Revolution in Serbia & Exploitation in America: My Thursday at SFFILM Festival

I saw two films yesterday at the San Francisco International Film Festival, also known as the SFFILM Festival. Both were worth seeing.

The Other Side of Everything

I’m generally suspicious of documentaries about the filmmaker…or the filmmaker’s family. But this one worked. Srbijanka Turajlic, the director’s mother and the subject of the film, is a fascinating, intelligent, and talkative person. From her Belgrade apartment, this college professor and political activist has seen the rise and fall of Communism, Slobodan Milosevic’s fascistic ultra-nationalism, and a democratic victory that eventually led to more nationalism.

The film spends too much time talking about the apartment, and not enough time on the history of these political upheavals. But Turajlic is a fascinating and talkative person, and what we do learn of the history is worth knowing.

I give this movie a B.

I saw the last SFFILM screening of this film, at the Creativity Theater.

After the screening, director Mila Turajlic and her mother, Srbijanka Turajlic, stood up for a Q&A. Some highlights, edited for clarity and brevity:

  • Mila: It took 5 years to make the film. I realized during that time that I had grown up, and had to ask what kind of person I was going to be.
  • Srbijanka: It really is extremely easy to talk. All of us were aware of the camera for the first six months, then we forgot about it. We joked that she’d never complete the film.
  • Mila: I knew they wouldn’t stop me from making this film. They were family.

Centerpiece: Sorry to Bother You

Boots Riley’s social satire, Sorry to Bother You, screened last night at the Castro as The Festival’s Centerpiece movie. Before the movie, Riley came on stage with his producer and several members of his cast to thank everyone for coming. Then they all set out to another screening at Oakland’s Grand Lake Theatre.

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

Telemarketer Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) rises quickly in the company (thanks to his “white voice”), while his co-workers go on strike, creating a wedge between him and his friends (and lover). Meanwhile, something very sinister is going on. Like Get Out, it combines humor, horror, and social commentary. But Sorry is own film and deserves to be seen in its own light. It’s more about class than race, and contains a very bizarre surprise.

I give the film an A-.

The Q&A with Riley, Stanfield, and supporting actor Terry Crews happened over Skype from Oakland. The sound was bad and difficult to hear. Some highlights, edited for brevity and clarity:

  • The script didn’t give answers. It had questions; beautiful questions.
  • When I first met Terry [who’s known as much for his muscles as his acting chops], he talked for two hours, but I didn’t get to say anything. I left that meeting ready to work out.
  • I had to change things in the script because they were too close to what was actually happening. For instance, I had someone say that we need to make America great again.
  • I never thought that the screenplay wouldn’t be shot, but I thought someone else would direct it.
  • The labor strike was probably the most regular thing in the movie.