Well movie goers, there is just not much to review this week in the Upper Valley, so I want to focus on a wonderful event that deserves your attention much more than Leo, Kevin, Carmen – or even the bears. We have a little bit of Tribeca/Sundance/Teluride right here in White River Junction this weekend and it is very exciting. Opening on Friday night and running through Monday is the White River Indie Festival (WRIF). This year’s festival theme is ‘Crossing Borders’, and the films offered across the weekend are an outstanding mix of genres, themes and styles that truly crosses many different kinds of borders – political, musical, scientific, geographic and more. If you can’t find something among the almost 20 films being offered, you just aren’t trying hard.
In addition to the films themselves, the WRIF program includes interviews with many of the filmmakers, food and drink at selected venues, and a very special live performance on Monday evening with folk legends Tom Rush and Jim Rooney as a compliment to the documentary film ‘For the Love of Music’ (see below). As a dedicated fan of the Telluride Film Festival, I can attest to the fact that one of the great delights of any film festival is to discover new films and to hear from the filmmakers and performers about their experiences in developing and delivering the work. These insights add so much to the enjoyment of a film; and in an intimate venue like the Tupelo Music Hall (the WRIF headquarters for the weekend) you can get ‘up close and personal’ in a way that would never happen elsewhere.
I do not intend to cover all of the films in the festival – you can find that information, as well as details on scheduling and tickets, at the festival website www.wrif.org. But here are a few highlights of what you can see this weekend:
- In the first full-length film ever made in Lesotho, an ancient and rugged kingdom in southern Africa, “The Forgotten Kingdom’ tells the story of Atang, a streetwise young man hustling a living in the slums of Johannesburg, decides to take his father’s body to their ancestral home in the mountains. Tough, unblinking realism alternates with scenes of astonishing beauty and lyricism, and Atang’s funeral errand becomes an odyssey of self-exploration more surprising, frightening, and mystical than he could have imagined. This is filmmaker Andrew Mudge’s first feature. The evening includes food before and Q&A following.
- Given that Vermont was just the first state in the country to require GMO labeling, Saturday afternoon’s ‘GMO OMG’ offers a good introduction to the topic. This documentary about Genetically Modified Organisms offers and interesting insight into the impact of GMOs on our health, our children and our future.
- And speaking of the future, on Sunday afternoon WRIF offers a documentary commentary on the developing income gap as former Clinton cabinet member Robert Reich uses humor and devastating facts to discuss just how the issue of economic inequality will impact all of us, regardless of our ‘link in the chain’.
- And on Monday night, as noted above, the big finish to WRIF will be ‘For the Love of Music’ a documentary about the iconic Club 47 in Cambridge which spawned some of the greatest singer/songwriters of the age, including Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan and Tom Rush. This is the thinking persons ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’, and offers unreleased recordings and photos of Dylan, Baez and others in their early, developmental period. Start with some Big Fatty’s ‘que, hear a discussion with filmmaker Rob Stegman, watch the film, and then finish the evening with a live performance by Tom Rush and Jim Rooney. It will take you back the BEST old days!
So come out to WRIF this weekend: you won’t be disappointed.
My internet discovery for this week takes you back to different period of ‘good/bad old days’ -- the Victorian times of Dickens. The Invisible Woman' was easily the best of the 'period pieces' that I saw at the 2013 Telluride Film Festival, and it is now available on several of the internet movie services. This film, directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes, tells the true story of Charles Dickens' torrid, long-term affair with a much younger actress, for whom he ultimately leaves his wife and family. Told in flashback, with Nelly (the young actress) now a married schoolteacher in the countryside, but with a clear 'connection' to the now dead Dickens, the film shifts beautifully back and forth between the current time and the past, when Nelly came under the spell of Dickens -- and vice-versa.
In the mold of last year's 'The Royal Affair', 'The Invisible Woman' is beautiful to look at, interesting to absorb, and full of excellent supporting performances (including Kristin Scott Thomas as Nelly's very liberal actress/mother who sees the affair developing before her eyes and is conflicted about whether to stop it or let it run, since it would benefit the careers of herself and her family). I would highly recommend this film -- you won't have to read 'Great Expectations' again!
The ‘summer season’ starts soon, and there will be plenty to write about. Go get your indie fix now – you’ll be hunkered down with me in the theaters for the next three months with blockbusters after this week!