Sarasota - Maryland - Tallahassee (Monster Post)

Munyurangabo is wondrous! Please try to find a way to watch it.


Almost immediately after getting back from the Sarasota Film Festival Amy and I went on a little vacation to Tulum, Mexico. What was planned to be a five day trip turned into nine due to complications with armed rebels and blocked highways. So two days after getting back from the old country I had to turn right around and go to Baltimore. I wish I had more patience and time because I'd like to say a million things about my experiences.


Sarasota was a dream. I just can't lavish enough praise onto that festival. There are so many great people working there and Holly and Tom go way beyond the duty of just programming great films to being excellent host as well. I feel incredibly lucky to socialize and hang out with the stellar group of folks that I met there. From bloggers to filmmakers to festival staff it was just an exceptional time.

One of the great people I met in Sarasota was Keith Uhlich, editor for The House Next Door. I passed him a screener of "Merrily, Merrily" and he was kind enough to review it on the blog. Here's what he had to say:
"Johnston's Merrily, Merrily goes off in its own unexpected directions, and I'd prefer not to spoil its central conceit, which adds several provocative shadings to this seemingly familiar tale of adolescent angst. Thirteen-year-old Merrilee (Emily Burgardt) moves through her awkward existence with a dour expression and gait, her perception of the world around her entirely, though quietly, introverted. A revelation from her father (Andy Sensenig) sheds some light on her feelings, but also fractures the boundaries of her reality - fact bleeds into fiction, and the whole thing closes out in the relative (dis)comfort of irresolution. Not simply a metaphorical treatment of growing pains, Merrily, Merrily also offers a subtle, striking portrait of a media-saturated age. As is made abundantly clear, Merrilee is starring in her own movie, but who controls her narrative, and at what point does it cease to be self-contained?"

Wow! He really hit the nail on the head. Thanks for such a great write up Keith!

Here's some films I saw and loved: Momma's Man, Medicine For Melancholy (again), The Adventure (again), My Effortless Brilliance, Battle For Haditha, By Modern Measure, Still Birth Chicken, Crustvaska, The Back of Her Head.

The Adventure - Trailer

I have to take a moment here to single out Mike Brune's "The Adventure". Exhilarating and mysterious, funny and poignant, "The Adventure" is another one of those transcendent short films that you rarely get to see. I feel lucky to have seen it projected on 35mm. Even still, on DVD it still packs a punch and I encourage all to seek it out.

Another film I want to mention specifically is "Momma's Man." Very deliberately paced at first it can seem meandering but it draws you in deeper and deeper and packs an emotional wallop I was wholly unprepared for. It's definitely one of my favorites this year. Luckily it's being released so you'll have a chance to see it in theaters.


The Maryland Film Festival was a great time as well. They have an amazing emphasis on short films, even going as far as to have the opening night film be a collection of shorts! Again, I got to hang out with some of the amazing folks I met at SXSW and Sarasota and met some cool new peeps as well.

The "Merrily, Merrily" screenings were excellent. After my first screening I set out from the theater towards the filmmaker lounge and on the way at least 5 different groups of people stopped me to say how much they enjoyed the film and to discuss the themes of the film. It was amazing! It's one thing to hear a simple "Hey great job", but to actually have people want to discuss the style and substance of the film was a joy. Unfortunately, in my second screening the moment the lights came up a fire alarm went off and there was to be no Q &A.

Films I loved: White Lies, Black Sheep, We Are Wizards, Stars and Suns, Une Affaire de Femmes, Doxology (again), Salim Baba, Chop Shop, Pop Foul (again), Quick Feet, Soft Hands, The Acquaintances of a Lonely John.

I must say that "Chop Shop" is definitely something special. It's a film that I am not nearly eloquent enough to explain but for me personally it has something so perfectly compelling. I really loved it.

Another immensely interesting and honest film is "White Lies, Black Sheep". It has a rarely seen perspective on race and is an amazing first (narrative fiction) film. I usually consider mockumentaries a cop out but this film in particular transcends the genre in a perfectly self-reflexive way. It is a stellar example of the DIY spirit of filmmaking.

Quick Feet, Soft Hands - Trailer from Paul Harrill on Vimeo.

Paul Harril is a prodigious talent. His last short film, the Sundance winner "Gina, an Actress, Age 29" was a wonderful film and he follows it up with an even more accomplished outing this time. "Quick Feet, Soft Hands" is an intense relationship drama that focuses in on the rarely seen realities of not only a couple living paycheck to paycheck but also the crumbling dreams of a life-long pursuit. It propounds the question "When is it time to give up and is there ever actually a time?" It's the simplicity that counts, no overwrought triteness in the presentation here. Paul proves himself to be a maven of efficiency in his storytelling by giving us masterful set ups of lighting, composition, and action that speak when the characters don't. As you can probably guess, I loved it.


Next "Merrily, Merrily" is off to the Tallahassee Film Festival. Many people have brought to my attention that Tallahassee is a cool town so it's unfortunate that I won't be able to attend with the film.

Here is the info on the screening in case anyone is in that neck of the woods:
Friday 5/16, 2:30 PM at the FSU Student Life Cinema.