The last two weeks truly have been a whirlwind for me thanks to MSPIFF. Practically every single day there’s some kind of film-related activities, whether it’s watching/reviewing films, attending panels or interviewing filmmakers. And since this year is also the first time I actually have a short film playing at the festival, that means I’m also wearing multiple hats as a blogger AND filmmaker.
It also happens to be a really busy time at the office for me that prevents me from attending most afternoon screenings (on top of that crazy blizzard that grounded even the most ardent MN cinephiles!). Thankfully it was a relatively warm (50 degrees!) and sunny day for Hearts Want‘s screening last Tuesday (April 24). The Looking In Short Block turned out to be a sold-out screening so it was cool to see a packed house!
On top of showcasing over 200 films, MSPIFF also has a plethora of film-related panels available for FREE to the public. I had set out to attend three of them but was only able to make it to one of them. But to me, as a female film blogger, writer AND aspiring filmmaker, the Film Fatales panel is one not to be missed!
Members of Film Fatales, a global community of women filmmakers, reflect on the process, challenges and joys unique to directing feature films. They will discuss the structure of the organization it’s mission, goals, and their films and the filmmaking process.
Two of the panel speakers, Melody Gilbert and Dawn Mikkelson, have their films (Silicone Soul and Risking Light, respectively) made the Best of Fest! Risking Light‘s producer Miranda Wilson was also one of the panelists, as well as Maribeth Romslo, whose debut feature Dragonfly premiered at MSPIFF a couple of years ago.
Directed by: Lénor Serraille
It’s tradition that every year at MSPIFF I have to watch a French film w/ Juliette Binoche, but her film Let the Sunshine In happens to screen at the exact same time as Hearts Want But hey, the French film I did end up watching turns out to be an intriguing one, and it’s also written/directed by a female filmmaker.
- a person or thing that is spectacularly unsuccessful or disordered, especially one that is a source of peculiar fascination.“this outfit is definitely a hot mess”
Few would argue that Paula, amusingly played by Laetitia Dosch, is a hot mess. She is down on her luck after having broken up (well ditched) by her now famous photographer boyfriend. The film is a character study that starts off with a bang (or thud) that lands Paula in the hospital. She’s one of those girls who simply cannot stop talking, regardless whether the person on the opposite side is willing to listen or not. So we quickly learnt that she had been in a relationship with her boyfriend for 10 years and now she’s broke and utterly lost as to what to do with her life.
Being a Francophile that I am, simply watching scenes of Paula yelling at her ex boyfriend Joachim outside his flat and stumbling around on Parisian streets with her ex’s cat is amusing to me. But Dosch herself is a fascinating actress who mesmerizes even at her lowest moments. Somehow Paula always looks chic too (she is Parisian after all) in her stolen brick-red coat and wooden clogs.
After drifting from place to place for days, she finds work as a nanny in the Montparnasse neighborhood, hence the title. She also lands part time work at a lingerie boutique where she befriends a security guard Ousmane (Souleymane Seye Ndiaye). The more people she encounter, even a case of mistaken identity on a bus, the more we learn just how unpredictable Paula can be.
One thing I’m frustrated with however, is how deliberately vague this film is. There’s obviously a major conflict between Paula and her estranged mother, who adamantly refuses to see her, but it’s never fully explained why. The film also takes its time introducing us to Paula’s ex, which seems rather uneventful after she spends most of the movie wanting to get back with him.
But what’s certain is, by the end of the film, she’s no longer the same Paula I saw in the beginning of the movie. Whether or not she’s actually ‘grown up’ is up for debate, but then again the filmmaker doesn’t make a moral stand about her protagonist. In the end, Paula remains quite an enigma, observed through an astute but impartial lens. But the film’s charm lies in the colorful chaos our heroine often finds herself in, which reminds us how life’s riddles don’t always have a neat resolution.
Director Bio: Lénor Serraille was born in 1980 in Lyon, France. She has produced several shorts during her career, including Body (’16), which she also wrote. Montparnasse Bienvenue serves as her feature-film debut.
Directed by: Robin Aubert
Les Affames takes place in a small countryside village in Quebec overrun by zombies. The movie follows a group of survivors (Marc-Andre Grondin as Bonin; Monia Chokri as Tania; Charlotte St-Martin as Zoe, Micheline Lanctot as Pauline, Marie-Ginette Guay as Therese, Brigitte Poupart as Celine, Edouard Tremblay-Grenier as Ti-Cul, and Luc Proulx as Real) as they struggle to avoid these new enemies and find a safe location.
The profile for this film on the MSPIFF website describes it as “a contemplative take on the zombie apocalypse” that “does not rely on the shock factor familiar to the popular, and some would argue overspent, genre.” I want to know who wrote this, because nothing about this description is accurate. I’m pretty sure that by “contemplative” they just mean “French” and “containing pretty shots of nature.” The description goes on to say the zombies are “a constant reflection of what has been lost,” but that’s hardly a unique concept in zombie films, and it’s not really that focused on throughout the movie.
And it certainly relies on the same shock value other movies in this “overspent genre” does. Les Affamés definitely isn’t the gore fest the Romero-type zombie movies usually are, but there are still plenty of jump scares throughout the film, although, to be fair, they mostly do these well, thanks to a sparse use of background music and some well-paced scenes. Just because they do them well, though, doesn’t make the movie less reliant on shock value than any other zombie flicks.
The biggest problem with this movie, though, is how aimless it is. There’s no clear goal or story arc. The closest we get to one is when one of the survivors mentions knowing of a bunker they might be able to run to, but once they find it, they move on for no solid reason. The majority of the film is spent watching the survivors drive, run, and hide with no real resolution.
If you like zombie movies and want to see one in a slightly different style, you might enjoy this. It is a well-shot and well-acted film, but overall, it really doesn’t bring anything new to the genre.
Director Bio: Canadian-born Robin Aubert is a diversely talented actor, writer and director. His work includes Saint Martyrs of the Damned (’05), Tuktuq (’16) and several short and television projects. His latest, Les affamés, earned the Best Canadian Film award at the Toronto International Film Fest.
Directed by: Emelie Lindblom
Room 213 follows Elvira (Wilma Lundgren), a shy 12-year-old girl, to summer camp, where she and her bunkmates and new friends Meja (Ella Fogelstrom) and Bea (Elena Hovsepyan) begin to notice strange things happening in their room (the titular 213). Are the occurrences just adolescent pranks, or is there a more supernatural explanation?
This movie is proof that you can make a solid horror film while still keeping it kid-appropriate. It’s a simple story, but it’s incredibly well-paced and the scares are slowly built up, keeping the suspense high throughout. The movie keeps you guessing throughout whether the room is actually haunted, and that subtlety is rare in a lot of horror movies, especially in ones aimed at younger audiences. The three leads are believable and relatable, thanks in no small part to the young actors’ skills, although some of the dialogue does feel a little unnatural.
My one other critique is that the ending kind of breaks the overall tone of the film. For the most part, it’s pretty dark and subdued, but the explanation at the end feels lazy, tacked-on, and childish (spoiler ahead): the ghost, Mebel (Agnes Mikkeline), haunted the girls because she was lonely and wanted friends. It’s kind of an overly cutesy ending to a mostly grim-feeling movie. This is an adaptation of a book by Ingelin Angerborn, and maybe it’s better explained or better developed in the original format, but the film version doesn’t handle it very well.
Overall, though, I really enjoyed this movie. I would have loved this movie as a 12-year-old, and I would absolutely recommend it to any budding young horror fans, especially ones who enjoy more paranormal/supernatural sub-genres.
Director Bio: Emelie Lindblom is a Swedish script writer and director who graduated from the School of Film Directing, Gothenburg University in 2011. Her latest short 2 was in competition at Gothenburg International Film Festival 2014 and was called a “masterpiece” at Seoul International Women’s Film Festival 2015. Room 213 is her debut feature film.
(courtesy of MSPIFF)