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Film Festival Day 9, 02/08/2014

Weekends — I get to bring the car in, so I get home early, but I am much more likely to run into people I know, so I’m less likely to keep up with these entries.  Sorry, hypothetical readers!

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I’m just going off memory, because I didn’t have any way to write it down, but when Sepideh and he mother argue with each other in Sepideh – Reaching For The Stars, Sepideh says something like:

I’m not afraid of the fence around the pond;
I’m afraid of being with the fishes who don’t believe the ocean exists.

Her mother says, “I know poems too, you know,” and replies along the lines of:

Even if people steal from the blind,
I still believe in love and hope.

I’m not sure that they’re disagreeing as much as they think they are.

Sepideh is a teenager in a world where her mother’s brother is quite happy to threaten to kill her if she embarrasses the family, in full view of the camera… but he also asks whether she loves the man she is thinking about getting engaged to. The head of the astronomy club is supportive of her study, but is selfishly annoyed when she proposes to leave to study physics.  The man she meets promises that she can go to university to study, even abroad… but who knows what he will do once they are married?

Her hero is the first Iranian in space, Anousheh Ansari, who she eventually gets to talk to; but there’s a contrast between her very traditional garb, and the very western style of Ansari.

One of the things used to stitch the film together is the letters she writes to Einstein, to clarify to herself what she thinks.  These are very eloquent, which makes me wonder how much of what we see is as it happens, and how much is scripted?  There are things like hearing the other end of a telephone call, where her response appears to be spontaneous — but how are we hearing the other side of the conversation?  Did the film-makers arrange it, or did the person on the other end record it for other reasons?  Or did they reenact the other side of the call, so that we could share it?

(It also made me realise that I’m not sure about the status of photos and video in the context of the ban of the depiction of people in Islam; Wikipedia suggests, “It’s complicated”.)

The documentary was hopeful, but not triumphant.

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Aunty and the Star People is a documentary about a woman, Jean Watson, who more or less accidentally fell into the role of saving poor and orphaned children in India, organizing the funding of housing and schooling of hundreds of kids.  Actually, that’s not a fair assessment – if you go to India in your fifties, and then come back to Wellington and sell your house in Aro Valley in order to buy land and buildings to help children in Southern India, it’s not “falling into a role” — it’s seeing a need, and deciding to do something about it.

She had an interesting life up to that point – after a long-term relationship with Barry Crump, she’d written many novels, and was travelling with Joy Cowley in India when Joy was called back to New Zealand because of her husband’s failing health. And she’s obviously done a lot of good, judging from the way people treat her, though she was very dismissive of the importance of her role (in the best Kiwi tradition).

They were handing out postcards with the details of how to contribute to what she’s doing –

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I got to see The Punk Singer with C.  She was a bit young to have listened to bands in the Riot Grrrl movement, but Kathleen Hanna’s story was plenty involving even without a background in the music. While I knew about the Punk mosh scene, I hadn’t known about how her first band, Bikini Kill, reacted to it (getting women to come to the front, and guys to move back, so that they didn’t have to worry about being trampled and punched just to see a gig).

I was more familiar with the stuff that she did with Le Tigre, but didn’t know she was married to one of the Beastie Boys.  I knew she’d stop playing, but didn’t know she had been diagnosed with late-stage Lyme disease.  And I’d known she was good, but I hadn’t known that she was so smart.

And the fact that some men felt so threatened by her that they felt compelled to send her death threats?  The same thing happened to Anita Sarkesian when she just proposed to examine sexism in computer games (disclosure – I was a backer), and I don’t understand it as a reaction — I mean, it demonstrates why these women have to speak out, but who is so threatened by someone talking that they feel like killing them?

A cool documentary about a cool woman.  I wish good things for her.

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The first thing that you need to know about The Tale of Princess Kaguya is that it’s based on a Japanese folktale.  And that means that it has a sad ending, so people thinking about showing it to kids might want to watch it first.

(The second thing is that I bumped into a bunch of cool people there, so they probably have smart opinions, too.)

I found it very good looking, and enjoyed the painting-come-to-life style.  I liked the characters, and while it was sometimes quite slow, I enjoyed the songs.  I think I wouldn’t mind watching it again; though I might want to wait a little while, until the DVD is nice and cheap.

And it was funny watching it after The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, knowing how long it had taken to make decisions about the story, and knowing that various things could have easily gone differently.

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If I hadn’t been told that Housebound had taken three years to make, and that it had been substantially rewritten and re-shot in that time, I wouldn’t have known it.  It is a horror comedy mystery — but the horror is generally in the character interactions and reactions, though it is not afraid to use environmental jump-scares.  I enjoyed the way that it messed around with expectations, and it’s quite gentle for a movie where someone gets stabbed in the stomach with hedge clippers.

I sometimes found Rima te Wiata a little broad in her acting, but the film looks way better than it’s budget.  It manages to ratchet up the tension without needing to ratchet up the body count, and there were a number of times that I laughed out loud.

It was certainly not perfect, but it was good enough that I am thinking about getting C to see it, and she’s not a horror genre fan.  They asked us to tell people to see it, and I’m happy to do so.

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