5 FILM FESTIVAL PERSONAL HIGHLIGHTS
As part of Diegesis Magazine deputy editor Jordan Thomas has been able to attend several film festivals and seen numerous films across genres, languages and running times. Here, he picks five particularly memorable feature films and short favourites.
PUBLISHED 24 AUG 2017
IN TRANSIT / TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2015
ALBERT MAYSLES / 2015
"I guess I'm on a cross-country to find myself, I don't really want to get off the train."
As the final film from documentary legend Albert Maysles - famous in part due to cult classic GREY GARDENS (1975) - there were high expectations for this fly-on-the-wall journey that takes place aboard the busiest cross-country rail service in the United States. While the subject is simple, the audience are quickly drawn into the locomotive world of anxious runaways and weary travellers who share their stories with the viewer and each other, breathing life and empathy into a temporary micro-community of passengers. To watch IN TRANSIT while traveling creates a meta-experience that enriches the documentary further, asking the viewer to consider the lives of the passengers around them and the journeys beyond the film’s experience on “The Empire Builder”.
TEA WITH THE DEAD / DERBY FILM FESTIVAL 2016
GARY GILL / 2014
"How do you like your tea?"
TEA WITH THE DEAD screened as part of the “This Is Not A Cartoon” programme, a showcase of unique animated films. It was well deserving of its place amongst other brilliant shorts. But what made TEA WITH THE DEAD stand out from its equally entertaining companions is its bizarrely endearing narrative. We follow Frank, a polite and caring embalmer who shares a cup of tea with his deceased clients and listens attentively to their stories of days gone by. These conversations are recordings from real people who share their lives with the audience and Frank, making it easy to forget that you are watching an animation of an embalmer and a dead person amidst afternoon tea. Despite the surreal concept, TEA WITH THE DEAD feels imbued with genuine warmth, with some of the stories tugging at the heart strings in an unexpected display of raw emotions.
THE HANDMAIDEN / BFI FLARE 2017
PARK CHAN-WOOK / 2016
"Women love to play with fate."
THE HANDMAIDEN is a lavish tale of never-ending deception, combining arresting visuals with a bizarre mix of slapstick and subtle comedy. The brilliantly manipulative narrative overflows with confusion as crafty pickpocket Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) must out manoeuvre her equally corrupt boss “Count Fujiwara” (Ha Jung-woo) to win the heart of Lady Izumi Hideko (Kim Min-hee) and get out of Japanese-occupied Korea alive. The highlight of BFI FLARE, THE HANDMAIDEN captures blossoming queerness perfectly, presenting much more than a typical romance film of the 21st century and deserves adoration because of its ability to defy typical gay cinematic tropes. Draped in silk, satin and velour and full of beautifully intimate moments, THE HANDMAIDEN is a gorgeous treat for the eyes and soul.
ISLAND QUEEN / SOUTHAMPTON FILM WEEK 2014
BEN MALLABY / 2012
"Ever feel like your life is going nowhere? You've never even left the island."
Despite its laid-back narrative, ISLAND QUEEN succeeds in its simplistic storytelling, following Miriam (Nat Luurtsema), a Cornish island native who has yet to ever explore the mainland. She feels her life is going nowhere and takes drastic action by visiting a sperm bank to get pregnant but it is revealed that her brother has also visited it, creating a horrifically comedic driving force behind the otherwise relaxed approach to the film. Most of the 16 minutes are spent in a dreamy lull, following Miriam’s daily routine with best friend Danny (Sam Pamphilon), who is undoubtably in love with her. But her fixation on island life and inability to think beyond the present results in a failure to notice any romantic endeavours. ISLAND QUEEN was nominated for a BAFTA in 2014, confirming that even the most simple narratives have a place in modern cinema.
PUSHING DEAD / BFI FLARE 2017
TOM E. BROWN / 2016
"I can be miserable just as good as you can."
After a birthday cheque from his mother results in the cancellation of his medical insurance due to an overflow of funds in his bank account, HIV positive Dan (James Roday) must consider the inevitable as he is unable to afford his medication without the government’s help. This somewhat try-hard indie film eloquently showcases the realities of the health care system in the United States as well as the social stigma that surrounds HIV positive people. The film sells itself as a comedy-drama but is overtly tragic, presenting a simple but effective narrative about a quietly optimistic writer who is holding out for a miracle. Although the film is not preaching a message, we are invited to consider the benefits to being a little kinder to those around us. In spite of its depressing overtones, PUSHING DEAD is still able to end on a positive.
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