By Will Ashton | firstname.lastname@example.org| @thewillofash
Well, I’m back in the saddle again, seeing and reviewing as many films that come out of the AIFAV Fest as possible. In my third day of coverage, there is a very loose theme of loss and recovery to be found in these three films. Even if the films themselves vary in quality.
Archaeology of a Woman | Directed by Sharon Greytak | Not Rated
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are very serious, devastating topics. But you won’t know that from watching Sharon Greytak’s film Archaeology of a Woman.
Centered on a woman Margaret (Academy Award-nominated actress Sally Kirkland) and the struggles that come between her and her daughter Kate (Victoria Clark) as she develops the early stages of dementia, this is meant to be a moving, serious-minded character exploration on the state of the fragile mind. But what is produced inside is a movie that makes the feature films on the Lifetime Channel look like Schindler’s List.
The biggest problem with the film is that the script, also written by Greytak, is so convoluted and poorly written that it’s hard to take anything that is happening on screen seriously, especially as it goes on through its confused plot. This is made even worse by her awkward, inexperienced direction with makes even talented actresses like Kirkland look distraught and amateur.
Since the movie is on a limited budget, it can be easy for one to forgive some of their misfortunes. But, between the clunky dialogue, the indecisive direction (there are moments here that I think were supposed to be funny, but come across just as weird as those lighthearted moments in an M. Night Shyamalan movie) and the fact that movie, on the whole, is just really, really boring to sit through makes one’s patience unearned.
Although Kirkland’s performance isn’t anywhere near as good as it probably should be, there are little, subtle moments where you can look into her eyes and see her genuinely acting. It’s a shame that these moments are so few and far between, because they demonstrate how good of the movie probably could have been with a good script and direction. Pity.
If one wants a touching, heart-breaking look at the effects of Alzheimer’s or dementia, they should check out Away From Her. Not this cheesy, awkwardly-plotted, ridiculous little movie.
The Great Flood | Directed by Bill Morrison | Not Rated
In Bill Morrison’s moody, if not completely empowering, look back on the 1926 flood of the Mississippi River, The Great Flood provides a stunningly bleak look back on the troubled piece of American piece.
Encompassed back a jazzy, post-rock score by Bill Frisell, Morrison gives a unique, thoughtful mediation on a part of history that is not as explored as it probably should be. Through the use of music and specifically chosen footage, Morrison does a great job at establishing the era of his film’s timeline. But, with that said, there is something slight about his film that never truly makes it go far beyond its initial intentions.
At just 80 minutes long, The Great Flood is a short movie, and does know when it is time to get in and then get out. Even if its ending is a bit awkward. There is a lot to like inside this movie, and for those who like to have their history lessons have a little bit of punk-based attitude in them, then you should find a lot to explore and like in this movie.
As a slice of life story that blends the lines between the past and modern day, Morrison’s film gives a well-produced slice of life story that is dated and relevant at the same time. It is not going to be the most memorable movie that I see at this year’s fest, but there is too much good in here for me to dismiss.
One: A Story of Love and Equality | Directed by Becca Roth | Not Rated
Films that are obviously meant to be film school projects are hard to judge.
It’s clear that these type of movies are made by filmmakers trying to find their voice, their niche and their style. They are the works of inexperienced filmmakers who know they are still learning and are trying to become the best filmmakers they can possibly be.
One: A Story of Love and Equality is that type of movie from new filmmaker Becca Roth. In her exploration of the North Carolina Amendment One debate, she is clearly working on a shoe-string budget at best, and has to work with that limitations as much as possible. While it is far from a perfect film, Roth is able to make the most of her limitations, thanks to some captivating interviews and a growing understanding of character that she finds in her travels.
For the first 40 to 50 minutes, Roth’s film is a very surface-level look at this topic. She gets too caught up in the cliched nature of documentary storytelling, and never quite pushes herself and her subjects as she could and should. But then, somewhere around the half point of the movie, that changes. By finally exploring the other side of this issue, and moving away from its one-sided pretensions, One is able to become a surprisingly moving, character-based examination on this tricky topic.
The worst thing about the movie, oddly enough, is Roth herself whenever she decides to throw itself into the story’s forefront. Her voice-overs are incredibly cliched, and she goes through ever writing trick in the book in a seeming bliss of unawareness that’s cute in its naivete. Despite Roth being a pretty good editor, she can never quite escape the college-level type film-making she is working with here, but she learns to do that best she can with what she is given.
But, when she is able to move the camera away from herself and focus it on those around her, she has a nice, sensitive vision, and a talent for exploring the hidden struggles of the human condition. If she is able to continue moving away from telling her tired stories and focus more on the works of others, she could become a very promising young filmmaker. Especially if she ever gets a budget.
While a bit self-involved and too service level in its storytelling at first, One grows just like its characters, and has heart and earnest good-nature to shine. Despite its flaws, there is something so charming about this effort that it makes it worth working through it in the end.