11 March 2003

Florida Film Fest Diary - Entry #2

So what happened to Entry 1? Er, I've decided that the T. Arthur Cottam career overview I posted on Film Moi on Saturday was it. Go and have a look.

So now it's Monday (actually ungodly early Tuesday morning) and I've seen 35 films so far (bear in mind that not all of them -- or even most at this point -- have been your standard 90 minute "movies." Many have been much shorter, as little as two minutes).

Time for a recap and "our story so far."

Friday night -- schmoozing. Saying hi to all the people at the festival I know. If you want to see what it was like, here ya go. By sheer coincidence, most of the Orlando area bloggers were at or near the festival's opening, which gave me the idea to re-organise the links to your left to separate "local" blogs from "national" ones. We're going to try and put together an Orlando Bloggers Dinner and Awards Banquet (hey, nobody else is going to do it) at some point in the near future (if you're a local blogger to central Florida and not linked in the list, let me know!).

Saturday began the film festival proper with the "Family Shorts" program. Five Wallace & Gromit minis, a documentary called Little Monk, more W&G and then a documentary called Sing!

I was a little concerned when I saw the large number of kids that were coming in for this. Sure, they'd love W&G, who doesn't? But will they be able to get through the two 30-minute documentaries without ruining it for the rest of us?

I needn't have worried. The Enzian's clever staff made sure that the two docs were about kids, and in the case of Little Monk actually directed by a kid. Almost every child in attendance was very well-behaved, with only one incidence of crying (removed by the parent very quickly).

As much as I like W&G, five shorts in a row begins to wear thin surprisingly fast. Out of the 10, there was only one that really struck me as hilarious: "Snoozatron," in which Wallace invents a sleeping aid that only David Lynch could possibly have topped. Disturbing and yet hilarious.

We moved on to Little Monk, a documentary made by 13-year-old Chaille Stovall about a little 6-year-old Tibetan boy in India named "Little Potato," who is given by his parents to a monestary to become a monk. Stovall focuses on comparing LP's lifestyle to his own, Western lifestyle, but that's only part of the story. As Stovall himself says "Here's a kid that only had one toy ... and he gave it away."

HBO helps to fund Stovall's efforts and they have certainly gotten their investment back on him. The kids in the audience were quite taken with the concept of another kid being the director/narrator of a film, almost as much as they were amazed at Little Potato's squalid life and the changes and attitude that took hold in the monastary. The film is considerably bolstered by the presence of an interview with the current Dalai Lama (which he had gotten a couple of years earlier and used in another doc) on the topic of monks and personal sacrifice. Stovall is still so young that his narration comes off like an incredibly elaborate book report (not everybody just flies to India when they need a reference, do they?) but it certainly shone a light on a kid's life in another part of the world, always informative for both adults and youngsters. Little Potato could teach a lot of kids here a few things about appreciating what you have, about discipline and about determination.

This rather sobering doc was followed by a few more W&G, then on to Sing! which was much more cut-and-dried in its style, but again illustrated some kids' lives out of the norm. Everybody in the room who was in band practice or chorus in school paid careful attention. It is the story of the LA Children's Chorus and the vision/determination of a handful of key people to make in all happen in spite of grievious budget cuts and general ignorance of the arts by school boards and governments. Anybody seeing this doc would immediately understand what a positive influence things like the LA Children's Chorus has on young people's lives, but wisely the filmmakers don't hammer it in too much. As with the previous doc, this one also boasts a surprise cameo, this time by Placido Domingo, the Italian tenor and opera star. The kids, being all above average by this point, are thrilled. It is also rewarding to see how the kids progress, some by talent and most by training, into the higher and more complicated choral arrangements.

Later that day, we went to see Robot Stories and then still later, the Midnight Shorts (always one of the most popular programs in the entire festival). My review of Robot Stories will be up on Film Moi in the very near future, one of the shorts (a little ditty called Pornographic Apathetic) is already reviewed there, and as for the rest -- well that blog entry will have to wait until later today or tomorrow, kids. I'm going to bed.

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