Friday, October 16, 2009

Viva Aviva Kempner .. the 10 or so movies I want to see in Rehoboth

OK, so it may not be a terribly glamorous affair, but the upcoming Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival, returning from Nov. 11-15, are easily my favorite days of the whole year (sad, perhaps, but it's just a really fun time.)

As per usual, this year they're presenting about 100 films - features, documentaries and shorts - that cover all kinds of subjects. The marquee flicks are probably a certain documentary that I'll mention later (for a hint, I'm listening to the White Stripes in concert at Meriweather Post Pavilion right now courtesy of NPR, which you can too by clicking here) and "The Messenger," starring Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster. I think I'll pass on the latter because I simply can't handle another Iraq war movie.

And the reason for the title of this post? They're showing an Aviva Kempner movie! Kempner is the director of my favorite baseball movie, making it one of my favorite movies overall too, "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg." She's back with a new flick screening at Rehoboth, so I'm rather psyched to see it. Here are the 10 movies I think I'll try to squeeze into, in order only of the order I'll hopefully see them.

"United Red Army"
This one sounds like more than a bit of an endurance fest at just more than three hours, but the subject is simply fascinating. This docudrama in three chapters about the United Red Army student group that sprouted up in Japan to protest the war in Vietnam before turning on itself in increasingly sinister ways should be very compelling (and at three hours, it damn well better be.)

"Terribly Happy"
I know it's a publicist's job to set the bar high, but they've really done it by comparing this Danish thriller/dark comedy to the work of the Coen brothers. It probably won't reach those heights, but I guess it worked, because they've convinced me to take a chance on this flick about a police officer who - following a nervous breakdown - transfers to a small Danish town and becomes mixed up with a married femme fatale.

"Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg"
This is probably the movie I'm most looking forward to at Rehoboth, both because it's directed by Kempner and because of the fascinating subject matter. It's a documentary about Gertrude Berg, Jewish radio star of "The Goldbergs" and later one of the first TV sitcoms by the same name. I had never heard of her, but my parents can remember listening to her on the radio, so this should just be a delight.

"It Might Get Loud"
It's two music documentaries to close out Friday, and with this one, I can only say "I certainly hope so." Jimmy Page, Jack White and The Edge are the subject of this documentary by Davis Guggenheim ("An Inconvenient Truth"), and I have a feeling it may well sell out very quickly, but here's hoping I get to see it. I've always thought Jack White was Jimmy Page's son anyway.

"Youssou Ndour: I Bring What I Love"
I usually raise my eyebrows in disgust when pop stars try to be more than exactly that, but it's impossible to not be impressed with what Youssou Ndour has done in Senegal. With his "Egypt" album he created quite a stir in the Muslim world as he found new fans outside it, and this documentary chronicling that time should be great.

"Jury Duty"
The country focus at this year's festival is Japan, so I'll work in a couple more of those as I move into Saturday, but first comes this French psychological drama because, well, no one does that subgenre better than the French. In this Edouard Niermans flick, a French man rapes and kills a young woman and then finds himself picked to serve on the jury for the trial of the young Algerian man accused of the crime. As I read that plot description, I'd have to think this will be remade into an American thriller fairly soon.

"Still Walking"
Though I fully realize that "Yi Yi" is a Chinese film by the unfortunately late Edward Yang, that's the first movie I thought of when I heard the story of this little Japanese flick, which made me pick it out of the lineup. This "meditation on family" (according to the festival program) from director Hirokazu Kore-eda is about a Yokohama family gathering for their annual remembrance of the death of a son who died 15 years earlier while attempting to save a drowning child. Despite that rather morose storyline, there's apparently plenty of humor and heart too, so I'm in.

"Sita Sings the Blues"
It seems like more than a year ago when I saw an article in which Roger Ebert called this one of the most amazing animated movies he had ever seen, and that's enough to lure me in. Created by Nina Paley entirely on her home computer, it weaves together Indian stories with the tale of a breakup in San Francisco (I'm probably doing the story a horrible injustice with that summation) for what should be a wild mix.

A movie about death at 9 p.m. is really testing the ability of this clearly middle-aged dude to keep his eyes open, but this still intrigued me. The Japanese flick from director Yojiro Takita won the Oscar this year for Best Foreign Film, and it is about a man who enters the field of "encoffining," the ritual preparation of a corpse before cremation, after he loses his job. These Japanese really like cheery stuff, don't they?

"The Baader Meinhof Complex"
OK, were into Sunday morning, and it seems appropriate to frame the venture with two docudramas about political movements that went seriously awry, so I'll close out the weekend with this one (unless I squeeze in an "audience favorite" Sunday afternoon - entirely possible.) Also in reaction to what was seen as American imperialism, Baader and Meinhof launched a movement in Germany that had humane goals but used extremely inhumane means to achieve them.

And there you have it. Ten or 11 movies in four days? Yes, it's quite a bit, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Mi hermano and I are tentatively planning on going to the Toronto International Film Festival for a week or so next year, but for now, Rehoboth is as good as it gets for me. If you happen to know more about foreign and independent movies than I do (and I'm sure many, many people do), please feel free to peruse this pdf program for the festival and make any recommendations for movies I may have wrongly overlooked, and of course, please go see "Where the Wild Things Are" this weekend, as I will tomorrow morning. Peace out.

P.S.: Listening to it now once again, I really think The White Stripes' "We're Going to Be Friends" is just one of the most beautiful songs ever written.


Anonymous said...

Bring Sita home this Diwali with a DVD of

Buy on Amazon:
Rent on Netflix:

Sita is a goddess separated from her beloved Lord and husband Rama. Nina is an animator whose husband moves to India, then dumps her by email. Three hilarious shadow puppets narrate both ancient tragedy and modern comedy in this beautifully animated interpretation of the Indian epic Ramayana. Set to the 1920's jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw, Sita Sings the Blues earns its tagline as "the Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told."

Need another reason why? Check out Roger Eberts Review!

Nell Minow said...

I loved "Sita" and "It Might Get Loud." Loved "Yoo Hoo," too. Have a wonderful time!