Saturday, May 17
Hard to Be a God (Aleksei German, 170 mins, Russia 2013)
This film about scientists living on a planet that is stuck in the Dark Ages benefits from amazing sets, great costumes, and beautiful black and white cinematography. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to follow, as most of the dialogue sounds like Chekhov with all the meaning drained out of it. Moments of comprehensibility soon fade away, and what we’re left with is three hours of crap that dwarfs the fecal matter shown in the film. It also managed to be the first film I’ve watched at SIFF to receive a 1 out of 5 from me.
Sunday, May 18
The Nightingale (Philippe Muyl, 108 mins, China/France 2013)
This cute story about a grandfather returning to his home village to release a nightingale at his wife’s grave, and his spoiled granddaughter who is forced to go with him, isn’t very deep and suffers from an ending where all is resolved much too neatly. Still, it’s cute.
After seeing the first two films at the Uptown, it was on to the Egyptian for the next two films. Even after grabbing lunch near the Uptown and riding a bus to Capitol Hill, I had lots of time to sit around and take photos, like the two above. And then, the previous film ran a bit behind schedule, so we got in late to the next screening.
DamNation (Ben Knight, Travis Rummel, 92 mins, USA 2014)
A movie about dam removal and the evils of fisheries, shown to a pro-dam removal audience, or at least an appreciative one. Most of the dams mentioned are in Washington State, including two which were removed: the Glines Canyon and Elwha. An activist film that does some good things (like mention the tragedy of Celilo Falls and its effect on the Native American populations that used to fish there for salmon), but peters out near the end, when it goes on for longer than is necessary to make its point. Still, the issue is an important one.
A Q &A followed in which director/producer Travis Rummel and producer Matt Stoecker were joined onstage by Jim Waddell (who’s in the film and used to be a civil engineer for the Army Corps) and another gentleman who I thought they referred to as “Yvon,” but the only Yvon associated with this film looks nothing like the man at the far left of the photo. (UPDATE 5/20: His name is Dylan Tomine.) Ben Mawhinney moderated. At one point, Waddell brought out a chart, showing that upkeep for dams would increase exponentially over the next 20 years, as opposed to dam removal. Sadly, it didn’t come out well in my camera, but you can get an idea of it below (the red is how much it would cost to keep the dam, below it is a blue line that shows how much it would cost to remove it):
Awake: The Life of Yogananda (Paola di Florio, Lisa Leeman, 84 mins, USA 2014)
The last film of the night for me was a World Premiere, and went from not selling quickly at the beginning of the day to being on standby by the time it played at 6:30. It also replaced dam removal activists with devotees of yoga. In both films, I noticed women sitting next to me crying at scenes that were sad, but not ones I would cry tears over. But hey, haven’t I cried enough this festival?
Anyway, this is a pretty good bio pic of the man known as the “Father of Yoga in the West,” with lots of archival footage on the man, including recordings of his voice. I recognized the image of him when I saw him onscreen, but I knew very little about him before this screening. When directors Paola di Florio and Lisa Leeman and producer Peter Rader took the stage to introduce the film, Rader had with him a blown up photo taken on October 17, 1924, showing Paramahansa Yogananda with a class of students in the basement of what is now the Egyptian Theatre. In fact, Rader told us that Yogananda lectured 11 times on that stage and taught 14 classes in the basement. Sadly, I did not get a photo of the photo, though it might have turned out like the picture I took of the chart above. Instead, I got these photos from the Q & A:
According to the Q & A, making the film was a transformative experience for the filmmakers, and the yogi were pleased with how the filmmakers told the story. They even found footage of Yogananda that they didn’t realize they had! Eventually, the plan is to release the film in all available media formats, but first comes a theatrical release in the fall, coinciding with other theatrical events, and then a home market release in 2015.