ATLFF’15: What I’m Excited About (Part I)
The 39th Atlanta Film Festival kicked off last night with the overwhelmingly overcrowded and (possibly) overhyped opening night presentation of Justin Kelly’s I Am Michael, the true story of gay activist-turned-Christian pastor Michael Glatze. Star and producer James Franco unfortunately couldn’t make it, due to “unforeseen circumstances,” but the film was received amongst predominantly positive buzz, and I dare call the first day of the festival a success—but maybe that’s just Happy Hour talking (5 p.m. every night at the Highland Inn Ballroom for anyone interested).
So what else has people excited about this Georgia peach of a celebration of filmmakers and filmlovers? From a record number of 3,761 submissions from over 100 countries, the organizers have chosen the strongest and most radical lineup of narrative, documentary and experimental feature-length and short films, and what awaits audiences and guests at the Plaza and 7 Stages Theatres, the Woodruff Arts Center and the Rialto is indeed an interesting roster of screenings, events, panels, workshops, discussions, and experiences.
In the order they’re scheduled, here are the movies that I’m most looking forward to this weekend:
The Sideways Light (Saturday 3/21 9:30 p.m. upstairs at the Plaza)
This atmospheric indie thriller from first-time writer-director Jennifer Harlow follows a young woman named Lily (Lindsay Burdges) who cares for her ailing mother (Annalee Jefferies) when she starts to notice strange occurrences in the house her family has owned for generations. The daughter is haunted by memories as the mother starts losing hers the question raised is whether or not there’s anything else haunting them as well or if every odd incident is just a byproduct of the older woman’s unraveling mind.
The Dickumentary (Sunday 3/22 2:15 p.m. upstairs at the Plaza)
Basically everything you have ever wanted to know about the penis in one short film. From worship to circumcision and enlargement, spanning millions of years from its evolution in prehistory to modern society and covering interviews with over 40 experts across 14 countries, Sofian Khan’s full-length—no pun intended—documentary feature offers a large and impressive—okay, maybe it was intended—entertaining and comprehensive tour de phallus.
Other Worlds (Sunday 3/22 4:30 p.m. downstairs at the Plaza)
This international shorts block offers a series of stories brought to life using horror, sci-fi and magical realism. Polaroid and Burnt Grass look especially intriguing.
Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero (Sunday 3/22 6:45 p.m. downstairs at the Plaza
Jamshid Gakhredinpour (Maz Jobrani) gets more than he bargained for when he wins the Green Card lottery in Jonathan Kesselman’s promisingly absurd An Iranian in Hollywood story. Dreaming of becoming an American hero in Los Angeles, Jamshid, a.k.a. Jimmy Vestvood instead gets involved with the wife of a corrupt arms dealer, accused of terrorism and entangled in a conspiracy to start the next world war.
The Tribe (Sunday 3/22 9:15 p.m. downstairs at the Plaza)
Given the fact that most movies today hold our hand like an overprotective and slightly creepy uncle while spelling out every possible message in obvious, unambiguous (and whenever possible, big, loud, explosion-and-conflagration-heavy) narratives and clear, concise, clichéd writing, it seems a rare and brave thing indeed that Miroslav Slaboshpitsky’s award-winning Cannes graduate debut feature is as (literally) quiet, simple, and unusual as The Tribe. A Ukraine/Netherlands coproduction about a deaf teenager (Grigoriy Fesenko) struggling to fit into the boarding school system as he navigates gang rivalries and the sometimes even more dangerous terrain of adolescent love, the movie contains no spoken dialogue; the story is carried forth through sign language by a team of non-professional actors. Did I mention there are also no subtitles? “For Love and Hatred,” the trailer boldly proclaims, “You Don’t Need Translation.”
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by Ella Tucan