By Will Ashton | email@example.com| @thewillofash
Another day, another batch of AIFAV festival reviews. Unlike yesterday’s selection, there is the mildest of themes that loosely connect these three films together: innocence. If even in the smallest of ways, these three films all strive to connect to a sense of longing and fascination with the world at large.
Ernest & Celestine | Directed by Stephane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner | Rated PG
Sometimes, it’s the simplest stories that are the best, and that is certainly the case with Ernest & Celestine.
Centered on the friendship formed between a bear (Ernest) and a mouse (Celestine) in a prejudiced society, the latest film from the creators of the wonderfully bizarre A Town Called Panic (which does get a nod early on) is just as sweet and lovingly crafted as their former film. Yet, it also has the added benefit of getting something that is so emotionally earnest (no pun intended) that is even more arresting than their last film.
Even if it can be sweet to a fault, there is something so beautiful about seeing this 2-D (yeah for 2-D!) hand-drawn animation on the silver screen that enraptures you to enjoy every blinking moment. There are moments so elegantly crafted, including one moment halfway into the picture that could be something out of Fantasia, in addition to its lighthearted score that makes the movie sweep in the audience’s heart faster than they can possibly imagine.
While it can be very heavy-handed in its message, particularly towards its closing moments, there is something so arresting about this movie—which is particularly ironic based on the events which happen in the movie—that audiences, young and old, will get caught in its net of childlike wonder. Even a cynic like me can’t help but get a smile on their face.
Something Necessary | Directed by Judy Kibinge | Not Rated
What happens when the important stories that deserve to be told can’t fully grasp its potential power? You get something like Judy Kibinge’s Something Necessary.
Centered on the aftermath of events which take place in Kenya after a violent civil unrest betakes the nation after their election, even though the characters themselves are fictional—something the film is not afraid to point out—there is something about these story that demands to be told for all its hidden pathos and bottled confusion. But Kibinge’s film gets lost in its need to flush in multiple different story arcs that attempt to connect together, but never quite gain their authenticity.
The biggest problem with this film comes down to its script, written by Mungai Kiroga and Jc Niala. Despite the filmmaker and the actors’ best intentions, they can’t escape the hokey-ness and heavy-handed dialogue that the writing delivers on in hearty portions. Kibinge and her lead actress Kipng’eno Kirui Duncan give a level of restraint throughout that is commendable, but their script is not self-aware as they seem to be.
When Something Necessary is good, though, it’s very good. The quiet moments centered on Duncan’s performance are quite, yet remorseful in a way that are captivating in their silent power. But, unfortunately, these moments are too little and far between in the end that they don’t fully gain the attention they deserve.
There is some beautiful cinematography throughout this movie, particularly in some select moments that harp back to the movie’s restraint creativeness. But, because of the muddled story, its pacing issues (even at 85 minutes, this movie feels long-winded) and its ongoing preachy nature, it never earns the emotional power that they deserve. Which is a shame, because, for a movie that should be a quiet punch in the gut at the end of the day, all its gains is a shoulder shrug.
Visitors | Directed by Godfrey Reggio | Not Rated
There are art house movies, and then there are art house movies.
Art house movies often feature D, C, even B-list actors working on a film of a smaller budget and gets medium theater play. But then there are art house movies, and that is what Godfrey Reggio’s latest movie Visitors is.
Reggio’s movie is not an easy one to describe. If you were to interview everyone leaving the theater afterwards, they would all probably give you a different answer about what it was all about. Which is fine, because that is what art is, but it makes it hard to write about in detail. What I will say, then, is that, for me, Visitors walks a fine line between alluring and pretentious in its examination of humanity and our daily existence.
But, what really makes this movie work is its incredibly beautiful cinematography. Visitors is a movie that demands to be seen on the big screen, as its use of excellent lightning and black and white filmography makes it all the more stunning in the darkened atmosphere of the theater. It’s use of shadows matches perfectly, and it encompasses a sense of awe that is pretty breathtaking once you put some of the pieces together. That is, if you put any of the pieces together.
Like I said, this is a movie that everyone is going to get something different from. My explanations here may not be even close to what someone else in front, behind or next to me got in the screening. What I found incredible someone else may get nothing from, and, on that same token, what I found repetitive and unmoving someone probably found amazing. So, with that in time, this is the type of film that you mainly have to look at on face value, in order to give as unbiased of a summation of it as possible.
There is certainly a 2001: A Space Odyssey influence here, and, perhaps more surprisingly, inspiration from the filmography of Andy Warhol as well. As such, the visual effects are great, as is the score by Philip Glass. There is no dialogue in the movie, yet there are many broad themes that are tackled and discussed throughout. This is certainly not the film for everyone, but those who enjoy this type of heady movie are going to find a lot to like here.
Even if it becomes less and less engaging as it enters its third act (I should also mention that there are about three endings at least in this movie) there is still enough here, especially in its first two parts, to make the trip to see it. Reggio is a filmmaker that makes even falling garbage look beautiful, and, while this may not be his finest work, it is still worth watching. That is, if you are into this kind of thing.