"Money was maliciously introduced in ancient times as a tool of enslavement" -
Michael Tellinger

"The present belongs to the future and future generations, and all old laws, religious and other, should be abrogated immediately. Free us!" - Vinay Gupta on Twitter

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." - R. Buckminster Fuller

"You find the strangest ways to be positive!" - Diane Duane, Wizards Abroad

Friday, April 13, 2012

AIFF 2012 Day 1: We Are Legion; David; My Best Day; Little Horses (quick film reviews)

(slightly updated 4/14: I'll keep expanding on these reviews as time permits.)

The eleventh annual AIFF started yesterday and once again it was film heaven. No time for full reviews now as I'm off again soon, but just so I don't get too far behind, these are the films I saw yesterday:

We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists -- see it! Fabulous documentary. The filmmaker was there too for a great Q&A. This film was #1 on my must-see list for this year's AIFF.

What do Internet trolls, lolcats and Wikileaks have in common? A heck of a lot more than I realized. I'm not a tecchie so I've only observed this history in bits and pieces, and it was fascinating to see all the dots connected into a social history of how Anonymous came about. This is a coherent and thought-provoking anthropological record of evolving culture, and a beautifully made documentary film.

I was first aware of the digital "Anonymous" movement during the runup to Occupy, last year, and had to do a little homework at the time (view V for Vendetta --itself based on an earlier graphic novel I'd also missed--and review the history of Guy Faulkes, which in turn led to a reexamination of OSF's earlier play Equivocation... It's all related) just to find out what those masks were about. (I'd heard of the raids on corporations before that, which were spectacular but seemed to be harmless, but hadn't connected them with the masks.) It turns out that this is just the most recent face, and one facet, of a very large story, and this documentary challenges and clarifies on many levels. And now I'm seeing connections between the government prosecutions of hacktivists and the environmentalists of last year's If a Tree Falls too (reviewed that here). What would we do without documentary journalism?

Over the years on the Internet I'd been aware of trolls (evil) and hackers (more than one variety; some of them the hope of the world, it seemed to me) including most recently Anonymous and now hacktivists, but this film shows how it all connected, grew, and morphed over time into a global underground, the kernel of what is perhaps the only thing that can really bring about the kind of change the world needs today. This is a very timely and very much needed history and perspective on a phenomenon that until now has been treated only according to the needs of the few, in the media. Certainly for anyone who still doesn't get why Internet freedom is perhaps the single most important issue of our time, and why all the current powers that be are scrambling so desperately to curtail and control it, this documentary might give a much needed perspective. And as a documentary film, it is a brilliant work of editing, bringing together so many disparate elements into a truly coherent narrative showing many dimensions of a very complex human culture. (August 2012: they announce new website. It has timeline and other info.)

The short film it was paired with, Tiffany Shlain's A Declaration of Interdependence, is great too - like me you might already have seen all or parts of it on the Internet (I followed Shlain's work after last year's wonderful Connected, and this is part of it) but to see it with an audience is an experience of a different sort and not to be missed. It is the best face of people, expressing through the Internet a new culture of global connectedness.

The next film we saw is also about interdependence and connectedness in a human community, this one a city neighborhood. The feature film David (trailer at that link) is fabulous -the story of the son of a Brooklyn imam and his encounters with a Jewish boy. Again, the filmmaker was there for Q&A and the story of how he made the film was as interesting, in its way, as the film itself. Can't say enough about this one and don't have time right now, but see it!

I think it was just a measure of how many outstanding films AIFF had this year, that this one didn't win some sort of top honors. It was very popular with audiences and I'm sure the jury appreciated it too. It's one of those movies that you want to share with everyone you know.

My Best Day: another winner! Loved this quirky, totally original feature film by Erin Greenwell. It's the story of a young woman seeking connections with her biological family, but in the course of a day (and with a little help from her friends) she gets far more than she bargained for. To say more would be to give away the surprises, but the charm of this one, for me, was in the wonderful characters and ensemble performances (it received a "special mention" from the jury for that) and most of all, for me, in its nonchalant portrayal of small town lesbian dating relationships as part of the social fabric of the town. Nicely done. Simply delicious! Here's an interview with the filmmaker, Erin Greenwell.

It was paired with another delightful short feature, Little Horses, by Levi Abrino. This is a very touching and well directed and filmed tale that's also set in a small town, showing a family in the process of readjusting to the new dynamics of parenthood (and son-hood) when the father becomes a stepfather. So much story is told, so much character shown, in such a short time, and in such a touching way--and of course who can resist the charm of "little horses"!? This won the jury prize for best short feature film, and I'm not surprised.

I'm writing this on the morning of Day Two. Today we're making a bit of a detour to the OSF (Oregon Shakespeare Festival, down the block from AIFF) to see the backstage tour and then Seagull. Followed by lunch, and then a conversation at the Armory between one of AIFF's awardees, Julie Taymor, and OSF's incomparable Bill Rauch.  What a town!

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