Sunday, June 20, 2010

Blogging the LAFF

It's that time of year! The LA Film Festival is now in full swing. This year, instead of the rolling hills and glistening streets of Westwood, the festival takes place downtown at the recently-completed LA Live. Methinks this is part of the city's plan to gentrify the once-avoided area.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17: Police patrol outside Staples Center after Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics 83-79 to win the 2010 Wins NBA Championship on June 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Anywhoo, I thought I would take the time to review the films I saw today and the festival thus far. While I still ponder the reasoning behind moving the festival downtown, I must admit it was a smart choice. Moving the festival to LA Live makes it more accessible to locals via Metro. Not to mention, everyone in Los Angeles knows where the Staples Center is. Despite its premier location, I must shake my head at the available food and rest options currently at LA Live. Last year, there was a plethora of cafes, fast food joints, convenience stores, restaurants, and sushi bars to keep the plebeians happy. This year, most of the food choices center around the sit-down restaurant experience and Starbucks. Needless to say, the Starbucks is seeing alot of action these days for festival-goers looking for a quick bite in-between screenings. There's a Subway three blocks up and one block east, but seriously, no one walks in LA. I found it by accident myself.

Moving on to the screenings. I saw two docs today. Great films. A quick review on both.

GasLand, directed by hippie-raised Pennsylvanian Josh Fox, protests natural gas companies' abuses of our most precious and vital resource: water. Interview after interview reveals how landowners' water reserves are now filled with undrinkable, flammable water. Yes, you can literally light what is supposed to be drinking water straight from the faucet. The citizens try to fight back in their own ways, but are ultimately at a loss for a final solution. God only knows what these folks are drinking. Interesting enough, Fox mentions during the Q-and-A how he is now the target of natural gas companies who are desperately trying to debunk his film. He wasn't lying.
The film was informative, however, Fox inserted himself in the documentary a little too much for me. I gave it a 3 in the audience choice vote.

Where are You Taking Me?, directed by Kimi Takesue, highlights life in post-civil war Uganda. Takesue uses a non-narrative, minimalist documentary style in order to create a living portrait of the Ugandan people. She uses plenty of close-ups, carefully capturing each nameless subject as they go by their daily lives. Scenes slowly reveal themselves, busting stereotypes wide open. For example, one scene shows young children breaking rocks in a quarry. Dirty and waif-like, they peer at the overseer. He's pushing them to work harder. Then, a boom mike and camera appear, and the word "cut" is heard. This is a movie set. As you watch, you come to the realization that despite the civil war being in the recent past, the Ugandan people are optimistic. They are also more athletic and multi-lingual than you will ever be! My vote was a 4.

Happy Filmmaking!

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