Baficiando

April 20th, 2010 § 3 comments

Zach here, apologetically, because I just spent ten days at a world-class film festival on another continent without so much as a thought about blogging. To make up for it, I’ll try to recount my experience with a little bit of detail, rather than just mentioning that I went.
Photo 59
I took this super-risque self portrait yesterday as I scrambled to get dressed and pack my bags before the hotel’s noon checkout. It’s a picture of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The cool arch-y building is the Abasto shopping center, home to the festival’s main venue – a Hoyts multiplex. I got into town last Friday morning. I was expecting temperatures in the mid to upper fifties, and had thus packed accordingly with a fresh assortment of flannels and sweaters. Wrong. It was stupid hot and muggy out when I arrived and I was dying because of it. I spent the first half of the day overwhelmed, and the second half in some weird nostalgic/meditative state on account of all the city’s sights, sounds, and extra-sensory sensations that I hadn’t experienced in two years. It was a trip.

The most frustrating part about the festival is also what makes it so cool. It’s a super popular event in the city, and a lot of screenings are almost impossible to get tickets to. Just because you have a really cool customized badge…
Photo 60
…doesn’t mean that you can just waltz into any screening. You have to pick up tickets in advance, you are only allowed two free tickets per day, and your free tickets must be for a screening on the day you get them. The festival treats its filmmakers real well (I mean, they flew me there), but the movies are for the public first and foremost. I quickly gave up on seeing the most hyped stuff and developed a day by day strategy in which anytime I felt like seeing a movie I would just open the program and see what sounded good that wasn’t sold out. It led to some solid finds, like the first thing I saw. It was called Do It Again. It’s a documentary about a guy trying to re-unite The Kinks. I really liked it.

Sometimes I abandoned this strategy when hyped movies sounded too good to miss. After failing at a third and final attempt to score tickets to the Argentine documentary El Ambulante, I was feeling glum. Super friendly programmer Leandro approached to see what the matter was. When I told him, he arranged to meet me outside the theater later that night and personally escort me inside to see the movie. And the movie was great. It’s about a guy who travels from village to village in the most beat car ever making films on a VHS camera starring all of the townspeople.

I didn’t really feel like I was in festival mode until Tuesday, which was composed of three screenings, a dinner, and a party. First was the Portuguese film A religiosa portuguesa by New York born expatriate Eugene Green. There’s plenty to be said about the movie but I’m not feeling up to it. But I will give it a thumbs up, even if for nothing other than stylistic audacity. Next was the hotly anticipated Go Get Some Rosemary by the world famous celebrity brothers Josh and Benny Safdie. I really liked it. I had written to them a couple of weeks back to see if they would be attending the festival and never received a reply. However, as I approached them after the screening they asked if I was Zach (which I was) and were apparently well aware of my e-mail and its contents. Nice guys, but I’m like 83% sure that they switched their names around for fun when introducing themselves. [NOTE: I’ve since learned that the names they gave me were correct, which is a relief.] After that came a dinner for the filmmakers in competition. Delicious, but I felt a little out of my league with all of these people who already seemed vaguely acquainted because their films had screened together at either Toronto or Berlin. “Any of you guys check out Cinequest this year? No? Oh…” Dinner was followed up by a wine-drunk cab ride to the main venue with the aforementioned Safdie bros. during which I explained to them what Lady Gaga was. Apparently everyone is under a rock over there in Cannes or Sundance or wherever. Then I saw Somos Nosotros by what seems to be my Argentine counterpart, the superyoung skater/filmmaker Mariano Blanco. The movie was choice, I was very impressed. The night ended with an underwhelming party at the festival headquarters.

Wednesday was the first screening of Bummer Summer at 23:15. I arrived about ten minutes prior with my interpreter (yes, my interpreter) to a pleasant surprise, the movie was sold out. After a fine, eloquent introduction by festival director Sergio Wolfe, I gave my own brief fumbling intro in Spanish in an attempt to appeal to the audience. I think it worked. A ton of people didn’t stay for the Q&A, but I chalked that up to it being so late. The questions were pretty standard issue. Overall it was a so-so screening. Here’s a picture of the theater, just imagine it full.
ABASTO7empty
The next night was our second screening and it was just about the same. Both nights people came up to me afterward with Simpsons-related questions, which I think is worth mentioning. At this point I kind of lose track of the days and what I saw.

On Saturday afternoon I saw what I’m going to name my favorite movie out of all that I saw: I Went to the Zoo the Other Day, a 68-minute narrative/documentary/experimental fusion by Toronto-based nice guy Luo Li. Congratulations, Luo. Later that night was Bummer Summer‘s third and final screening. Interesting note, my introduction that night was by a programmer named Diego. I spoke briefly with Diego beforehand and he told me that there had been some debate about whether or not to actually include the film in the international competition. Apparently some programmers were hesitant to include a third US movie. He told me that he had fought to include it. Wow, thank you Diego. The screening itself was by far the best – sold out, seemingly enthusiastic crowd, my old host-family in the audience, unprecedented Q&A attendance, and my favorite question asked. Thanks (or no thanks) to the festival guide, there had been a whole lot of comparisons being drawn between my film and early Jarmusch. Someone in the audience raised their hand to ask me what I thought of that. Good question, I think I answered well too. Later on was the closing night party. I had been looking forward to getting my socialize on, but the music was blaring and I left before long in exchange for good company in a quieter bar. Oh yeah, the party looked like this:
closingparty
So anyway, I had a really solid time. It was amazing to go back and revisit the city and some of the people I met there (including one with whom I’m totally in love, not to get too personal). We got some nice reviews, the nicest of which you can read here, here, and here. It was also a great opportunity to meditate on and make a few contacts for my next project, which I’ll now officially blog publicize: here it is.

Finally, and long overdue, I’d like to announce a screening of Bummer Summer that will take place IN EIGHT DAYS on Wednesday, April 28 at 10:00pm, conveniently located at the Athena Cinema in downtown Athens, OH. For more information about the screening and about the festival in general, check out http://www.athensfest.org.

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