Wednesday, June 20, 2012

NXNE Films

In addition to all access to every gig around the city, my red wristband for North By Northeast Music and Film Festival allowed me entry into any and all of the 40 films being shown as part of the festival also. I managed 2, which also gave me 3 shorts.

On the Thursday night I rushed out of work when I could, down College Street, to the art deco Royal Theatre, and joined the wristband line out on the street. We were soon filed into the older style seats inside, ready for the showing of Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy.

Based on one of Welsh's short stories, the movie follows Lloyd into the spiral and addiction of the party drug, and the danger of perpetuating debt and drug smuggling. It also features the fun and crazy party and dance scene of the drug.

Reviewers are pegging it as a rom com, with the introduction of Heather into the dance scene one night, who Lloyd meets and they develop a strong and deep relationship. The movie works through the addictions and highs we all look for, moving from the manufactured type to the feelings of love.

It features the narration feature of Trainspotting, which is also Welsh's work, and I really enjoyed it. It was edgy and endearing, with likable characters, and depicted a scene that was both enticing and dangerous at the same time.

The movie featured 51 music tracks, and during the Q&A at the end, the Director spoke of the challenges of securing these, and also the difficulties of financial backing for a film project like this, and the ebb and flow impacts of such commitments from different entities.

The shorts of the screening went by in a blur to be honest, at the start, which I initially mistook for advertising or previews, and did not give my full attention! Oops!

On Sunday, I popped down to the NFB Mediatheque for the screening of My Father and The Man In Black. This is an amazing documentary about a man trying to figure out his late father, and his turbulent relationship with him, through the memories and memorabilia he had left behind. This man, Saul Holiff, was the Manager of Johnny Cash, and thus the doco is also the story of the manager of a music superstar, and that relationship, and thus also the story of Johnny Cash, raw and real from this side of his story.

The doco is made with actors playing out some of the events and moments, with filmmakers brother and Saul's son Joshua playing the oldest Saul, intertwined with still photos found in the storage unit left behind by the late manager - with the addition of having some element of these stills animated, or colour-focused, like the smoke stream from a cigarette moving in a photo used, of several key elements in a photograph coloured against a black and white backdrop. So novel and engaging! This technique really brought the use of these stills to life for the flow of the storytelling.

Patriotic Canadian elements were also featured, highlighting the role Canada played in keeping Cash's career alive. As was discussed at the Q&A at the end of the film, if it were not for Saul's Canadian links and base, upon Cash's arrest and ban from playing shows in the US, his career may well have been over with this scandal. However, the ability to advocate for, and the facilitation of shows in Canada, and later Europe, Saul revived Cash's music career.

Impressively, the short for this screening was Letting Go, by 14 year old Cameron MacKenzie. A look at the stages of grief, from a very personal experience. Very powerful by this young American filmmaker!

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