The 9th Traverse City Film Festival

Since the price of accommodations at the Film Festival have gone up every year, this may be our last trip to northern Michigan for a while. Paying $300 a night for a room normally $90 seems outrageous. But a friend put us up in her house on Spider Lake so we did get to the film festival this time. We saw six good movies. We usually try for ones that won’t come to our local theaters. We have a smaller tolerance for documentaries than many people at the festival though. The typical festival goer in TC is very willing to sit through films about how bad things are—and I agree that they are bad—but my tolerance for hearing about it is more limited. Having said that one of the best movies we saw was:

WADJDA, the story of a young Saudi Arabian girl who wants a bike—something not looked on kindly by Saudi Arabian society. To earn her bike, she enters a contest based on knowledge of the Koran, which she diligently learns. This film was especially effective in pointing out the huge difference between the inside and outside life of women there. Inside, Arab women live a life much like in western society, but once outside they are imprisoned by every institution. This was the first film ever shot solely in Saudi Arabian, and also was made by a S.A. woman.

THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO IDEOLOGY was a documentary that looked at films as a way of enlivening philosophical arguments. Slavoj Zizek is the philosopher and Sophie Fiennes the film maker. Perhaps it was the time of 9:00 a.m. that made this seem too didactic for me. The links between the arguments and films felt stretched as did the attempts at humor.

TRUST ME is the story of a Hollywood agent (Clark Gregg) who has been unable to land the sort of client that will keep him afloat. When he signs a young woman, who looks to be his ticket to success, he temporarily regains his footing. This is a look at the seedier side of Hollywood and features many fine actors such as Alison Janney, Sam Rockwell, Amanda Peet, and Felicity Huffman.

WILL YOU STILL LOVE ME TOMORROW-is a charming Taiwanese rom-com about a husband and father who rediscovers the gay side of himself.

SUNLIGHT JR stars Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon (directed by Lauria Collyer) as a down- and- out couple unable to make ends meet. The safety net is gone and there is no place for them to go for help. A sad but well-made film. Watts’ pregnancy, the one glimmer of hope for a future, eventually makes their situation worse. As much as I like Watts, she and Dillon seemed too old and intelligent for the characters they played in this film. Still well worth seeing.

A HI-JACKING is a Danish film about the hi-jacking of a Danish freighter by Somalian pirates. The film mostly concerns the negotiations between the company CEO and the negotiator the pirates hired to represent them. It is not an action film by any means. It also focuses on the toll of this situation on the men on the freighter and the people back home over the four months the negotiations took. A very fine film.

The film festival featured something like 140 films this year. There are also many free films, kids’ movies, panel discussions, interviews, and film makers on site. Many awards were bestowed but FRUITVALE STATION won the audience award for its favorite film. It would indeed be very hard to top that one. A record number of people attended the film festival this year, but it is so well organized by its thousands of volunteers that aside from the price of accommodations there is no problem for a visitor.

Patti Abbott