small d, Big J

What Steven desJardins is interested in.
Saturday, May 03, 2003
This year's DC Film Festival is over, and for the first time none of the movies I saw absolutely blew me away. The best was Diana's Smile, part of the short films program, a deadpan sentimental tragedy about about an Italian woman who moves into a long-empty house and the spider who falls in love with her. Most of the short films were good this year, in fact, a pleasant surprise after the last couple of selections I saw. (I remember thinking, "Well, at least the last one's an adaptation of an Oscar Wilde story. That can't be too awful.")

I attended twelve movies this year, over the course of ten days. Originally I bought tickets to ten, but then a friend from grad school e-mailed that she'd be in town on Thursday, and how about dinner and a movie? That, of course, being the one night I'd planned to stay home. And then tonight I decided to buy a ticket to the movie showing in the theater after the short films, hoping that I might not break of streak of finding at least one really outstanding movie. The Sea wasn't bad, but the degree of family dysfunctionality and the self- and other-loathing was so great that I couldn't get engaged with their problems.

Aside from the short films, the best movie I saw was Okay. (And that sentence sounds completely different if you read it out loud. Dumb name for a movie; were they trying to tempt the critics?) It's a film about a dying cancer patient who moves in with his daughter and disrupts her family's lives. He also comes to a sort of reconciliation with the gay son he threw out of the house eight years ago, and who is now donating sperm to a pair of lesbians who want to have a child. I didn't feel like this movie contained any deep insights, but I enjoyed the depth of characterization and was interested in these people's lives

The most interesting movie I saw was Escape to Paradise, about a family of Kurds seeking asylum in Switzerland. The film festival description said, "Despite its grim subject matter, the film has a strong sense of humor and optimism." Well, maybe someone could write that with a straight face, but that makes this movie sound a whole lot less bleak than it is. The flashback scenes are especially harrowing, filmed in a disorienting style that captures the intensity of the memories. The film's great saving grace is the sense of reality that comes from getting immigrants to tell their own story, with details and faces that don't look like they came from Hollywood.

Perhaps later I'll discuss the other movies a little bit, but for now I'm ready to rest. (Did I mention that I came down with a cold yesterday? It made the end of the film festival a little more strenuous than it had to be.)

Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Jeffrey Sutton has been confirmed by the Senate without a filibuster. Dammit. If you're curious why this is bad, check out Justice For All, ADA Watch, and Wampum.


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