Saturday, April 30, 2005

Highlights of the PIFF

My fifth year working the Philadelphia International Film Festival was filled with both stress and good times. Although I didn't get to chat up directors or drink beers with struggling actors and discuss the pros of different music formats (records, tapes, cds or mp3s?) like in the past, the festival was filled with some highlights...

1.) Eating David Duchovny's left overs - The dude isn't much of a nibbler I guess. He hardly touched the puffed chocolate pastries or hummus with veggies and pita in his hotel room. Lucky for us, guest services brought his leftovers to the interns and volunteers. Now whenever I watch X-files reruns I can say that I ate something that he breathed on. (Stop making that disgusted face) You N.Y. and L.A. people may think I am the lamest lame-O to sweat over a B-lister like Duchovny.... but you don't get it- actors and actresses don't come to Philly everyday.

2.) Peas at 5:30 - When I read the description in the film guide "Peas at 5:30 takes the notion of 'the blind leading the blind' and turns it inside out" it didn't really appeal to me. Sure, I have never seen a BAD movie about the blind. Scent of a woman, Ray, Black (hindi) comes to mind..... but after a while they all seem cliché. If you seen one, you've seen 'em all... snore. "I get it! He wants to be independent!" So I was surprised that Peas was sold out the night I was working the box office at Ritz at the Bourse. I had to turn dozens away. “Stupid patrons” I thought. Don't they know that the story will be overly predictable? I wanted to grab the disappointed patrons by the collar and go "Look, he's gonna lose his eyesight and become extremely frustrated... he will lose some confidence and gain some sass. In his search for independence, you (the audience) will notice times when he is being taken advantage of and will cry with him when he walks crookedly down the street for the first time as sweet violin music plays in the background." I didn’t do that of course. But I was pleasantly surprised when everyone walked out of the theater and grabbed the ushers and told them how amazing it was. Some even call Peas a German masterpiece. I would half agree. I took my mom to see it at the end of the festival and although the story line was unrealistic and cliché, the visuals were amazing (including the sexy blind protagonist.) Growing up, whenever I would watch a non-South Asian/non-PG rated movie with my parents, I would always brace for the uncomfortable, yet obligatory sex scene. The movies my parents watched hardly had KISSING scenes. The impression I had growing up was that it was ok to let boys kiss your belly button or ankle, but only SLUTS let boys kiss them on the lips. Anyways, so my mom and I get to the point in the movie where the sexual tension is built between the two blind characters and because of financial constraints they must share a room in a hotel. “Fuck, they are gonna do it….. maybe now is a good time to go to the bathroom” I thought. At the same time, I couldn’t turn away. Then came maybe the most beautiful “sex scene” I have ever seen on film. And I don’t mean “hot” but beautiful. Instead of having sex, they touched each other’s bodies as a small leak of light entered the room. I didn’t want them to ruin it by having sex. So just like the time I whispered “don’t kiss her, don’t kiss her” to Bill Murray as he laid in bed with Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation, I whispered “don’t do it, don’t have sex” to the characters in Peas. They listened. But at the end of the scene, she had to ruin it by “cupping” him. Almost a flawless movie.

3.) The Edukators – Personally, this movie opened my mind. I think it should be a must-see for all activists. Even if its in German, I think any activist (or former activist) anywhere in the world will be able to relate. Sometimes it is nice to not take yourself (or activism) so seriously. This movie will give you the chance to laugh at yourself, err…. not really.

4.) Children of the Decree – My very limited knowledge of Romania comes from 20/20 specials about over-crowded orphanages from the 90’s and Olympic gymnast Nadia. I walked into this documentary (I was ushering at International House) about Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and how he criminalized abortion and contraceptives for women under forty unless they were already raising at least four children. Women were brainwashed to think that having babies was fulfilling some patriotic duty. Although its not an entertaining movie like Peas or Edukators, I recommend it to people interested in social justice.

5.) Chased by Dreams – This Bengali movie should be seen for the drunken scenes alone. I always wondered how village men partied. There were some similarities with another Buddhadeb Dasgupta film Tale of a Naughty Girl. For example, the symbolism of animals and the broken film projector repeatedly showing the same clip. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to non-Bengalis though. The humor gets lost in subtitles.


At 12:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're right on track and not many people are willing to admit that they share your views. halloway josh is an AWESOME place to discuss LOST.


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