Before this week, the closest I’d been to an actual “film festival” were the ones my friends and I would put on for each other, i.e. all night hang-out sessions where we’d try and gross-out, puzzle or shock each other with our varied choices, often culled from shoddy VHS tapes and first generation DVD’s (you know, the ones with that cardboard snap cover).
With two films tonight, my real coverage was off and running and it couldn’t have been more polemic in the choices.
Trey Edward Stults’ Krisha, which has been gaining traction since winning the audience award at this past March’s South By Southwest, takes the holiday family get-together to new heights. Call it a psychological drama that borders on the horror movie or, more apt, an update of John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence. The film’s title character, played by Krisha Fairchild, even resembles the great Gena Rowlands both in body language, appearance and mental deterioration. Things are locked on ‘slightly haywire’ from the first scene when (in a stunning long take) Krisha shows up to her estranged family’s holiday dinner, skirt half caught under the door of her truck and wandering the neighborhood trying to locate the right address, trudging through the neighbor’s yard and stepping in a mud puddle before receiving her warm welcome inside. Welcome, that is, from everyone except her son played by the writer-director.
Even named Trey in the film, its hard not to delineate some autobiographical touches in Krisha, and from there, the film lapses into a mounting crescendo of when will she snap and how far will the film go. It’s all handled deftly by Stults, both in camera movement, sound design and perspective.
Seeing the now well-respected A24 distribution banner before the film shows it has some minor studio backing, so watch for this one to roll out in your neighborhoods soon.
Next up was (T)error (pictured above), a documentary by Lyric R. Cabral and David Sutcliff, revealing the life of one “Shariff,” an African-American Muslim tapped by the FBI to infiltrate and inform on fellow Muslims and hopefully deny further terrorist activity. I use all these words loosely as the film goes in several directions to document both the fragility of this tactic and the almost ludicrous ‘Hollywoodonian” personality adopted by Shariff. He sees himself as a valuable asset to the government, but the filmmakers elide his importance by also setting up interviews and confidence with the man he’s supposed to be spying on.
(T)error has its agenda, and depending on your personal and political beliefs, it will aggravate or certify those beliefs. As someone whose grown weary of the maelstrom caused by political and cultural beliefs post 911, I was satisfied to witness a well-crafted and tense polio-documentary of something I had little knowledge of. And feeling the audience’s emotions ebb and flow with certain revelations, it became the absolute best type of film to discover at such an event.
With that in mind, perhaps its not too far removed from those all-night hang out sessions after all.