Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Bad finish to HRAFF

In name/title only.

The closing night film was The Bad Kids, which I watched back in January not two weeks after it debuted at Sundance. I gave it four stars on Letterboxd and became one of its staunch supporters, though that did not distinguish me from anyone else. We were all only too eager to jump on the enthusiasm train toward its inevitable inclusion in the program. Our program coordinator had actually flown to Utah for Sundance, the last major festival before our program had to be finalized, and that kind of financial expenditure needed to be justified by at least one selection from that festival, and probably more than one. (In fact, three were chosen, and a fourth was offered a slot but passed for an undisclosed reason.)

In fact, it was anything but a bad way to finish the festival. And again, I almost didn't go. Will explain that quickly without dwelling on it.

Given all the nights I had been out and that I was going out Friday night as well, my wife decided to claim Thursday night as a night to go to opening night of another film festival, the St. Kilda Film Festival, which shows short films. Some of her co-workers were going to go, and she had had fun when she went last year. So I advised the ticket coordinator that I wouldn't be going to closing night after all, in kind of a deja vu email conversation to when I'd given up my ticket to opening night. In another bit of deja vu, I then recanted that stance -- just like I'd done with opening night -- when my wife found out that most of her co-workers weren't going to St. Kilda and she'd just as soon pass. So in the end I did go, feeling like the ticketing coordinator must think I'm the biggest idiot in the world. (I actually met her at the closing party and we got along famously.)

I liked the film just a smidge better the second time around, as its merits had quickly faded in my memory -- or more likely, just become part of the big blur that characterized the end of five intense months of vetting films. It's directed by Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe, the directors of the great documentary Lost in La Mancha, about Terry Gilliam's failed attempt to make a Don Quixote movie. Fulton and Pepe got an intimate level of access to a high school in the Joshua Tree area that enrolls at-risk 11th and 12th graders who are otherwise likely to drop out. They shot the film beautifully and got a startling level of emotional honesty from their subjects. You should see it arriving at a cinema near you later in the year, I would think.

Fulton and Pepe were there for a Q&A, and were a delight to listen to. They were also available at the after party, and I thought of approaching them to tell them how much I'd enjoyed La Mancha -- except that I saw that film a good ten years ago, and I'd be utterly unprepared for any follow-up conversation on the topic that might transpire. It's not like an awareness of their previous credits made me a particularly keen observer, since La Mancha was referenced in the festival booklet. So I decided to just let them be.

The after party. Well. If I thought I drank a lot at opening night, I hadn't yet fully tested my limits, it appears. In fact, I stayed so long that I missed the last tram at 12:15, and ended up walking home from downtown. I could have gotten a cab, but let's just say the state I was in made the walk plenty easy, and I had music on my iPod to provide additional accompaniment.

And though only three of the eight members of our featuring programming team were there -- kind of a surprise -- one was my viewing partner, who had been through the whole experience with me in that she and I had seen almost all the same films. We snapped some pictures and chatted up some others, some whom I sort of knew, others I was just meeting. And one wine glass led to another, and before I knew it, yeah, I'd missed that tram.

Still don't know if I'm in for another year of HRAFF, as there'll be a hell of a lot of more viewings between me and another closing night. But the satisfaction of experiencing the festival has been worth the work. And oh yeah, there'll probably be wine at next year's after party as well.

For now, a return to a more everyday viewing schedule ... and maybe some sleep.

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