Tuesday, April 9

2019 PFF & IHSFF Festival Recap – Monday, April 8th

2019 PFF & IHSFF Festival Recap – Monday, April 8th

Coda’s ongoing coverage of the 2019 Phoenix Film Festival & International Horror Sci-Fi Film Festival. I'll be using these posts to recap the films I've experienced as part of these festivals.

JAN PALACH – Directed by Robert Sedlácek

Jan Palach was a Czech college student who killed himself in protest against the Soviet occupation of his country. This film is the retelling of his last few months. Like a lot of these types of films, the audience would have benefited from a more familiar knowledge of the time and place of this story. This is not the film's fault. I'm sure Czech history books fill in a lot of the gaps that an American audience has to check in Wikipedia. 

Palach was a philosophy student. I found this a critical angle to explain his motivations. The film does a good job of highlighting the irreconcilable ideological differences between the philosophies of equality found in socialism and the inherent bigotry of nationalism. And how oppression often turns every day activities into acts of defiance. 

I also found the film's overall tone interesting and maybe even a bit off-putting. I think you're supposed to be aware of how his story ends and you know what the film is leading towards. But I never felt that there was a sense of dread leading towards its inevitability. The dramatic effect was constantly undercut, giving the movie a far more clinical feel than one would typically expect from this subject matter.

SECRET INGREDIENT – Directed by Gjorce Stavreski

This is a Macedonian comedy about a young man who finds a stash of cannabis and feeds it to his terminally ill father, unbeknownst to him. Hilarity ensues, along with a lot of heart and some good old fashion gangster crime drama. 

It was actually really nice to see a film that takes place in a country that apparently is still a decade or so behind the U.S. as far as healthcare and drug culture is concerned. The narcotics police in this film exist somewhere in between D.A.R.E and REEFER MADNESS. Although it seems that the rest of the country's youth takes this attitude with the appropriate grain of salt. It did make me wonder however, in some of the film's slightly homophobic jokes, if it was a reflection of the popular Macedonian culture or if the filmmaker was simply making fun of some of the old-school backwards thinking... I felt pretty much the same way about most of the audience's reaction to those jokes. 

All in all, this was a very well made and successful film and well worth its running time. The story manages to turn on a dime, pivoting away from its comedy of errors and directly into a beautifully heartfelt father and son drama, and then back again.  

SURVIVAL OF THE FILM FREAKS – Directed by Bill Fulkerson & Kyle Kuchta

There is no shortage of documentaries that celebrate horror films. I've probably watch four of them this year. Some of them get pretty redundant. Ever since Rodney Ascher's ROOM 237 changed the rules about fair use, it seems like everyone has the ability to make an engrossing doc about movies, complete with clips from every corner of cinefilia. As long as you have a unique angle, I'll probably be into it.

So of course, the question is: which of these films are actually worth watching. I would asses that this one is in fact worth your time. It wanders a bit at the beginning but it seems to find its footing as it starts to explore the genre's relationship with the history of home video. Beginning with VHS, the evolution of various formats and platforms have changed, constantly opening up new avenues for niche filmmakers to find their audiences. This type of thing is right up my alley. 

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