Festival Report, Part 2: Saturday

Why, after screening a dreadful film called Revolution Summer, would I bother seeing something called The Reel Youth Revolution? Because it was screening at a convenient time, and, as a collection of shorts, it couldn’t be bad for very long. Besides, as a former film student myself, I was curious to see what young people–blessed with far better equipment than was affordable in my youth–were doing with their talent.

Actually, it wasn’t that convenient a time. I’d made a scheduling error, and had to leave after only six of the 11 shorts scheduled. Too bad. I doubt any of these kids are yet ready to hold your attention for 90 minutes, but their short work was enjoyable and occasionally impressive.

One interesting and positive trend: Four of the six shorts I saw were at least partially in black and white. Perhaps the young generation is passed the “color or nothing” attitude of years passed. Let’s hope so.

I had an interesting dilemma for the mid-afternoon. Go to the Castro and see Kevin Brownlow, or attend Danny Glover’s pre- Bamako press conference. I opted for Glover, in part because I wanted to spend the day at the Kabuki, but also because I’m seeing Brownlow this evening (Sunday) at the Pacific Film Archive.

Glover seemed a bit distracted. He showed up late with his 3-year-old grandson in tow. At one point, his cell phone range and he answered it.

He talked about politics, African filmmakers, and mostly about The World Bank–the target of his film’s wrath. He discussed the human toll that crushing debt takes out on these countries–how the “North” is destroying the “South.” He proudly told us that “Groups like Christian Aid UK are using this film as a platform to get the British to stop supporting the World Bank.”

Actually, to call Bamako Danny Glover’s film exaggerates things a bit. The picture was written and directed by Abderrahmane Sissako. Glover merely helped produce it, and appears briefly in an odd, comedy-relief movie within the movie, “For more than 20 years,” Glover explained, “I wanted to create a relationship with African filmmakers. It’s part of the process of my work as an artist and my work as a–underlined–citizen.”

I saw Bamako immediately after the press conference. If I had seen it beforehand, I would have asked Glover if his western outlaw character was a deliberate echo of his Silverado hero. It wasn’t just the same movie star with a cowboy hat and gun. It looked like the same costume, the same beard, and many of the same gestures.

Better in parts than as a whole, Bamako mixes interesting vignettes of life in modern Africa with a preachy approach to its subject matter that wears you down. The bizarre concept puts the World Bank on trial, complete with formal court hearings, in a residential courtyard in Bamako, Mali. Around the trial, life goes on, and that life is the best part of the film. But as an attack on global economic policy, it’s more of a treatise than a motion picture, explaining what the problem is rather than showing you or involving you emotionally.

I topped the day off with Once, easily the best film I’ve yet seen at this year’s festival. The most romantic picture since Before Sunrise, Once charms you with winning characters, an odd kind of low-key suspense, and terrific music. The music comes out of the story, which concerns two talented but unprofessional musicians (Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová) becoming close friends and collaborators. There’s clearly a romantic attraction, but you’re never quite clear where it’s going to go. Wherever it goes, it gets there musically; if the film isn’t a hit, the singer/songwriter-style soundtrack will be.