Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The 19th Athens International Film Festival

September is the month of Athens International Film Festival. Usually I go to 1 or 2 movies but this year I wanted to get the full experience and try to watch as many as possible. The festival ended yesterday and my schedule says I watched 12 films in 10 days. Not bad at all! Here are some words for each one of the first 6 movies I watched.

Pather Panchali (India, 1955) imdb
I started with a really old Indian film because a. it was presented by a well known film critic who used to present movies on Greek tv until a few years ago (which I always tried to watch) and b. because some say it’s one of the best films of all time. It’s about the life of a poor family in rural Bengal and that’s all about it. A very simple and beautiful movie. What impressed me the most is that if a couple of facts were changed, it could as well have been a modern movie. There was nothing foreign or outdated in the feelings and desires of those people, in a story taking place in rural India more than half a century ago.



Stand Clear of the Closing Doors (USA, 2013) imdb, trailer
 The story of an autistic teenage boy who runs away from home and spends 11 days by himself in New York subway, while hurricane Sandy is approaching the city. It won the “City of Athens Best Director Award” and I think rightly so. Watching this movie gives you a dreamy and relaxing feeling, as if you know that everything will be ok at the end. Also, very good acting by the main cast.







Borgman (Netherlands, 2013) imdb, trailer
A homeless man enters the life of what appears to be a “perfect family” and slowly but very methodically tears it apart. Sometimes dark and creepy, sometimes funny, Borgman is the work of an eccentric director (he was present in the premiere, receiving a lifetime achievement award). A lot of weird stuff are happening and not everything makes sense but I think someone who expects all that, will appreciate watching it.




Short Term 12 (USA, 2013) imdb, trailer
This was my favorite movie and it wasn’t just me as it won the festival’s “Audience Award”. It’s the story of a couple who works together at a foster care facility for troubled teenagers, trying their best to help them while fighting their own demons. It’s a passionate movie that will make you smile, then sad, then happy again and I guarantee you won’t regret the time spent watching it. I think it could be a breakthrough role for Brie Larson (new favorite actress) and I was also glad to see John Gallagher Jr. is actually a good actor which I wouldn’t guess by watching him on ‘The Newsroom’. Do watch this movie.


Fruitvale Station (USA, 2013) imdb, trailer
I think I’ll remember watching this movie forever because it was the first time I’ve seen people crying inside a cinema. Like real, loud sobbing. There can’t be a spoiler because it’s about the well-documented story of Oscar Grant who was killed without reason by a policeman in the early morning hours of 2009 New Year’s Day. The movie describes his last day, showing what a wonderful person he actually was, and then, the last minutes just destroy you. Even if you don’t cry, Fruitvale Station can’t leave you unaffected. Not a masterpiece but a very powerful and emotional movie, and that’s an achievement.



In the Name Of (Poland, 2013) imdb, trailer
A Catholic priest is running a foster house for teenage boys when he falls in love with a 17-year old guy. And then he was to fight with his feelings and take decisions. The movie is playing with several sensitive moral issues but does it very respectfully. Very good acting and very good direction. +1 for Band of Horses being featured in the soundtrack. This priest had the best taste in music.







Harmony Lessons (Kazakhstan/Germany, 2013) imdb, trailer
Alsan is a 13-year old boy with OCD, living with his grandmother in a farm, and being bullied by his classmates, most of which are members of an extortion gang. A new student arrives at his school, befriends him and decides not to tolerate the extortion and the bullying. The movie looks great and I can imagine the director spending hours on each shot (most of which are static) to make sure they look beautiful and artistic enough. The problem with this movie though is that it’s hard for the viewer to connect with any character, as if all of them are trying to make you feel unwelcome. I also wish there was some hope in this movie. At the end, you feel like the story was pointless, but at least it looked nice.

Upstream Color (USA, 2013) imdb, trailer
"Sci fi romantic thriller" should have been the tip off. If you watch the trailer you know exactly what you can expect from the movie. It looks great, it sounds great (sound is an integral part of the storyline) but if you can understand what exactly is going on, let me know too. Maybe I just want the movie I’m watching to make sense somehow, or maybe I was not smart enough to get the deeper meaning. But really, what do the pigs symbolize? Why that composer/surgeon guy did all that creepy stuff he did? Why that couple tolerated each other? Why did I sit through the end of this movie?



It Felt Like Love (USA, 2013) imdb, trailer
A 14-year old girl living in New York is very desperate to find a boyfriend and have sex, so she gets obsessed with the biggest asshole loser she can find. If the point is to hate her, the leading actress plays the role of the always boring/always bored teenager well. This was also the movie with the worst audience inside the cinema: many teenage girls that wouldn’t stop whispering and giggling whenever a sexual act was mentioned. That’s the only movie I regret watching.




Coldwater (USA, 2013) imdb, trailer
A teenager is sent to a juvenile reform facility, managed by an alcoholic retired war colonel and his stuff who won’t miss a chance to torture their inmates for the sole purpose of “re-adjusting” them, of course. Great story (inspired by real events as the director who was present in the premiere told us), great directing, great performances. One of those movies that get you hooked and you just want to see what will happen next. A must-watch, if you ask me.






Cheap Thrills (USA, 2013) imdb, trailer
Cheap Thrills is not to be taken seriously. It’s dark, freaky and funny, great to watch late at night. I was entertained and if you like what you see on the trailer, I think you’ll be entertained too.







On the Job (Philippines, 2013) imdb, trailer
This is the first Filipino movie I’ve ever watched and I must say I was impressed. Excellent cinematograpgy by director Erik Matti who made a movie pretty much close to Hollywood standards. Five stars for photography, camera work, and editing as well. The storyline could have been more tight, avoiding some unnecessary dialogue in the first half and a couple of cheesy, romantic scenes (but hey, there can’t be a Filipino movie without romantic scenes, I was told :P). Anna also told me to watch out for Piolo Pascual who was indeed the best of the younger actors. The movie is quite pessimistic though, but perhaps it’s more realistic that way, keeping in mind it’s inspired by real events as well.

That was all for this year! I'm glad I got to watch more films at the cinema in 10 days than I’ve watched altogether during the last year.

(originally posted on tumblr: I, II)
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