Indiefest 2011 - Opening Weekend Capsule Reviews
The first big weekend of Indiefest 2011 has come and gone, and it was one of the strongest openings for lively genre film in the enduring Bay Area festival's recent history. Not just good films, but a diverse bunch:
Opening night film Kaboom is a quintessential festival film and the perfect film to start off the festivities. From alt-cult director Gregg Araki, Kaboom exhibits the independent spirit, sex, violence and bonkers storytelling that audiences associate with film festivals, and it pushes even those to the limit. Thomas Dekker stars as Smith, a college freshman who (maybe)witnesses a murder, but has to juggle his amateur sleuthing with a bevy of men and women interested in bedding him. An amalgam of genres and styles, I found myself drawing lines to conspiracy films and the Italian Giallo, with the threat of 1960's free love replaced by the unscrupulous sex of the 21st century. Kaboom retains the grunge spirit of Araki films like Nowhere and The Doom Generation, but wisely updates the punk attitude for a generation obsessed with Facebook and cell phones. As the plot quickly spirals into nonsense about cults and supernatural WTF-ery, you wouldn't be wrong to call Kaboom a film just as confused as its central character. But Araki would likely take that as a compliment.
We Are What We Are (Somos Lo Que Hay)
The most high-minded horror picture of the fest, Jorge Michel Grau's We Are What We Are is a real stunner of a film. A family drama, an arthouse flick and a possible horror classic, this story of a clan of cannibals in crisis is initially hard to penetrate, but eerily builds to a firecracker of a climax. Gritty location shots of Mexico City and a creeping nighttime pursuit are highlights in a story of two young men suddenly in charge of finding food for themselves, their sister and grieving mother following the loss of the family patriarch. It's almost unfair to button down the protagonists of the film with the well-worn label of cannibal because of the assumptions and expectations that are then automatically created for the film. Instead, think of We Are What We Are as a film about desperate people, who happen to eat other people. Comparisons to Let the Right One In are less about tone than they are about a clinical and almost mundane deconstruction of one of the great human horror myths.
Machete Maidens Unleashed
Would that I could enlist Mark Hartley to direct all future documentaries about cinema. The Aussie who introduced viewers to the uncharted history of Australian exploitation film in Not Quite Hollywood returns with a story of bargain production costs, iron-fisted martial law and lots of mosquitos. In researching cult Filipino actor Weng Weng, Hartley found himself unraveling a tale that had never been told, of American filmmakers and actors descending on the Philippines in the 70s and 80s to make a lot of cheap-looking films, on the cheap. To experience Machete Maidens the way it was intended would require a Boozie Movie review; it's the sort of film that is best enjoyed with an open mind and a deep appreciation of the female breast - there are likely more in this film than any of the films it covers. While it is undoubtedly a good time, it is less focused and more irreverent than Hartley's last film, making Machete Maidens Unleashed a good story, and a great history lesson, but not without the feeling that these films aren't terribly in need of resurrecting.
Now that it's Monday and everyone is football-ed out, keep in mind that all of these films have either second screenings in the coming weeks or are opening in a limited capacity throughout the country. I recommend them all.