Greetings from the Provincetown Film Festival! I’ve been projecting at this festival for a long time – 13 years maybe? My venue is Town Hall; the large auditorium is converted into a theatre by two companies – one puts in the projection equipment and the other drapes the large windows so we can have a dark room – and a large cast of volunteers. The space is old fashioned- oak wainscoting, uncomfortable wooden chairs, a stage. It’s a great spot to see a movie. I started here when everything was 35mm, which was a lot of work but always looked amazing. These days, it’s all digital, which is not as fun or as beautiful as film, but also not as heavy. I don’t miss carrying a feature film on one giant wagon wheel “mutt reel” up a flight of stairs.
My temporary projection booth is up in the balcony. Because of the way things are set up, the public is not allowed up here, so I get it all to myself. I usually watch all the films, even if I don’t enjoy them. After all, I really don’t have anything better to do – I can’t leave while the movie’s on, and the balcony is air conditioned, unlike the projection “booth,” which is heated up by the equipment.
This year’s opening night film was CAPTAIN FANTASTIC (Matt Ross, 2016), a promising-sounding film about a family trying to live off the grid in the forest. I mean, Viggo Mortensen stars, and he’s always pleasant to look at, and the plot concerns counter-culturalists, and even though they have six kids, they still hate The Man, right? Turns out, despite this anarchistic theme, the film is just as patriarchal and male-dominated as anything else. Mom dies without us ever meeting her, dad has to fight with her dad (her mom doesn’t have much to say, of course, because this film was written and directed by a clueless male). Dad shows off his (homeschooled) kids, but mainly the boys. If we did a dialogue breakdown, I don’t think we’d be impressed. With only the male viewpoint, the political aspects of this film are immediately rendered bullshit. Rather demoralizing, I must say. 2016, people, let’s tear shit up!
Today I got to start the day with the opposite of CAPTAIN FANTASTIC, the French animated film LONG WAY NORTH (Rémi Chayé, 2015). I wasn’t expecting to like the animation style, but I did (now I will have to watch BOOK OF KELLS), and the story of a young girl who runs away from home and has an epic adventure was super charming. It started in St. Petersburg, Russia, which I visited not long ago with Slava and Eve, and takes place before the revolution. Moms, take your kids to see this one. Great ending, too.
Next up, MORRIS FROM AMERICA (Chad Hartigan, 2016). Lest you think I only like films about women, I will tell you I was totally charmed by this coming-of-age (did you know this is one of my fave genres?) film about a 13 year old African American boy who is trying to find his way in his new home of Heidelberg, Germany. Turns out, there aren’t a lot of black people there, so he kind of stands out. Plus he’s trying to learn the language, and he lives with only his dad (whom you may recognize from HOT TUB TIME MACHINE) because his mom is dead. Underdog story! There are many viscerally painful teenage moments in this film, but he’ll be OK in the end, I promise. You know, although this is a story about a boy (and, tangentially, his dad), unlike CAPTAIN F, it manages not to bow to the patriarchy! Sexist things are said, and then they are called out for one reason or another. The women characters are solid. The overall feeling is just very real. Being a teenager sucks and is confusing and horrible, but also exciting and crazy. The movie delivers this story of teenage life better than any John Hughes film.
What’s next for the kids at Town Hall? MILES! (Nathan Adloff, 2016). In the 1990s, a gay teenage boy in small-town Illinois has to find a way to pay for college so he can get out of his small town and move to Chicago to attend film school. He joins the girl’s volleyball team in hopes of winning a big scholarship. Uproar, controversy, and comedy ensue. Another charming teenage tale, based on the director’s real life.
Tune in tomorrow for another festival film review!