Monday, February 8, 2016

Another Film Festival

My recent encounter with an underground film festival had me thinking about another film festival I had the luck to see in Brooklyn. A friend had asked me to meet up and see it with him. Featuring short animation it didn't seem like much, but I hadn't anything else to do; so I braved the cold and odd subway changes to make it to a bland theater stinking of cigarette smoke. Not seeing my friend outside, I pushed through the crowd and passed the no smoking signs posted everywhere, along with signs about not drinking, doing drugs, or generally giving up; below each sign sat a pile of graphic pamphlets. I moved towards the entryway. The crowd here was an odd assortment of the lighter-skinned residents of that borough with all of them playing with the affectations of intellectualism. Having experienced much of this before, and having a known allergic reaction to it, I steered clear and sat in the back. My friend texted that he would be late.

Most of the movies were under 5 minutes, though that didn't make them any less painful. One had a half-man half-bird staring at a desolate post-apocalyptic landscape. That's it. Now, it may have being saying something equivalent to life is suffering, or speaking to the inevitability of a certain outcome, but I did not care for it. It should come as no surprise that the film was a product of Europe. Not to disparage that part of the world's movie products—there is much to love—but sometimes...

Another movie, this one from Latin America, was about a chess game of all pawns versus all queens. Again, I can understand the production costs of such a movie would be cheap, and thus perfect for an indie, but what can one make of such a story? In the end some the pawns were led away in chains, some hanged and others were tortured and dismembered, the screen fading to black as the queens cackle. By this time, I was squirming in my seat, hating that I had taken half a day to make the trek from the Bronx. Meanwhile, my friend was running through a slew of excuses; the MTA taking the main brunt of it.

The next movie was about a man experiencing something akin to groundhog day. At first he's unsure about why things were exactly the same as the day before, but when he realized the truth, he took advantage of his knowledge to gain riches, power. When this afforded him nothing lasting, he went on a rampage, murdering and killing, trying his hardest to make the world feel his despair. When this failed—or perhaps when he grew weary of these actions—he became a saint, helping people however he could and when even that left no mark upon his world, he continued to help people, though he grew strangely distant and even shaman-like. It ended there, this short film. 

At this time I moved to the back of the theater and bummed a cigarette. I coughed more than smoked, having not touched one for years. My friend texted that he was oh so close. I was more than annoyed at this point. Funny thing about moving from the martial world of simply being on time to the NYC one where being busy and late was a status symbol.

Another short followed as a mockumentary of King Leopold (a more visceral animation, this oneWaltz with Bashir territory) and started with the acts of charity he carried out. It slowly moved to the Congo and the acts of horror there. All of them. Over and over, until a numbness settled in my mind. I teetered.

Luckily, a fully sleeved woman handed me a bottle of whiskey. My face must have been quite the sight and I gladly accepted. The final film I saw was in a single room. A man stood over a boy who was in front of a computer. Both looked apprehensive. Then the boy's finger hovered over the mouse, the man's lips started to move, and the screen flashes. Soon a mantra is coming out of the man's lips: but we can't hear it. There were screams coming from the computer. Finally, the man yelled. The boy pressed the button and a flash goes off. The screams fell silent.

By this point, opium was being passed around. I left because I couldn't bear another movie, nor could I handle needing something that strong just to stay inside and watch another one of these movies. And my friend had claimed to be permanently delayed with a random meeting of long lost friend, surely I understood. Oh NYC.

Yet now, with the safety of time between me and the festival, I'm thinking not of my friend and his rudeness but about the movies. They've lingered, these beasts of ideas. Now I'm thinking that perhaps real cogitation can only begin with movies that make you squirm and make you think. You just have to let down your defenses first.

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