Some of our favorites included Short Term 12, Tapia, The Act of Killing, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Only God Forgives, and Goodbye World, but there are plenty more worth mentioning. Hit the jump to read each writer’s thoughts, check back throughout the week for more reviews, and tune in to the podcast Monday to hear more wrap up of the festival.
29 films. Yup, 29 films over the course of 12 days. This was easily one of the best film festivals I’ve had the pleasure of attending. Not just in terms of quantity but where it counts most, quality. Of all the films that I managed to see only one didn’t really do anything for me. Keep reading my reviews as they come in and you’ll know which one it was. The rest of the films ranged from good to excellent and most of them were in the mid to latter side of that scale.
Most of my favorite films come from the documentary category. I still can’t shake The Act of Killing, my mind continues to go back to the ending. Tapia felt like a Rocky movie but it was a true-life tragedy that packs more of a punch than that entire franchise. American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, my review is forthcoming, was a riveting account of 97 year old activist Grace Lee Boggs. Seeing her live and hearing her speak so eloquently was a highlight. Speaking of live, hearing Harry Dean Stanton sing after a screening of his film Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction, my review is forthcoming, was also memorable. Code Black did not disappoint.
I loved Short Term 12 and Wadjda, reviews forthcoming, and really liked The Spectacular Now. It was refreshing seeing real teenagers not freaking out about getting laid or drinking but dealing with real problems. Johnnie To’s Drug War, review forthcoming, was vintage To. I liked a great deal of the narrative films but there is one that I liked that I’m almost ashamed to admit it, review is forthcoming, that film was Takashi Miike’s Lesson of the Evil.
Three days after the closing day at LAFF I’m still wishing to be able to see the entire festival lineup. Before saying anything specific, I would like to commend their selection panel for curating an overall rich and rewarding experience with cinema, from the gala screenings to the shorts programs. Some highlights include the Only God Forgives Q&A with director Nicolas Winding Refn, Alan Berliner’s intimate screening of First Cousin Once Removed, and the few world premier’s and after parties I was able to attend. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints probably had me the most high on cinema in general. I called a friend to try and talk for a few minutes after the screening and I was too post-coital to be able to express anything besides gentle breathy coos. It was a moment that was half critic and have casual movie goer, my breath had been taking away and I was left running to catch up with it.
In terms of looking back over it all, I wonder if I had seen Refn’s Only God Forgives without him there, would have left the cinema so excited? That’s not to say that the film isn’t outstanding, just that my understanding of it may have remained a little more distant, as it’s not an easy film to find a way into. Hearing about his friendly relationship with Alejandro Jordorowsky made me instantly jealous, as its a total dream of mine to get my tarot read by the film cult master before he dies, an event which Refn speculated would arrive inevitably soon, as Jordorowsky is now in his 90’s. That made me reflect a bit. Its been 43 years since El Topo was made, and this is the 19th year of the LAFF. This year they screened almost 200 films over 10 days, and the art of filmmaking is seriously just over 100 years old. Crazy, isn’t it? The movie legacy continues to obsess me. Looking forward to the next fest!
The first and most important thing to know about this film festival is that, next year, you should absolutely go. With over 100 completely different films, all hand-picked and ranging from Sundance winners to never-before-seen premieres, LAFF is an event that gives audiences the opportunity to see the latest in filmmaking. I’ve never been to a festival before that was so extensive, with so many opportunities to meet the actors and filmmakers themselves. While I wish I could’ve seen all the films, everything that I did see consistently exceeded my expectations and left me wanting more.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the festival was seeing the promise of upcoming indie filmmakers. We can certainly expect to see more from Lake Bell now, after she surprised audiences with her authentic performance, award-winning script, and expert direction in In A World…. In The House that Jack Built, director and writer Joe Vasquez’s proved that low-budget films funded entirely by kickstarter sites can feature beautiful cinematography of the same caliber as expensive films. It was nice to see the strong positive audience response to low-budget character studies like My Sister’s Quinceañera and a relief to know that, despite Hollywood’s increased reliance on highly developed and produced features, contemporary neo-realist films like this can still capture our hearts. My personal favorite, while difficult to choose, was probably Goodbye World – a refreshingly different dramedy about friends uniting for the end of the world – but I can now guarantee that if you’re looking for a quality film festival with intriguing films, you will not be disappointed by LAFF.