To anyone who is actually reading this blog, I apologize for the very delayed final post concerning the Telluride Film Festival. I've been busy back on campus at Stanford taking a three week Write and Shoot Narrative Film Intensive class. Telluride prefaced the course wonderfully and it has been a blast getting to learn the technical side of cameras, sound, lighting, etc. in addition to honing story crafting skills and screenwriting technique. Anyhow, I did want to review our final day at Telluride (it was Sunday, Sept. 3rd for us as I had to leave on Monday to get back to Stanford).
We saw four movies on our last day. First, we piled into the Nugget Theater at 9:30am for a beautiful Finnish film about a Syrian refugee who crosses paths with a declining Finnish business man who leaves his wife and buys a restaurant. Oddly whimsical for a film about a rather somber topic, The Other Side of Hope revealed the various faces of human hardship, the universal beauty of goodness and kindness, and charmed the audience with its cynical and humorous tone. It did not disrespect or downplay the gravity of being a refugee or of losing your family, but nor did it discount the mundane bleakness that so often categorizes the later years of one's life. It was a film filled with joy and one I'd highly recommend seeing.
Next, we saw Angelina Jolie's new film, First They Killed My Father. Jolie has long been touched by the Cambodian people. She worked closely with her friend Loung Ung to adapt Ung's memoir for the screen. She sought permission from the Cambodian government to tell the story of the Khmer Rouge regime that devastated the Cambodian people not too long ago. It's a dark part of their history that many remember, yet few talk about. Jolie's film is long and still, cinematically beautiful and wonderfully human. She showcases the tragedy of the Cambodian genocide yet avoids politicizing it, instead telling the story in a way that is respectful and helpful to the Cambodian nation. While the film was at times slow and the dialogue sparse at best, it's young child star is remarkable and the story is quite moving. Jolie has brought Cambodia's modern history to the big screen, recognizing and uplifting a nation that has suffered unspeakable horrors in rather recent times. I must say, I was very impressed by Angelina Jolie.
Next, we saw Battle of the Sexes. As an admirer of Emma Stone, she did not disappoint. Steve Carell was fabulous, too. For those that were alive at the time of Billie Jean King's face-off with Bobby Riggs, the story is nothing new. And even for those who were not alive then, most know of Billie Jean King's powerful influence on women's rights and her demands for equal pay for female tennis players. She was a trailblazer and a great woman to whom we owe a lot. The bottom line is that the acting is good and I think it is important for all of us to revisit the roots of the women's lib movement. It's important to study our recent American history and recognize how much has changed and how much hasn't. Billie Jean King was fair and kind and tenacious in her demands for equality, balancing poise and strength in a way we should all take notes from today. That being said, I found the filmmaking itself a bit lackluster. Of course, the story is great and the actors are fabulous, but the film rang shallow as if it were trying to incorporate too many aspects of King's personal life and career and in effect, detracted from the stakes of the Battle of the Sexes, the setting of her time, and even the depth of her womanhood. In my opinion, the filmmaking and script missed the mark and regurgitated a story that many knew. It lacked the gusto and inspiration I'd expected.
Lastly, we decided to cap off our Telluride experience with a Werner Herzog film from 1970. It was called Even Dwarves Started Small. There is no denying that Werner Herzog is an iconic, versatile, dedicated, and talented filmmaker, however, his films run the gamut of genres and Even Dwarves Started Small may belong to a category of its own. One of the most horrifically discomforting, morbidly funny, tragically wrong, and absurdly uncomfortable films ever made, this film was visually scarring, thematically terrifying, and potentially quite inhumane. I'm still unsure as to what the story was about. It was more of an experimental display of Herzog's twisted nightmare, but in it's most simple form, it's a film about midgets that are kept at an institution for little people. A band of them revolt, wreak havoc, and cause mayhem on the institution's grounds. They smash things, set things on fire, abuse their peers, and display the most barbaric and eerily childlike mob mentality. This group of clearly oppressed (or disturbed) midgets destruct with reckless abandon at the stark institution in the middle of a barren, rocky dessert. If you want to enter a special level of hell, do watch the film. It will make you squirm in your seat and coat you with a level of shame you did not know was possible. It's appalling to watch fellow humans endure lead tortuous lives and commit such heinous acts, even if it is supposedly a fictional film. That poor camel!