I saw three films on Thursday, the first full day of the San Francisco International Film Festival. The first was very good. The other two were deep disappointments.
City of the Sun
This breathtakingly beautiful documentary examines a small, dying mining town in Georgia (the country, not the state). The people work, struggle, and keep their spirits up with music and community performing arts. They also suffer from lack of food. When the miners go underground, and the camera goes with them, the setting was so palpable that I felt I was there – I have never experienced a mine sequence so perfect. Almost any frame from this film could be blown-up and framed as photographic art. It’s a bit slow at times, but that’s appropriate, because the town is slow.
I saw City of the Sun at the YBCA Screening Room. I give it an A-.
After the screening, director Rati Oneil came up for a Q&A. Some highlights, edited for clarity and brevity:
- I was born and grew up in Georgia. This town is right in the middle of the country, but most people don’t know it exists.
- When I first moved there to shoot the movie, I encountered misery of immense proportions. I was not equipped to deal with something like this. I thought I had no moral right.
- After living there for about six months, I was still an outsider.
- I don’t delineate myself between documentary and fiction. It would be a lie to say that this is objective. As soon as someone puts down a camera it’s no longer a documentary. Almost nothing was staged.
You have two more chances to see City of the Sun at the festival, both at the YBCA Screening Room:
- Friday, April 6 (tonight), 8:30
- Thursday, April 12, 6:00
In a mine/factory in the middle of Nowhere, Iceland, a group of men and one woman do tough manual labor. But Emil makes money on the side making and selling bootleg liquor. He also tries to win that one woman in ways that should throw him in jail. But he doesn’t even get arrested when his booze kills a co-worker. Instead, people just beat him up. This movie is unbelievable, unlikeable, and pointless.
I saw Winter Brothers at the YBCA Screening Room. I give it a D-.
There was a Q&A with the director after the screening, but for scheduling purposes, I didn’t stay for it.
If for some reason you want to see this mess, you have two more chances:
I Hate Kids
I laughed twice at this supposed comedy – the sort of plot-driven movie where the protagonist (Tom Everett Scott in an overdone performance) goes on a mini-quest days before his wedding, but won’t tell his fiancé why or how for some stupid reason. The whole thing might have worked if the director and star had a sense of comic timing, but they didn’t. The story gets sentimental near the end, and that doesn’t work either.
I hated I Hate Kids, and give it a D-. To be fair, other people laughed in the Castro.
You have no more chances to see it at the Festival.
- After the screening, there was a Q&A with a lot of the filmmakers. Some highlights:
- I wanted to do a movie with a psychic. And every comedy should have a small, neurotic dog.
- The first title was Without a Hitch. Then we felt that if we make the main character a writer and his book is called I Hate Kids, boom, we have our title.
- A lot of things happen when you’re shooting. We shot in 18 days.
- The biggest challenge I had was the heat. One morning at 8:45am it as 89 degrees.