My Weekend in Mineral Point: Top Films Seen at Driftless Film Fest
Aww…I’m already sad that I’m not greeted by Aaron Rodger’s brostache when I open my browser. Oh well–we must look to the future.
Last weekend I spent exactly two and a half days volunteering at the Mineral Point Opera House location of the Driftless Film Festival (for more information, click here). Because I was working the front of house, I was able to lurk in the back of the theatre and view any film I wanted–for free. THIS is how you keep up your movie-going on a budget people. There are film fests everywhere, probably even in your town–look it up and get involved.
Since I imagine most of you did not make it to the festival, and since I’m the one with the blog, here’s some thoughts about a few of the films I saw, starting with my most favorite.
1) If a Tree Falls (Feature Length Documentary).
The Plot: Profiling the members of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the actions of said group. It focuses in particular on Daniel McGowan who, at the beginning of the film, is under house arrest and facing charges of eco-terrorism.
This film does a great job of telling the story from all sides. They hit you with the havoc that capitalism wreaks on the environment, get you nice and pissed off to where you think you might want to set a few fires of your own. Then they show you the owner of the burned out lumber mill talking about how much it hurt to see the heart of his life’s work in ruins. The film confuses you, sickens you, and most importantly, forces you to think about the issue AS IT IS, not as you might want it to be.
What really captured my interest in this movie is the visuals. The story was good, but the video quality and the set dressing of the film is absolutely flawless. It was shot in upstate New York, but you never doubt for a minute that the film takes place in rural Georgia, from the one-screen, vintage film movie theatre to the podunk odds and ends, garden-hoses-next-to-the-Wonderbread grocery store. This quirky attention to detail helps liven the story which, though heart-wrenching in a quiet way and unique in its minutae, is essentially one of the most common storylines in film.
3) The Interrupters (Feature Length Documentary).
The Plot: The film chronicles a year in the life of 3 members of the Ceasefire organization, a Chicago group that hires reformed gang members to infiltrate areas of heavy gang violence to influence current gang members to work out problems through verbal means (i.e., to “interrupt” violence before it happens).
Ironically, the subject of this film is interesting enough to seem unreal, like it’s actually a David E. Kelley show. But no. This group is real, and the work they do is nothing short of heroic. It is heart-breaking and painful, but also contains a note of hope. The storytelling was not as tight as it could have been, and the film does seem to wander off at times, though slating each season of the year does let you know that they are in fact on track, despite evidence to the contrary.
There are moments were it felt like I accidentally fell into a Ceasefire promotional video, since there is no real opposing viewpoint presented. However, spending time criticizing Ceasefire’s mission would also have been counter-productive to the intent of the film. The real point of the film is redemption: redemption for the 3 Interrupters overcoming their pasts; redemption for the people still out there that they are trying to help; and redemption for a bleeding city.