Starlite Film Festival 2014 Preview
Garden Theatre, Winter Garden FL
• January 23-26, 2014
Carl F Gauze
Every Film Festival needs a gimmick, and I especially love Starlite’s — no submission can cost more than $100,000.00. Sure, that’s a lot of change for most of us, but by Hollywood standards that’s not even a decent craft table. The point isn’t to spend as much money as you can get, but to spend a small amount wisely, and the poster child for low budget success is still Blair Witch — $160M plus on a $40K budget.
I haven’t had a chance to look at everything on the roster and shows will only appear once, but here are my thoughts on what I have seen. (Nota bene — all films are shown at the beautifully restored garden theater in beautiful downtown Winter Garden, Florida.)
Directed by Yunsun Han
South Korean with English subtitles
We are advised early on that “shit heads always roll together,” and that’s the cue that drops us deeply into the social structure of Korean high school students in this interesting cultural study. A pair of sophomores attempt to climb their social ladder by hanging with older and cooler kids; this requires chain smoking cigarettes and deferring to anyone five seconds older or two millimeters taller than you. One of their new friends is borderline psychotic, beating and intimidating underclassmen and rival students. Things would turn all “West Side Story” if it weren’t for deeply ingrained cultural rules. Chain smoking is a basic requirement for acceptance and minor harassment, and it soon escalates to full on beatings. The violence is more than graphic, but rather than the ritualized Kung Fu chop socky we expect in Eastern movies, the action is straight-ahead bare-knuckle street fighting. The main course is six-on-one face-kicking with a chaser of jack boot to the groin in every fight. These boys become men, despite internal injuries, and some adapt while others fall off the edge of society. Alternately violent and poignant, Eighteen Noir shows us the underside of a superficially polite society.
Beinahe Negativ (Almost Negative)
Directed by Sascha Fehrentz
German with English subtitles
Marco has a complex and enigmatic love life. He’s drawn to the attractive Anka, who just broke up with his suicidal friend Neil, but he won’t go any farther with her than a nervous freshman in a black and white movie. He saves that for Natalia, but neglects to tell her about his HIV positive status. Then there’s the HIV positive Dominatrix. As it says on Facebook, “It’s complicated.” This moody yet sophisticated love pentangle is infused with an erotic undertone, although nothing terrible explicit pops up. It also slides into a film within a film trope. There is a documentary maker working with the Dom who also runs an AIDS support group. It’s a love story, but not the sort we see here in America. Motives are distorted and results are more positive than what you would expect; this is an adult film that might get a PG rating.
The Paragon Cortex
Directed by John Kilker
Val Durant is a lawyer with a fear of the world outside his apartment, but he does love his comic books. He also seems to have some erratic super powers, like mind reading and telekinesis. His best buddy Ronnie is a brain surgeon and helps him develop what I can only call Jedi Powers — he deflects balls, stops muggers, and heals his own stab wounds. Val also has a knack for annoying people, and when the girl who delivers his food is asking him out on a date all that super power stuff freaks her out. Ronnie attempts to force Val into an extreme situation to “unlock” even more powers, and then things really get weird. The superhero tie in is as good a metaphor as any for the journey Val takes, and he does find things inside himself he did not know existed This is a taught and well-structured story with just enough weirdness at just the right time to keep you hanging on every scene.