I was at a film festival in California and it was just great. Saw almost 30 films (not as many as in past years), and it really was nice.
And I don’t just mean the weather.
It’s always great to go to a film festival. As a loved one says, “It’s like seeing the world in a week!”
And she’s right.
I saw India through Peepli Live and Next Year in Bombay.
I had my faith in humanity restored through documentary films such as My So-Called Enemy and Louder Than a Bomb (you rock Adam Gottlieb).
I was challenged in Israeli/Palestinian relations through Precious Life.
I was introduced to Greenland movie-making through Nuummioq and watched Ethiopia represent through The Athlete (the story of marathoner and Olympic champion Abebe Bikila).
There were the great French and Italian comedies including The Names of Love and Loose Cannons and the BRILLIANT Romanian romantic comedy (yes, a Romanian romcom — the first ever, actually) — Hello! How Are You? — a brilliant and perfect mix of sex and the malaise of growing old in love and life.
Sweden’s Oscar submission Simple Simon was also in the mix — a beautiful blend of whimsy, social commentary, and family ties in an homage to Napoleon Dynamite.
The thrill of a film festival is the shock of the new and the ring of the familiar. We have our favorites (Bollywood, French/Spanish/Italian comedy, Mongolian epics), but there is always a pleasant surprise, like this year’s Leading Ladies (a small USA toe-tapper that would make a BRILLIANT musical on Broadway).
And, of course, there was an unfortunate USA offering which I won’t name here that was a pathetic reminder that nepotism is alive, well, and occasionally horribly detrimental to the art world. Shame.
Standing in line and seeing old friends at new movies is a treat. Yes, there are those who will always work the system to find ways to cut the line, sneak in, and just be general malcontents, but for the rest of us? Well, for the rest of us there is a blessed reunion with culture, friends, family, and cinema.
You don’t have to be a celluloid expert to love a film festival (I sure as heck am not). You just need to have a love for perspective, a love for the new, and an appreciation for the odd.
Then again, maybe you just need an appreciation for life itself — life that brings us the good, the bad, and the ugly…life that brings us the best in human nature, as well as the worst…
And if all else fails, there’s always popcorn.