Sunday, August 22

2021 PFF & IHSFF Festival Recap – Saturday, August 21st

 Coda’s ongoing coverage of the 2021 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.



By Emery Snyder - @leeroy711

12 MONTHS OF KAI – Directed by Matsumi Kameyama


 Kyoka purchases a PCH (personal care humanoid) to help stave off her loneliness. She names him Kai and his operating system works to learn how better to suit Kyoka’s needs. But as she becomes more and more emotionally dependent on Kai, it is revealed that there may be something more sinister in the works.

In our modern world, we have invited all sorts of operating systems and algorithms to synthesize human connections for us. Alexa and Siri work as our personal assistants. And our social media platforms use your own activity history to ‘learn’ what type of content to continuously stream into your eyeballs. Our world has gotten smaller and more connected in some ways. But in other ways, and for the same reasons, we have the innate ability to allow these tools to filter out all of those uncomfortable, painful and vulnerable moments that are inherent and vital in actual human interaction. And more so, these synthetic relationships may be keeping you from real connections.

As is the case in any great sci-fi, this film follows this trend to its logical conclusion. It’s for this reason, that sci-fi has always been very precious to me. It is the ability to remove the physical and/or technological boundaries and explore the natural consequences of human tendencies that make this medium special to me. And for this reason, this film hits the nail on the head. I appreciate the quiet and modest performances as well as the film’s deliberate pace. And the third act goes beautifully and unforgettably bonkers.

This was a bit of a surprise hit for me. I hope it gets picked up because it’s definitely something that I would revisit.


SMALL TOWN WISCONSIN – Directed by Niels Mueller


 Wayne (David Sullivan), a divorce, alcoholic perpetual man-child has lost custody of his son, Tyler (Cooper J. Friedman). He takes him on a getaway weekend to Milwaukee in a last ditch attempt to form an unforgettable road trip before his ex-wife takes him to live in Phoenix.

I was expecting something a lot lighter than what this film ended up being. This film does such a great job with its reverent treatment of alcoholism that the jokes that work in the trailer, hit entirely differently when shown in the course of the whole film. All of those funny moments depicting a drunkard acting a fool are contextualized in a way that should at least make you cringe, but mostly it’s a far sadder film than just cringe worthy. I appreciate this type of depiction. I’ve known people like this. I’ve seen this in real life before. But it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting.

The whole cast, led by Sullivan, was great here. The regional accents worked and the ensemble of it all made for a warm and organic atmosphere. I was particularly impressed with Kristin Johnston’s performance as Alicia, Wayne’s estranged sister.

Unfortunately, at 109 minutes, this film does tend to drag a little bit. It picks up most of its steam when it actually becomes a road trip movie but I think that was a bit later than it needed to be. I think a bit of a trim in the first act would have served to engage the audience more quickly.

Overall, this film does a lot quite well and it’s unique and honest depiction of alcoholism is not something that you’re likely to see in most movies, even those that try.


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