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Film Festival Day 3: Sunday, 28/07/2012

A weird mix of films today – and yet, I’m only seeing four, and they’re all English-language, so I feel like I’m under-performing. But they were all enjoyable, and some were very, very good!

Film #11: Animation For Kids

This is always a reliable slot, and this year didn’t disappoint, though there were a couple of surprisingly sad shorts in the set – The Storyteller, the story of why the coconut has a face (which had a meta-story of the grand-daughter having to take charge, because her grandfather’s growing dementia), and I Am Round (about a round person who has to pretend to be square). But there was also some fun ones, including Luminaris (about a lightbulb factory, with great live-action stop-motion) and Ernesto (which was about fitting in, losing teeth, and things being unexpectedly soulful) – I wish I could find them online, but all I can find are this trailer, and this trailer. I also got to see them with the lovely Jenni, which is always a bonus.

Film #12: How To Meet Girls From A Distance

This was the film made from the Make My Movie competition – and it’s pretty damn good. This was premier, so it was an excellent crowd to see it with, but I was a little worried, since (a) I know one of the writers through work, (b) I find comedies that play on embarrassment hard to watch, and (c) it was made in six months, start to finish. But while there are a few places where the dialogue is slightly too on-the-nose, it was a smarter film than I expected, funny, and managed to surprise me a couple of times – I’m really glad that I went.

Film #13: Shock Head Soul

This was about a former German judge, committed for insanity near the end of the 19th century, and the biography he wrote detailing his experiences and beliefs; but also about the changing attitudes around that time towards mental illness. It leaned further towards dramatization than documentary, with neat little twists (for example, dressing the modern experts in period garb, and having his wife address them directly). The typewriter creatures created to represent elements of his visions were very nifty and steam-punkish; and the film-makers heavily implied their opinion about the trauma that may have triggered the madness (as his father had some quite odd, though popular, ideas about child-raising). I liked it, but it was an odd sort of film.

Film #14: West of Memphis

Gosh. Hard to know what to say about this one. When the evidence is so obviously one way, and the interests of the State are so obviously tied up in ignoring that evidence (both for reasons of prestige, and reluctance to assume liability), the film made it very clear which way the great state of Arkansas will jump; although both the state supreme court and the final judge made it clear that there was some hope. When there are perverse incentives like pay and promotion based on case closures, and when there’s a sexy Satanic angle to boost election chances (and many major law-enforcement positions are elected, including (in some cases) the coroner), and a mentally deficient collaborator that can be browbeaten into a confession… it’s less surprising that these kinds of things happen, and more surprising that they ever catch anyone guilty at all.

No, that’s not really fair – I’m sure that some of the people involved thought that they were doing the right thing, at least initially, and that there are plenty of good police in the state; but the amount of time, effort and money that went into wrongly incarcerating three boys, and then fighting to keep them there – the citizens should sue the officials involved for wasting taxpayer money.

Peter Jackson, Damien Echols (one of the Memphis Three) and Lorri Davis (his partner) were all there, answering questions. One of the things that Damien said about the guilty-but-innocent plea that they copped was that he felt in danger while in prison – the State was worried about being sued for $60 million, and people can get knifed in jail for $50; someone might decide to save some taxpayer dollars, and make a continuing problem go away. He also pointed out that this is the first film about the situation that they (the kids convicted and those working with them) had an active association with, and how weirdly invasive some of the other material felt.

It’s a good documentary – it feels like it presents it case well, it allows the people involved to speak in their own words (and lets the family of the person that the film suggests might have been the real killer speak out in his defence). I am very glad I watched it.

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