While most people were on their fall break, I stayed in Chapel Hill and enjoyed the surprisingly stacked lineup at Film Fest 919.
The local film festival opened on Wednesday, October 19 with a screening of Devotion, a film about Korean War fighter pilots, and ended on Sunday, October 23 with a screening of Glass Onion, a sequel to Rian Johnson’s popular crime thriller Knives Out.
Nestled among the flashier bookends, however, were some of the best films to hit the planet in 2022. Here are some of the highlights from last weekend’s event.
‘The Banshees of Inisherin’
What if your closest friend decides they hate you the next day? For no reason. And he told you, straight to the point. Crazy, right?
Well, that’s exactly what Pádraic Súilleabháin (Collin Farrell) had to deal with when his old pal Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson) rebuked him in writer-director Martin McDonagh’s latest dark comedy.
Farrell and Gleeson’s superb chemistry, coupled with McDonagh’s tight, hyper-realistic writing style, ensures countless hilarious moments on the fictional island of Inisherin off the coast of Ireland. The trio did the same in 2008 with great success in “In Bruges”.
But the film is about much more than making fun of a stupid situation.
It is a multi-dimensional view of human relationships, their ups and downs, set against the beautiful expanse of the sparsely populated island.
The film is an aesthetic triumph, with stunning shots of clouds rolling over hills dotted with stone walls to demarcate property lines, smoke creeping out of chimneys at nightfall, beautifully complemented by tranquil, anthemic music.
The grandeur of the landscape really puts into perspective the importance of friendships or, in the case of Pádraic and his sister Siobhan (Kerry Condon), family relationships. And the spectacular performances from the entire cast will make audiences reflect not only on their own relationships, but on the meaning of life itself.
Winner of the 2022 Cannes Grand Prix, second prize at the world-renowned film festival, Close offers a different perspective on the power of friendship. But in doing so, it delivers the most moving story to come to screens in years.
The Belgian film, mostly in French but also in Dutch, is about Léo (Eden Dambrine) and Rémi (Gustav De Waele), two 13-year-olds whose intense bond makes them seem more like brothers than friends.
First, the film revels in the innocence and beauty of their affection for one another, showing the pair making faces at the dinner table or running through the endless sea of brightly colored flowers on Léo’s family farm while pretending.
But when the two enter middle school, they are asked by their classmates if they are “too close,” motivating Léo to move away from Rémi. This rift eventually leads to tragedy, in which Léo tries to piece together what happened and make peace with it.
The cast’s performances are spectacular and all the more impressive when they are led by two child actors.
The film’s directing helps guide the audience by revealing tensions beneath the surface of seemingly ordinary interactions, by revealing subtle changes in facial expressions with close-ups, or by physically separating the feuding pair of friends as they fight. The editing team provides crucial assistance, cutting to the next scene when Léo is close to tears, building tension until finally, at the very end, they just leave him alone…
And the camera zooms in to see the burst of emotion audiences have been waiting for all film.
And if you don’t shed at least one tear with him… well, then maybe you’re not human.
“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”
I didn’t think a documentary would sneak onto my itinerary for last weekend. But I was encouraged by the fact that the film won the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival, the highest award there.
It follows the career of Nan Goldin, an acclaimed photographer whose work is featured in the world’s finest museums, and her activism against the Sackler family, who not only patronized the arts but were executives at OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma.
And it’s not for the faint of heart.
The film begins with Goldin telling the story of her difficult upbringing and how it was even more difficult for her sister. It then moves forward in time to the beginning of Goldin’s career as a photographer and her personal struggles with opioid addiction.
But the film, like Goldin’s work, is also highly political. In addition to weaving in recent footage of Goldin and her friends in the arts scene hosting protests at the Guggenheim, the Victoria & Albert Museum or the Met, the film focuses on Goldin’s activism as a young artist working to help bring healthcare to those people during suffered from complications from HIV and AIDS during the Reagan presidency.
It’s a powerful story told in a creative way as the story is divided into segments through slideshows of Goldin’s photographs. And it was a very appealing watch despite its above-average running time.
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