Continuing a new tradition I just attended the 5th annual Asheville Film Festival.  This was my
second time
going to the festival and it seems that its growing in popularity.  Tickets seemed
to be selling out much faster than they had last year.  

       Click on the stub for a corresponding review... or scroll below...



  

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      Dreamtime; The Garage; Intervention; Small Avalanches; The Lucky One; Jonna's Body, Please Hold;
      The Little Gorilla; War/Dance; When the World Goes Dark; Cabby; Year of the Fish



First Ticket

 

Dreamtime - Short - IMDb - Official Page
-
(Belgium, 20 min)

I think the challenge of making a good short film is to convey a concept in a very short amount of time.    This year there were two candidates that achieved this:  Dreamtime and The Lucky One. 

Dreamtime was the best visually of any of the films I watched this year.  It created a very gothic Orwellian glimps of society where the clock is revered as a god, and abiding by it is the only way to survive.  Some one challenges this society by throwing sand into the eyes of its citizens causing them to imagine alternatives in their dreams.  The  The main character is the most sucessful at his job, which makes him a particular target for the sand man.  When dreaming he sees a woman (the only significant in this short film) in a red dress allowing him to imagine an escape.  The story ends bittersweet.  Is it a tragedy or fairytale?  The moviegoer is left to decide.  Rating:  5/5

The Garage - Feature - IMDb - Official Page
This was the first feature we saw at the Festival, and it was ... mello.  There really was nothing compelling or special about this film...Not a lot bad either. 

This story is a moderatly touching (but not really) coming of are story about a young man wanting to escape life working at his dad's garage.  He is accompanied by his best friend who is urging him to leave town with him, and a girlfriend who he meets during the film but never develops a serious relationship with.  Everyone else in his life is urging him to stay. 

His friend has a very difficult home situation, and is wanting to escape an abusive father. 

His girlfried (the town flousy), BJ, is (implied) cheating on him (implied by the fact he sees her riding around in other guy's cars repeadedly). She denies cheating but that is left unresolved. 

One of the bigger problems this film faces is somewhat poor acting by some of the supporting cast.  That and overall being about as entertaining as a glass of milk, and leaving some minor plots open-ended.  However, this film does a good job of depicting the conflict a young person experiences when they want to set out on their own, but have responsibilities and pressures to stay at home.  3/5. 




Second Ticket


Intervention - Feature
- IMDb - Official Page
I didn't enjoy this film; it's not that it wasn't created well.  The performances were good, espicially considering they were working on an entirely improvised script.  And it seemed like the cast and crew did a great job of making the most out of a very limited budget. 

Note:  The film is shot with (or covered over later) with a blue lens, which at first annoyed me but after awhile it seemed to match the miserable nature of the film...

The basic plot of this film resolves around the interactions of several people at a drug rehab clinic for the well-to-do.  The characters, for the most part, have no real depth.  It mostly focuses on the two married therapists, and the man who is undergoing an 'intervention' and his wife.  This may be a plot devise, I guess, to show the contrast of the couple in therapy with the therapists, but I found it a lot less interesting than it would have been if more attention had been paid to the surrounding characters. 

My number one grievance is that I still have no idea what point this film was trying to make.  While watching it I tried to overlook my lack of interest or empathy for the main characters, which is hard since throughout the entire movie you are served up reasons not to care about them.  By the end, the couple who are the least likable, are brought together by a tragedy caused by their disregard for others, and which leaves the only likable character (ignored for most of the movie) dead.  Everything that can go wrong with this story, has, but as a viewer I have no real reason to care about any of it.  2/5




Third Ticket - Various Animated, Student, Short
 

Small Avalanches - Short
- IMDb - Official Page
Before the festival while looking up the films the trailer for this film made it look pretty interesting; however, the actual short included little more than what the trailer provided, and because of that, its simply a very brief morality tale, in a way similar to reading a zen parable—short and to the point.  This short seems more like a glimpse of an idea.  3.5

The Lucky One - Short - IMDb - Official Page
This short film painfully depicts the trials a young woman faces while trying to assist her father who is dying with cancer and has picked up a bitter view of life and is resided to pushing her and everything out of his life he might have cared about as a means of coping.  Ultimately, both the father and the daughter must overcome their pride.  3/5. 

Jonna's Body, Please Hold - Short
- IMDb - Official Page
This not-too-short (46 mins) short was excellent, and in my opinion the best short I watched, and much better than the official winner Cabbie.  Very quirky in a Barnum and Baily sort of way (which is fitting as the main character ultimately enlists as a clown in the circus), Jonna tells her true life story in a very compelling way, by playing the parts of various areas in her body, as well as the operator who answers their grievances.  The most impressive aspect of this film was it's production – amazing costumes, sets, etc.  4.5/5. 

Note:  We were fortunate enough that this film was screened with the creator/star present who carried out a very interesting Q/A session following the screening.  The creator, Jonna, is even more interesting in real life than her characters in the film. 



Fourth Ticket - Winning Student and Documentary
 

The Little Gorilla – Winning Student
- IMDb - Official Page
This was a pretty cute little short, nothing truly remarkable about it.  The concept, a boy first encountering a challenge in life, is perfectly conveyed with the manner in which the film is shot.  4/5. 

War/Dance – Winning Documentary
- IMDb - Official Page
This was my personal favorite out of everything at this year's festival.  I was actually deeply touched by the true story of the Ugandan children caught between the war between the government and rebel forces. 

Note:  the copy shown at the festival had a scrolling marquee every so often advertising that it was a copy for judging purposes and not meant to be screened.  This is either very sloppy on the part of the festival or the film makers. 



Fifth Ticket - Winning Amination, Short, and Feature


When the World Goes Dark – Winning Animated
- IMDb - Official Page
Unfortunately for us, this film suffered from a glitch filled screening.  The screen would freeze and skip periodically so there is quite possibly something important that I missed; but just judging by what we were able to see in the screening, this animated short did have some very nice animation in places.  I'm a bit of an animation junkie.  I can't get enough; especially Japanesse Animation (Anime).  (But not computer animation so much, I like the old-school pen and paper look.)  na/5.

Cabbie – Winning Short - IMDb - Official Page
This short was way overblown.  I could have easily been a third of the lengh and still felt long winded.  It was somewhat amusing as a concept; a mockumentary about a man who had no driver's license but aspires to be a Cab driver in Chicago and has been mentally preparing.  Although mildy amising for a time, this short is way too long.  How this won best short is a mystery to me.  Jonna's Body was far superior and should have won best short (it did win the people's choice however).  2/5. 

Year of the Fish – Winning Feature - IMDb - Official Page
A clever modern adaptation of the story of Cinderella set in NYC's Chinatown.  A Chinese female immigrant to America is pressured into signing a contract to work at what she was led to believe was a beauty salon, but turns out to be a massage parlor where the girls provide extra services to the clients; but when she refuese to provide the extra services to their clients she is forced to do all the cleaning and 'less dignified' work around the parlor.  She meets a young man (accordian player) on the streets and

This movie benefited from great production.  Of all of the features we watched, this felt the most polished, like it had the most real potential as a commercial success.  However, in my and some of my friends opinions, although the roto-scoped animation effect was very well done, we were not sure it was really necessary; so while it doesn't necessarily detract from the quality of the film; it was kind of a distraction; and because of that, 4/5.