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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Arizona International Film Festival in review

    The 18th Arizona International Film Festival brought artists from Australia, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy and Mexico to Tucson from April 16-26. Arts reporters Steven Kwan, Marisa D. Fisher and Brandon Specktor spent the week absorbing all the vibrant sights and sounds. After the festival, they sat down with arts editor Adam Daley to recap everything they experienced.

    A: What was your overall impression of the festival?

    M: I was very impressed. It was not what I was expecting at all. There was definitely a lot of local flavor. They had a lot of filmmakers from Arizona and had kind of a Southwest feel, dealing with boarder issues. But I also saw a whole bunch of films from Sweden and Spain and stuff from all over the place. It was really an international event.

    S: I was surprised at how so many international films actually deal with local issues here in Tucson. Some of the films dealt with the experience of immigrants trying to accolade themselves to the U.S. culture and all the hurdles they have to go through. I liked that there was a good mix of drama and comedy and weird, way-out-there stuff.

    B: My experience was a little different because I only got a chance to see the Arizona shorts and then one feature from an Arizona filmmaker, so not too much different than what I’m used to. The shorts reminded me a lot of the Friday night shorts the Loft does every now and then, except everyone was polite and not belligerently drunk.

    M: It was definitely an interesting range of people. There were a lot of people from the UA, a lot of locals, a lot of snowbirds, just from all over the place. There were a lot of surprised comments about how it might not have been what they were expecting. It was free so they went to check it out and they were really impressed.

    A: What film in particular stood out to you?

    S: In the short films, there was one done by local filmmaker Pepe Urquijo called “”Unsung.”” It’s about a reggae singer, RC Tomlinson, from Bob Marley’s generation. He put out a few singles in the 60s and 70s. A lot of the contemporary reggae scene is going more for younger acts, and he’s in his late forties, early fifties, so he’s having trouble trying to find an audience. When he first started singing, he came off as a goofy self-promoter. People talk about how he has a very rootsy sound. What changed for me was actually hearing him sing, it was amazing. He’d really get into it, swinging his hips and he’d be the only animated person in the room. To me that was a really good short film.

    M: I had a very different musical experience than you did. I saw a lot of shorts, the

    “”Cine Espanol”” from Spain, the edgy shorts Friday night, and there was definitely an interesting range of stuff going on there. One that was probably most surprising to me was “”Ballade nom Beatrice”” from Sweden. It’s a musical, under 15 minutes long, but it includes four different instances of an office breaking out into song. This woman has just recently been hired at a new little office. She’s really lonely, and the boss keeps hitting on her and makes her uncomfortable, so she goes into the copy room, which is the only other room in the entire space, and she begins to talk with the copy machine, and it talks back. They sing together, and she rolls around in inky paper.

    A: Did it work? Was it funny?

    M: It was hilarious actually. It took a while to figure out what was going on, but it was very relatable for as absurd as it was. She’s stuck in this job and stuck in this office, and she starts fantasizing about the copy machine. While that might not be something we’ve all experienced, I think we can definitely relate to that being in the grind feeling like you need to get out, and feeling stuck where you are and in what you’re doing. She falls asleep in the copy room and has a dream about leading the women on the typewriters on to a revolution and to better things.

    A: Sounds like a horror movie.

    M: It was a little horrific, but in a good way; a way I can appreciate. I’m not sure if I could have handled it if it was longer than 15 minutes.

    S: That sounds like David Lynch but with a happier point of view.

    A: Brandon, I know you saw a lot of Arizona shorts, tell me a little about those and what you noticed.

    B: They all impressed me. A lot were affiliated with the School of Media Arts, and I was impressed by the quality. I didn’t know Tucson had it in ’em. Not to say anything bad about Tucson, I love it. But anyway, there were two films that really impressed me. One was called “”The Secret World of Mennonites”” by A. L. Baer. It opened like a traditional documentary about the Mennonite culture. They had some historians and leading experts talking about the culture. Then about a minute in it took a dramatic change of pace when field biologists with tranquilizer guns went out into a cornfield and tranquilized then tagged and captured a Mennonite.

    A: What was the point of drugging and capturing them?

    B: To study the culture before they vanished. It went from documentary to an Animal Planet-type mockumentary pretty quickly. The overall message is that this culture is vanishing due to our encroaching industry and now’s the time to save them.

    M: It’s kind of ironic to present that in a film.

    B: Definitely. The other film that I really enjoyed was called “”Days of Being Wrinkle Free”” by Jeremy and Joshua Provost, Tucson filmmakers. It’s about a police captain doing his laundry, but what’s interesting about it is that, though he’s American and it takes place in an American laundry mat, the narration is entirely in Mandarin with English subtitles. I was pretty confused at first, but after a while I got used to it, and the Mandarin really brought poetry to the process of doing laundry. It at once trivialized and romanticized how humans are like clothes.

    A: Were there any bombs out of the Arizona shorts you saw?

    B: The final one they played was 17 minutes long, called “”Controlled Bleeding: A Nation’s Nightmare.”” It was a compilation of footage about America’s addiction to oil. It’s not that I disagree with the topic, but the way it was assembled was kind of obnoxious. It was just a bunch of footage with filters over them and a really creepy soundtrack. It just kind of made me feel bad about being human.

    A: What was the strangest or most shocking thing you saw at the festival?

    M: I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but nearly all the films I saw were edgy, unique and innovative. That’s the kind of film I like. There was one that reminded me of “”The Science of Sleep,”” that sort of weird, dreamy-like quality with bad props that look good because they’re all bad. It was called “”Manual Practico del Amigo Imaginario.”” It won best comedy short overall at the festival. It takes place at this conference of imaginary friends who are all out of work because kids have stopped believing in them and they have all these video games and they’re seeing their girlfriends. They don’t have time for their imaginary friends anymore, and it’s very depressing. It was a different treatment of a very real and poignant coming-of-age thing and the loss of innocence and imagination.

    M: Another one I saw was called “”WC,”” which was an Irish film and director Liam O Mochain came all the way from Ireland to come to the opening of his film here in Tucson. It was about two bathroom attendants at a bar in Dublin. I’m sure you can imagine, to see the underbelly of these upper-class bars in Dublin. It was very graphic and very intense. I was convinced it had only been half an hour and when I got out I saw it had almost been 2. That says a lot about a film I think.

    S: Is it anything like “”Snatch”” or any of the Guy Ritchie films?

    M: Yes, it had a little bit of that feel to it. It also had the same sort of tongue-in-cheek feel that “”In Bruges”” did in the way the characters interacted.

    A: Do you think international festivals like this show how art can cross cultural boarders?

    S: It’s interesting you bring that up because in one of my interviews with Giulio Scalinger, the festival director, he talked about how, when watching international films, you don’t have to follow the film or even care about reading the subtitles because a good filmmaker will be able to make you understand what’s going on in the film, because film’s primarily a visual language and I agree with him. A lot of the story comes across not just through words but also how the actors interact and how the different settings play a role. One of the delights for me watching a non-English film is listening to the language because there’s a certain rhythm to each language. You don’t even have to know what the hell they are saying to enjoy it.

    Best Films of the Festival

    Steve – “”Unsung”” (Short), “”Something Unknown is Doing We Don’t Know What”” tied with “”Distanz”” (Feature Length)

    Brandon – “”Days of Being Wrinkle Free”” (Short), “”Rita of the Sky”” (Feature Length)

    Marisa – “”Red Door”” (Short)

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