Sunday, May 28, 2006

SIFF diary 2006, part 1

Saturday was my first day of SIFF and it was a very good day, especially since I struggled a bit this year to find films that I had much enthusiasm about seeing. It took really pouring over every title to find the 11 films that I wanted tickets to and then, for this long weekend, we picked up a few individual tickets.

Ski Jumping Pairs

The first screening I attended was for this, I assumed, small Japanese mockumentary, poking fun at the process of a ridiculous sport becoming an Olympic sport in 2006.

The creator and director, Mashima Riichiro, was in attendance and did talk about making this very silly film. Additionally, he pointed us to the official site where one can buy the DVD and ski jumping tee-shirts and other goodies. Due to the existence of Hello Kitty brand ski pair gear, I'm thinking this might not be as small a film and I thought.

Anyway, the film was exactly what I expected. It was safe, non-offensive and blatantly fictional documentary about the great sport of pairs ski jumping. I learned, it was Dr. Harada's amazing discovery of the Rendezvous theory that makes it possible for two people to jump insanely far distances on a single pair of skis. I giggled a lot during the first half of the film, filled with Dr. Harada's explanations of how he discovered Rendezvous theory through his observation of "frozen treats", his twin sons' nearly fatal accident due to attempting to jump while both standing on the same skis, to the beginning of an international sport. The first half was full of scientific sounding non-sense that was highly amusing. I especially loved the experiment where a mouse in a box was mistaken for ice-cream and put in a freezer, but when retrieved, two mice were in the box proving the twinning portion of the theory.

Yes, very silly stuff.

However, once we begin to see the competitions, it falls apart. The ski jumping is all video game animation and stylistically is far too dissimilar from the over all, documentary style of the film. It really bothered me. I was still amused by the theories involving side burns catching the wind and allowing for longer jumps and the multitude of goofy ski jumping styles (the koala was my fave), but the competitions due to the video game look, just were not as fun and enjoyable as the explanation of rendezvous theory and the horrible tragedies that plagued the sport.

I rated it 3 out of 5, as an average film. I enjoyed it, I didn't feel it was a waste of money as it did induce quite a few giggles. It was a bit too long and very uneven, but I might be interested in the video game, if it ever reaches our shores.

This Film is Not Yet Rated

Kirby Dick, the director of This Film is Not Yet Rated, has some history at SIFF. Many of his films have been shown at the festival and he has been in attendance several times. Last night was no exceptions. And he represents well in real life, being very charming and attractive. Before entering the theater, I saw him outside with several SIFF volunteers and thought that he looked familiar. Well he should have looked familiar. He is the director of one of my very favorite films, Sick: the Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist. But I didn't make the connection until he stepped up to the mike to introduce the film.

The film was excellent. It was about the MPAA. It's history, the people involved (Jack Valenti), the films impacted by the rating system, and its impact on the movie industry. In other words, just the topic is engaging for any movie buff, especially in my case as so many of the films highlighted in the documentary are in my personal collection (Henry & June, Boys Don't Cry, Eyes Wide Shut, South Park, etc). Several filmmakers agreed to participate, sharing their experiences with receiving the dreaded, NC-17 rating.

If This Film is Not Yet Rated had only discussed the inconsistencies in the ratings, the personal stories of filmmakers, the accusations of sexism and a bias towards giving strong ratings only for sexual content not violence, the result would have been a fascinating film. But the film went one step further. It attempted to find out about the individuals who rate the movies and this was no easy task due to the secrecy involved. Kirby Dick also documented the submission of his own film to the MPAA, the appeal process, and uncovered so many truly odd things about the organization.

I found This Film is Not Yet Rated fascinating. While I already knew about the problems and biases of the current rating system, I would have never anticipated much of what Kirby Dick uncovered in his investigation of the group. I highly recommend this film.

The Q and A session with Kirby Dick afterwards also gave some indication of some great quotes from John Waters that will be included on the DVD. Additionally, it sounds like he may have some future plans for lobbying for change in the rating system. When asked what filmgoers can do to speed change in the MPAA, he mearly implied that he is working on formulating a plan.

SIFF rating: 5/5

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