This is becoming a trend. Betty and I spent the first week of the New Year in Palm Springs for the International Film Festival. Last week, we took part in the growing Phoenix Film Festival about 35 minutes from our new home. Palm Springs is fun every year because we meet good friends, Mike and Tamara Reddy, enjoy different restaurants, and see some fascinating movies.
I must admit it is nice to be so close for the Phoenix version. It is held in Scottsdale, very close to where we used to live. So, we re-visit favorite restaurants in the area as well as explore new ones before or after each screening. And, driving home to sleep in our own bed each evening is nice.
Not as big or as well known as its California cousin, there are still plenty of films to choose from. This year 150 different screenings were offered, some premieres, some on the film festival circuit, and others festival officials screened, liked, and added. Several were products of the Arizona film community.
Attracting around 25,000 film buffs over the 7 days of the festival, there are never huge crowds. Unlike Palm Springs where it is wise to get in line at least 60 minutes before a movie starts, here 20 minutes is about right. But, just like most film festivals, directors and actors are often available for Q & A sessions right after each screening.
Our first film was one that does what movies are supposed to do: it moved me to tears, made me angry, sad, empathetic, happy, and questioning what I would do in a similar situation. Since: The Bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 is a documentary about the terrorist act that resulted in 259 people being blown out of the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988, as well as killing eleven folks on the ground. The flight was taking holiday travelers from London to New York and Detroit when it disintegrated at 30,000 feet. I had not realized that there was a large contingent of student from my alma mater, Syracuse University, on that flight.
One of the first major terrorism act against civilians during the post Cold War era, the story is chilling in its details of the effect of the crime on the survivors, both in America and Scotland. The film presents the view that the governments of The United States and Great Britain were uninterested in solving the criminal aspect of the crime due to the importance of Libyan oil.
Lucky U Ranch was quite a bit easier on the emotions. It is the story of two youngsters, thrown together by a mix of circumstances, in a 1950's Arizona trailer court. They form a bond of friendship, with each supplying what the other needs.
I found the pacing too slow and the acting by the two lead youngsters to be weak, but the adult actors were competent, the music score was excellent, the cinematography good. Mainly shot around Tucson, I felt at home with the mountains and terrains.
The two child actors were present at the screening Betty and I attended for a Q&A session. Both have grown considerably in the two years since Lucky U Ranch was filmed and couldn't pull off those parts today.
Patagonia Treasure Trail is set in one of our favorite small Arizona towns. An RV trip there a few weeks ago had to be cancelled at the last moment for health reasons, so Betty and I were doubly happy about this movie's setting.
It was a dud. I will say the horses acted well in this movie. Otherwise, it had serious flaws in acting, editing, musical score, pacing, and plot. Even Betty who rarely says anything bad about something agreed this was not worth our 90 minutes.
For something completely different, our final choice was a fascinating look at what happens after fame and fortune leave one's life. Colin Hay: Waiting For My Real Life is the look at the life of the lead singer of the 80's band, Men at Work. After the band fell from favor and broke apart, Colin was faced with decades of life without a clear direction or purpose.
This film is an inspiring look at a man with lots to prove, but no clear path to do so. He reinvented himself as a solo act and songwriter, on the road continuously because of his need to perform and his love of connection with others. This is a documentary that I would watch again.
That was it for our participation in the 2016 version. At one point I suggested to Betty we travel the country to visit film festivals throughout the year. That might be a fun adventure!