Film Reviews

One Little, Two Little, 40 Little Indies

Page 4 of 5

Noted: Lazopoulos studied economics and psychology in Zurich, and filmmaking in London.

Mixing Nia
United States, directed by Alison Swan (Not reviewed).
Young Nia is both white and black, and if that isn't angst-provoking enough, she's quit her day job to work on a novel. In a writer's workshop, she meets an Afro-centric writer and falls in love with him. He wants her to disown her white half, and multicolored sparks fly.

Noted: Swan has an M.F.A. in film from NYU, where she won a Spike Lee Fellowship.

Mr. Jealousy
United States, directed by Noah Baumbach.
Perhaps the highest-profile film in the festival, Baumbach's effort will surely find distribution at some point. Eric Stoltz plays a young writer who doesn't have what it takes to finish the novel he's been working on. He also has the jealousy problem mentioned in the title, especially when he finds that his new girlfriend (played appealingly by Annabella Sciorra -- too bad she doesn't work more) once dated a novelist now touted as "the voice of their generation." Jealousy and other perversions lead Stoltz's character to adopt a false identity and join the novelist's therapy group. At times the script feels like Seinfeld material (and worse, suffers from the comparison). But as Stoltz's character and the novelist become close, the story deepens and takes on interest.

Noted: Baumbach's first feature was the very well-received Kicking and Screaming.

Ocean Tribe
United States, directed by Will Geiger.
Think Free Willy, only with a human hero. Four surfer buddies get together to kidnap a fellow dude from the hospital, where he's undergoing chemotherapy for cancer and isn't given long to live. After the breakout, they head for Baja, where the buddies' love and the righteousness of the waves might bring the cancer patient back to health. The plot sounds goofy, but it's apparently based on a true story, and is in fact more sweet than anything else. Not bad.

Noted: Geiger spent time in Italy working in film.

Origin of the Species
United States, directed by Andres Heinz.
This one plays as a shadow to Ocean Tribe. Both are about pods of twentysomethings looking for meaning in the face of the Big C. Where Ocean Tribe takes its philosophy from the workings of dolphins, Origin aims higher, trying to base a new theory of evolution on the not-so-interesting goings-on at a Little Chill weekend. Suffers by comparison.

Noted: Heinz has worked on some studio movies, including Eraser and Everybody Says I Love You.

Paradise Falls
United States, directed by Nick Searcy.
A familiar tale: In the depths of the Depression, an Appalachian family is about to lose its farm to the bankers. Better turn to a life of crime, the boys decide with tragic consequences. No, it's not original, but it's very well observed, touchingly acted and beautifully photographed. Recommended.

Noted: Searcy, who also appears in the film, has acted in Fried Green Tomatoes and is a series regular on HBO's current From the Earth to the Moon.

Reluctant Angel
United States, directed by John Helliker (Not reviewed).
Another tale of desperate young artists, this time joined by con men and the ubiquitous offbeat philosopher. Following a car wreck in which no one is hurt, a starving young artist is taken for a guardian angel.

Noted: Helliker is making his feature-film debut.

Rubber Carpet
Canada, directed by John May (Not reviewed).
Four young friends pursue wildly varying visions of personal greatness, ranging from art glory to finding a more comfortable bed.

Noted: May has mostly worked in children's television on PBS.

Santo Luzbel
Mexico, directed by Miguel Sabido.
My festival favorite, this Mexican film is made from deep inside indigenous Mexican culture, and exudes the kind of authenticity for which John Sayles can only nobly and mightily strive. The film is richly informed by Mexico's history of cultural colonialism and racism, but makes its points economically, at times even comically, as it follows a town's preparations for festivities in honor of St. Michael. But -- who is St. Michael, anyway? The old-school Catholic priest says he isn't a god. But in that case, ask the villagers, why honor him at all? Of course he's a god, and of course the Christian pantheon has to make room for him. There's far too much here to be capsulized; Santo Luzbel makes even the best of the other festival films look intellectually anemic. Spanish takes a back seat here -- Nahuatl is the lingua franca.

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David Theis
Contact: David Theis