an early outrageous scene of Donald and Peter that is only a hint of things to come.  (When I looked back on that page, I realized I've now seen all the features in competition and they are all strong films.  The judges are going to have a hard time picking a winner.  I could defend any of them as the winner and if I have time before Sunday, I might try.)

Liz Torres and Susie Singer Carter
I saw Rich Curtner, the president of the film festival board, and asked him why Kris wasn't here because I had questions to ask.  And he could have flown up four different members of the crew and cast for the price of one.  Rich deflected my attention by pointing out that Susie Singer Carter  was here - the director and actor in My Mom and the Girl,  one of the shorts we saw Saturday morning. The film was about Susie's mother and her caregiver - the character I fell in love with.  She was just wonderful.  And Rich then said that Liz Torres, who played the caregiver, was here too.

Photographer Note:  I hate using a flash.  The Bear Tooth lighting leaves a lot to be desired and so my first picture was a bit blurred and looked unusable.  I tried some more pictures, but in the end, I think the first one captures more of the love of life I felt in these two women. I rationalize that if these pictures aren't photographically perfect, they do a good job of reflecting the mood and the ambiance of the Bear Tooth.   So, if you don't like a little blur, just skip the picture.

We had a long and warm conversation and I hope I get to see them again before they go back to LA.  You can see both of them, and Valerie Harper who plays Susie's mother in the trailer I put up on my post about the Shorts in Competition.   I'd also note here that Liz Torres is a two time emmy winner and a Golden Globe nominee with a long history in theater, television, and film.

And here's an article dated March 21 about the film on Broadwayworld that says the film was going to start shooting in April 2016.  So this picture is pretty new.

I had a long day today and J was tired too and so we didn't stay for the Quick Freeze films that began at 10pm or so.  These have gotten better and better each year.  People are given four or five words to include in a film to be completed 24 hours [four days] later.  It's always fun to see what they do with that challenger.

But I was full on two rich and filling movies and had no room for dessert.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

AIFF2016: Thursday India, Dragon Animation, And More

I am so busy.  So here are your choices for today.  Click the screen to get to the festival schedule site so you can see the drop down windows.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

AIFF2016: Catching My Breath - Prince Achmed, Best And Most Beautiful Things, Real Boy,

I've got lots more video than I have time to go through without staying up to 3am each night.  I'll get it up when I can.  I accidentally got my Rebel to get into this 3X digital video (don't know how I got there or how to turn it off) that works great for after the film Q&A.  But what I got is long and needs editing.  Unfortunately a project I've been working on since last spring or so, requires more of my time just this week.

But this has been a great festival so far in terms of the quality of films and the film makers here.  So here are some glimpses of things I haven't put up yet.

I haven't taken pictures during the movie for a very long time, but it just seemed I had to do it with the Adventures of Prince Achmed.  I'll get more up soon (I hope.)

This was the 1926 German animated film created by Lotte Reiniger.  They say it's the oldest full length animated film in existence. It was wonderful, paper cuttings animation.  The Milestone Films (where you can buy the DVD)  says:

"This cinematic treasure has been beautifully restored with its spectacular color tinting and with a new orchestral recording of the magnificent 1926 score by Wolfgang Zeller."

Miles and Karina with AIFF director Rebecca Pottebaum

Well, we didn't get the 1926 score by Zeller with the film.  Instead we got an enchanted score by Miles and Karina (David Keenan and Nova Devonie).

They are pictured here after the film with AIFF Director Rebecca Pottebaum.

Putnam and Hunter

Prince Achmed was followed by The First Girl I Loved - a beautiful and touching . . .   ok, it's hard to write a short description of a movie without sounding clichéd and hypish.  It's the story of a high school student and her first love, told in a way that makes them any two awkward high school students exploring their feelings and how to connect.    The picture is of the film's producers Ross Putnam and David Hunter.

Tuesday night (it's the beginning of Wednesday as I write) we  The Best and Most Beautiful Things paired with Real Boy.  The two films complemented each other perfectly.  In both documentaries the film makers essentially moved in with the families whose stories they were capturing on film.  In Best and Most Beautiful - the focus was on Michele Smith who, while legally blind, is determined to be herself and live a full and rich life.  The producer/director Garrett Zevgetis - on the right there - said one way they were able to get the trust of the family and the intimacy they got, was by having female camera folks.  I have a close friend who is blind and I appreciated how well the story demonstrated the kinds of barriers society puts up for blind people.  Michele finds an accepting community in the local BDSM community, where, as Garrett explained in the Q&A, people are very accepting and non-judgmental and there is a structure that offers control and safety.  Michele's sign for the gay pride festival says "Redefine Normal."  That's appropriate for the next film too.

Credits Real Boy
Real Boy shares a very similar documentary style of the filmmakers living with the family for a long period of time and capturing candid and difficult conversations among the family members over Rachel's name and body change to Bennett.  An incredible scene shows Ben talking to a bunch of transitioning teens online demonstrating how modern technology is making finding like souls much easier than in the past.  He even finds a close friend named Dylan who is having his surgery the same day and place and they travel together.  I've got some video of Ben's Q&A afterward and will try to get it up before too long.

Real Boy's subject Bennett Wallace was there for the showing, sang a couple of songs and then was joined by animator Alex Myung, whose beautiful short animation - Arrival - showed before Real Boy.  There's a short video of Alex I got opening night here, and I've got video of the Q&A that I'll get up eventually.

Finally I got to talk to John Serpe whose film The Happys I missed last Sunday, but which will show again Sunday [Saturday] at 2pm.  I'll put up the video of his pitch before then.  Of interest to me was the origin of the name - The Happys - which John said was a rough translation of the part of LA where the film was made - Los Feliz.  It's also a part I know from growing up in LA and living in nearby Silverlake before we came to Alaska 39 years ago.

I was going to add dates of the second showing of the movies mentioned in this post, but when I checked, it turns out that most aren't having a second showing.  There are some feature films showing twice, but not most of those in competition. I highly recommend Planet Ottakring which plays again on Saturday at 7pm.  Some of the award winners will play again Sunday night, but there won't be much warning of what they are.  I'll try to live blog and tweet the awards ceremony.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Reader Visits Using IPvanish

A bunch of visits from Costa Mesa, CA with using IPvanish  as the IP address.  They were searching different labels, but Clinton was one that came up repeatedly.  I had similar repeated label searches from Bochum, Germany and fewer from Hong Kong.  The latter two had more normal IP addresses.  Here's what it looks like on Statcounter.  And yes, that's some of the data captured when you go to a website and that Statcounter displays  on each visitor to the site.  

Click  image to focus better

IPvanish is a site where you can get more anonymous surfing - your IP address vanishes, according to their site.

PC Magazine has a long review on IPvanish
What's a VPN?
"When you connect to the Internet via a VPN, the service creates a secure, encrypted connection with one of the company's servers. Your Web traffic is routed through this secure tunnel before exiting through the server and into the Web. This means that someone spying on connections on the public Wi-Fi network at the local coffee shop won't be able to spy on your activities. Furthermore, government snoops and advertisers won't be to see your true IP address while you browse the Web.
VPNs are used every day by people concerned about security or trying to circumvent restrictions to Internet access. Journalists and activists in countries with restrictive Internet policies have used VPNs to keep in contact with the rest of the world and access content that would be otherwise forbidden.
While most of us won't have to worry about oppressive regimes, the average person can rest assured that their Web traffic won't be intercepted with a VPN. You can also use a VPN service's international servers to spoof your location and watch region-locked streaming content. But be advised: some media companies are getting wise. In fact, viewing Netflix with a VPN—including IPVanish—is all but impossible these days."

The discussion is much longer.  The downsides to IPvanish, according to the review, are price and aesthetics, though it says it's good value if this is what you need.

So, if you don't want your IP address captured by every website you visit, something like IPvanish would help with that.  I'm guessing the Bochum and Hong Kong addresses are part of IPvanish's collection of servers that hide one's actual IP address.

For those of you wondering, "what's an IP address" you can find out here - and also find out what your own IP address is.  At the bottom of the page it takes you into much more detail about what an IP address is on a page called "IP-101."  This is written for people who know nothing about their computers.  It's like a short lesson about what's under the hood.  And in these days where internet security and spying by companies and government may be increasing, you ought to know about this.

Monday, December 05, 2016

AIFF2016: Tuesday Choices include Alex Myung's Animated Film 'Arrival'

Here's Tuesday's easy choices schedule from the Sched program:

Best and Most Beautiful Things is a documentary in competition.  I have trailer and description here.

Real Boy is a feature in competition, proceeded by a short animated film, Arrival.

Here's the Real Boy trailer:

I talked to Alex Myung opening night and below he tells you little about Arrival.  I've got description

Sorry about the lighting, it was dark in the theater,

Here's the trailer:

And a link to Alex's website.

AIFF2016: Monday Choices Are Easy - Columbia and A Trip To Oregon To Die

From a blogger's point of view, today is the easiest of the festival - there are only two choices.  From the Sched website:

Both films are "Features in Competition."  Both are at the Bear Tooth.

Feature means it's a fictional story 55 - 140 minutes.  In Competition means they have been chosen by the programmers who selected the films that would be at the festival as one of the best and to be eligible for a prize in the festival.  One of the programmers told me that ALL of the Features in Competition this year are very good films. I would agree on that for the three I've seen.

I have more on each of these on my post about all the Features in Competition here.

You can also click on the image and get to the Sched website and the drop down menus for each film will work and tell you about the films.

AIFF2016: Another Good Day of Films

We watched animated films at the museum after going to the AK Experience first, by mistake.  We missed the first one or two.  The best of what I saw was  My Life I Don't Want - which in very basic and simple terms tells the universal story of women.  

Serena Dykman, Nana director

We stayed at the museum to see Nana, a granddaughters film about her grandmother's life after Auschwitz.  Her grandmother made it her mission to be an eyewitness who would let as many people as possible know that what life in Auschwitz was like.  I was impressed by her dedication to helping people connect to what happened so that they could prevent it from happening again.  When asked how she survived, she answered that it was luck  She wasn't smarter or more capable than others, she just got the breaks that others didn't.  She also said that no, others can not understand what happened no matter how long she talks.  And it struck me that experiential learning programs are needed to get a sense of this.  There was an elementary school experiment called Brown Eyes, Blue Eyes.  Teacher Jane Elliott divided the class up by eye color and then said that the blue eyed kids were less important, less capable, less smart than the brown-eyed kids.  The next day she switched it around.  The affects, in just two days were staggering and a follow up about 20 years later showed that the impacts were lasting.  You can see this powerful experiment at this link to the Frontline show.

I mention this here, because I think without doing that kind of exercise, people don't get it.  And, unfortunately, it is almost impossible to do that kind of exercise today in schools.  While I understand the concerns for not traumatizing students, I also know that true learning often involves a certain amount of mental distress.

Lalihta Rajan

Because we were at the museum watching Nana, we missed the Global Village program of shorts that had Lalihta Rajan's G;aswAsians in it.  But here's a picture I took of her at the AK Exp Theater Saturday.

Haper's Farce before Prince Achmed showing

At the Bear Tooth, the band Harper's Farce was playing before The Adventures of Prince Achmed started.  I'll put up more on that amazing film with great live music.

The 8:15pm Bear Tooth movie was one of the Features in Competition - the first girl I loved.  I'll do more on this later, but it was an excellently made film.  Two of the producers were there and answered questions after the film.  I'll try to get some of that up.

Michael Faulkner, Director of Shu-De

And I'll just add this picture of director Michael Faulkner, whose Shu-De played Sunday night.  It was really a concert tour sort of movie, but it took place in the republic of Tuva and the concerts featured throat sincere.

The first weekend is over.  That's usually the most hectic part because a) I haven't quite figured out the program and how to see as many of the films I'm interested in as possible.  It's also films from 11 or 12 am until 10:30pm.  But Monday is just a couple of films in the evening at the Bear Tooth.

The festival is off to a great start.  The live music interludes at the Bear Tooth have been great - particularly Blackwater Railroad Company because their music was in the film that came right after.  Everything just seems to be a little smoother.  There are lots of big cameras around - meaning more media are taking a serious interest in the festival.  And audience awards are back.  Since I've often been critical (constructively I hope), it's important to also pat people on the back when they're doing it right.  Good job to the festival board and staff and volunteers!