Here are the Festival's film synopsis, followed by my comments, for the films I saw yesterday.
Off and Running
Avery is a typical Brooklyn teen living in an atypical, United Nations-style melting pot. Her adoptive parents are white Jewish lesbians, her younger brother is Korean, her older brother is mixed-race, and she is black. Though her family is loving, she can’t quite quell her curiosity about her biological African-American roots. The decision to contact her birth mother sparks a complicated exploration of race and identity. As Avery’s self-awareness increases, the question of racial identity takes center-stage. The more she searches for answers about her biological family, the more emotionally charged and distant from her current family she becomes. She maintains her position on the school track team, but drops out of high school and eventually leaves home. Avery’s constant displacement—whether it was at her Jewish elementary school, or among black friends, or even at home—informs her difficult journey, objectively documented by director Nicole Opper. Most impressive is Opper’s poised camera, able to capture honest and articulate conversations between Avery and her incredibly attentive brother Rafi. Off and Running is a unique and very American coming-of-age story that delves into the psyche of race through a fresh and careful dissection of a family’s struggle.
I found this documentary to be very interesting yet heart-wrenching. With loving, supportive parents and a natural talent for track and field, Avery seems to have more advantages than most adopted kids, yet she becomes hopelessly sidetracked by her quest to find and get to know her birth mother. When Avery drops out of high school and gets pregnant it really made me wonder if kids should be allowed to pursue finding their birth parents prior to graduation. On a scale of 1-5 I gave this a 4.
A heartwarming and whimsical romantic comedy, set on a fictional Italian island in 1956, follows the fortunes of young Marcello, the son of a fisherman, who pines for the affection of the lovely Elena. Two things stand in Marcello’s way, the first being that Elena is the mayor’s daughter. The second is more elaborate: according to island tradition, the father of an 18-year old girl ready to meet suitors can choose the suitor based on what is basically a bribe—the best gift to the father results in a date with the daughter. So, what does Marcello come up with? And what does Elena think of Marcello? Rabaglia brings a sunny attitude to a sunny story, set in an unbelievably gorgeous (and, yes, sunny) place. His steadily accumulating narrative builds to an effective and satisfying climax. A terrifically and innocently romantic story of young love, told against the backdrop of a pre-modernized world where the pursuit of love reigns supreme, Marcello Marcello is a winning and winsome film.
This was a beautifully filmed and delightful story. Although Marcello despises his village's tradition, he is unable to resist vying for the opportunity to be with Elena. But to ensure his gift to Elena's father is the best, clever Marcello must make deals with half the village's population! Funny and romantic, this film is a sure bet. On a scale of 1-5, I gave it a 4.5.
Starring Sharon Gless (Queer as Folk, Cagney & Lacey) in a tremendous performance, Hannah Free tells the story of a decades-long love affair between Hannah, an adventurous, butch lesbian with gruff charm, and Rachel, a pristine, married homemaker with a religious upbringing. Set in a present day nursing home, Hannah is forbidden from seeing the Rachel, due to her not being “family.” Through a series of flashbacks and past incarnations that Hannah imagines in her old age, the viewer is treated to the passionate beginnings of their relationship, which was both tumultuous and enduring. Hannah manages to convey the introspection that comes with age, while still being spunky and sharp. Though Hannah is out and unashamed while Rachel is much more reserved, both characters are revealed to be courageous in entirely different ways. The film easily questions matters of same-sex partners’ rights, the definition of family, and the difficulties surrounding seeing your loved ones become old and fragile.
This was a complex and beautiful film that had me in tears at the end. While Hannah suffers from a lifelong case of wanderlust, Rachel can only be happy in the safety of home. This film shows that although two people love each, they sometimes love in different ways and need different kinds of love. While Rachel's last days are spent in a room just down the hall, Hannah is unable to be with her until and unlikely person assists her and allows her to say goodbye for the last time. Highly recommended! On a scale of 1-5 I give this a 6. What a fitting way to end my film festival experience!!Crush du Jour: Johnathon Schaech