Feature Article, Film Festivals

Day 5



Synopsis: What happens when five of independent film’s most adventurous filmmakers join together to literally adapt each other’s dreams for the screen?

This film had a great, surrealistic concept that I knew I would dig. I have heard of films being made from adapting ones dreams but in the past, it has only been one single filmmaker adapting their own. This time, the twist is that 5 filmmakers adapt each others – which means you’re bound to get some different results.

As with any anthology film, you’re bound to have your favorites – mine was the segment where the grim reaper hosted a 1970s-style kids TV show. The reaper would sing lullabies about death and help usher these kids to their doom. With that said, I still enjoyed all of the segments as a whole. Each had a specific look and feel that was married to the idea at hand.


Cemetery of Splendor

Synopsis: Jenjira, a lonesome, middle-age housewife who tends to a soldier with a sleeping sickness that causes hallucinations and triggers strange, troubled dreams. As Jenjira becomes more connected to the soldiers, she gains a deeper understanding of herself and the world in which she lives.

As a fan of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, I knew I had to check this movie out since it’s by the same director (Apichatpong Weerasethakul). This film was, like Uncle Boonmee, a quiet, deliberately paced experience that asked you to fall into the images like a sun-soaked blanket. It is far from being a plot-driven film and asks the audience to be patient, to watch each composition like a hawk to uncover some of the meanings. I really enjoyed the subtext of the movie as well – it deals with the idea of corrupt high-ranking generals/politicians who use soldiers as fodder for war.


Five Nights in Maine

Synopsis: Sherwin is deeply in love with his wife Fiona. After Fiona dies in an auto accident, Sherwin receives a phone call from the person he least expects, Fiona’s mother. She invites him to visit her in rural Maine and they embark on an unlikely journey of healing, compassion and empathy.

This film was a nice surprise. I knew nothing about it going into it other than the great cast that was assembled. What unfolded was a fantastic little drama that was heavy on emotion but not in a way that rang out as melodramatic. This is a film about only a handful of characters and although we spend quite a bit of time with them, the writing continuously makes them engaging throughout.

Writer/director Maris Curran doesn’t force the viewer into any sort of position with regards to the characters but instead, allows us to spend time with these wounded people and come to our own conclusions. It can be extremely difficult to pull off this balancing act; if your characters and dialogue aren’t interesting, the audience can get bored. I have sat through many indie dramas that mistake long, lingering shots for cheap poetry. Maris provides a focus here that is impeccably balanced – each scene is the perfect length, allowing us to bask in the moment but then moving on when necessary.

Each member of the cast feels perfectly natural in their roles. They come across as deeply real people – people who try their best to put up a mask or a shield to hide the pain that festers on the inside. There is a truth in the way these people behave in the fact that they rarely blurt out exactly what they’re thinking or feeling. Often in life, there is a delicate dance in the methods of communication. Because of that dance, the main character Sherwin (played by the amazing David Oyelowo) has trouble finding out how his late wife felt about a subject deeply important to him. The story wrestles with the fallout of an unresolved issue when a loved one dies. In many ways, this subject can be applied to relationships in general, when you can’t understand the other person and you never get a chance to find out how they truly feel.

For me, this film just flew by. Before I knew it, the title card appeared and it was over. That’s one of the best indicators of a great film, in my opinion. Writer/director Maris did a Q&A and mentioned the film will be distributed in the fall – so check it out because great dramas on the big screen are hard to come by and need all the support we can give.



Synopsis: Two young directors shoot a documentary film about paranormal activity in Lebanon. After several small sightings the visions become stronger and the mystery turns into a hellish nightmare. Footage of actual paranormal sightings, interviews, newsreels, and actual celebrities all merge into this violent, suspenseful thriller.

For me, Maskoun was a first big disappointment of the festival. The synopsis sounds amazing – hell, when I was explaining the plot to others at the fest after I watched the movie, it STILL sounded amazing. And it has a great start – with visions of exorcisms, satanic rituals and the like, it seemed like it was right up my alley.

What followed, however, was documentary-style footage of people going from house to house, “feeling” the stories of people who experienced heavy trauma in the past. The first problem is that the stories are not very interesting; they’re all variations on the same “people are hanging out until someone comes in and assaults them”. The second problem is that these stories end up having no bearing whatsoever on the main characters we’re following. They go to a house, feel/see a story, and then they leave. This is repeated over…and over…and over. They by and large drop the whole satanic/exorcism angle until the very end.

And when I say very end, I mean it. Nothing significant happens to our main group of characters until the last 5 minutes or so. The final events also get wrapped in a convoluted fake out that doesn’t even really make sense. I wanted to like this movie very much – I really tried! – but what should’ve been a pulse-pounding descent into the occult ended up just being plain boring. I think the filmmakers have some talent so hopefully they can get a better script/story next time around.

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