Friday, May 13, 2016
When choosing which sessions of the 2016 HRAFF festival -- which I helped curate -- I would like to actually attend, I focused mostly on films I hadn't already seen.
Oddly, especially for a festival in which I was one of the programmers, I haven't seen more than a third of the 30 films ultimately chosen. In fact, a better way to describe it would be that I've only seen just over half. Thirteen of the 30 films were unseen by me, which gives you some indication of exactly how many contenders we had.
So that left me no shortage of choices. And having become a bit warn out by all the documentaries I watched, I naturally gravitated toward one of the two narrative films I hadn't seen.
That was Beata Garleder's Flocking, which I watched on Wednesday night in what felt like ages after I attended opening night. In reality, it was six nights later. My HRAFF schedule gets a bit more packed from here on out, as I will see four more films between Sunday and closing night next Thursday.
I wish I could say it was a movie I would recommend that others should flock to.
It's not the subject matter that ended up turning me off. I knew it was about a town who turns against a high school girl after she accuses one of her classmates of raping her. No, it was the total lack of charisma of the actors that did it. And the total lack of surprises in the way the movie investigates victim blaming. I knew the people would be assholes, but I thought at least they would be assholes in interesting ways.
I think I was probably also comparing it to a similar film that I had championed that we didn't end up programming. I'm probably not supposed to say the title, but I will because it could help other people eventually get to watch it. (As opposed to me mentioning a rejected title in a catty light, which would have no positive byproducts for that film.) That film was/is called Three Windows a Hanging, and instead of being Scandinavian, it takes place in Kosovo. In that case, a woman is shunned by the others in her village, especially the men, when she tells an international journalist that she and other women in their village were raped during the Serbian conflict back in the late 1990s. Not only did that film have acting that was far superior to the performances in Flocking, but it's also shot and framed beautifully. If I'm going to struggle with the darkness of sexual violence, I at least want it to be aesthetically and dramatically pleasing.
So while Flocking wasn't a hit for me, it was nice to return to the festival after nearly a week without screenings.
And it was also nice that I was able to avoid making eye contact with the festival director on the way out, so I wouldn't have to give him my thoughts on the movie.