A Hard-Working African & a Dying Photographer: Saturday at SFFILM Festival

Finally, a day without rain. Even better, a day with two very films.

I kept my review of this film to a maximum of 75 words on the Festival’s request.

Whatever others say, this is not a documentary. But it’s a very good film. Makala lives with his family in an isolated hut. But he’s ambitious and hardworking. He makes charcoal and transports it to market, hoping to make enough money to build a house for his family. But hard work doesn’t get you far when you’re poor. Makala creates a strong sense of the difficulties of earning a decent living in an underdeveloped country.

I give the film a B+.

I saw the festival’s last screening of Makala, at the YBCA Screening Room. I don’t know if it will get a theatrical release. Filmmakers were not in attendance and there was no Q&A.


The program was supposed to begin at 6:00. It was almost 6:30 before we were let into the theater, and 6:37 when Executive Director Noah Cowan came on stage to introduce the film. There were technical problems with the computer and digital projector, which seemed appropriate for a film called Kodachrome.

No, it’s not really about film vs. digital photography. It’s another road movie, and although the plots are similar, Kodachrome is infinitely superior to Boundaries.

Jason Sudeikis, in a rare, non-comedic role – plays a music producer struggling to keep his career going when he’s told that his father is dying. That doesn’t bother him; he hates his father. We soon learn he has very good reasons for that hate. The father (Ed Harris), aside from being a horrible human being, is also a great photographer. He has four old, undeveloped rolls of Kodachrome, and he has to get them to a lab 2,000 miles away or they will never be developed.

And so they go on the road – father, son, and the father’s nurse (Elizabeth Olsen). Yes, she’s there as a romantic interest, but she’s also a professional with a love/hate relationship with her employer, and a history she’s not proud of.

The three main characters seem, at first, to be movie clichés. But as the story deepens, we learn more about each of them. They do and say things that are surprising and unexpected, and yet they never seem out of character. You know how the story will turn out from the start; but you learn a lot on the way.

I give this film an A-.

I saw the only festival screening of Kodachrome. It will open in theaters and be available on Netflix come April 20. [Note: I corrected this paragraph on Tuesday, April 17.]

After the screening, Director Mark Raso, writer Jonathan Tropper, actor Jason Sudeikis, and one of the producers (I didn’t get his name) came on stage for a Q&A. Some highlights, edited for clarity and brevity:

  • When I read the article [about the last days of Kodachrome], I thought that would be an interesting backdrop for a story I was already working on. It’s not just analog and digital; it’s about handing off feelings and art forms. That fits the father/son relationship.
  • The first meeting with Ed [Harris] was scary because he’s an intimidating guy. But I discovered he’s a professional and a sweetheart. He was the elder statesman on set. He really had my back.
  • Raso on shooting on film: When we came down to it, we had to honor the format. We didn’t get the dailies until two or three days later. It forced me to be in the present.
  • Sudeikis on shooting on film: Every time you hear that whir of the camera it reminds you that you’re spending money. Everybody has to be on point. You only have as much footage as you have.

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