KC Film Fest 2013: Thursday
I’m blogging and helping out with social media at the Kansas City Film Fest again this year. I really enjoyed it last year, and I look forward to seeing this year’s batch of films! In this first post, I’ll share my thoughts on the two film programs I saw on Thursday night.
If there’s anything I’ve learned on the Internet, it’s that if you can think of a topic, there’s a fanbase for it. A modified Rule 34, I suppose. The world is a large enough place that niche like-minded individuals (adult male fans of an animated television show for young girls, perhaps) may feel like they’re alone, but in reality their peers are only a few clicks away. This is one of the surprisingly many lessons from this documentary.
A Kickstarter darling that raised more than $320,000 last summer, Bronies attempts to describe the world of adult male fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, the fourth generation of Hasbro’s animated series that began in the early 1980s. In it, the filmmakers take us around the world, from Appalachian North Carolina to Israel to Germany and beyond, where we meet passionate and interesting people who legitimately enjoy the show because of its messages of friendship, generosity, and harmony. The real focus of this film is the people, the “bronies” who, to the surprise of their friends and families, become obsessed with the show.
We meet an artist who remixes My Little Pony songs into electronic dance music beats, another who creates laser shows of My Little Pony characters, a brony with Asperger syndrome who faces social challenges, a teenager who faces hardships for his hobby, a couple who met and fell in love through their mutual enjoyment of the show, and a boy who fears his father finding out about his interests. All of these individuals are interesting enough to warrant a complete documentary of their own, but we see them all come together at brony conventions on either side of the Atlantic Ocean. (Bronycon in New Jersey in June 2012 drew 4000 attendees!)
Throughout this journey, we get to see the joy that is experienced when individuals meet others like them. As we learn through the stories of these bronies, the message is clear: you are never alone. There are always others like you out there, and fortunately we live in the day and age where you can find them. Find what you enjoy, don’t be ashamed, and meet others who enjoy the same thing.
Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony shows again at 8:00 PM on Saturday at the Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet.
Rhino w/ From Dad To Son & Lift
Lift is a 27 minute film about three people and consequences. Told through progressive flashbacks, we see the effect and work our way back to the cause. There’s nothing extremely unique about the plot, but the storytelling device hooked me. As a longtime Lost fan, I’m a sucker for flashbacks, and Lift definitely takes advantage of the suspense that comes from wondering “how did we get here?”.
From its physically shocking beginning to its mentally shocking ending, Lift keeps you thrilled. I think it is well-suited to the 25-30 minute range: any longer and it would drag on, any shorter and you’d miss some of the story. Originally bored by the content, Lift grew on me throughout, as I got more of a glimpse into the characters and their many flaws.
From Dad to Son is a 5 minute German short that is extremely well-done. With it’s lack of dialog and 3D paper stop-motion characters, the short is very easy and fun to follow. The premise is this: “Son” is stuck in prison with the meaningless task of breaking rocks all day, while “Dad” is back at home, tilling the fields, sowing the crops, and harvesting without Son’s help. Dad and Son write back and forth as time goes by, until we realize that Dad is getting to old to work the fields by himself. This depresses Son, until he comes up with a brilliant plan to help Dad from the confines of prison.
I’ve been kicking myself up since the beginning of this short because I knew the plot from somewhere (a comedian? a motivational speaker? a television show?) but I can’t remember where. Anyway, although I knew the plot twist, I thoroughly enjoyed the light-hearted short because of its whimsy. The stop-motion (I presume) was very well done and the characters’ emotions are easily felt by the audience, even as the “actors” are folded bits of paper.
How do you really know what someone is like? That’s the primary question that Rhino asks. We’re introduced to pro football player, turned wrestler, turned mild-mannered vegetarian restaurant owner Donnie (or as he doesn’t like to be called “Rhino”). Although Donnie is a very well-respected professional, he has a secondary job: vertically-integrated marijuana distributor. Seemingly successful at everything, Donnie runs this pot production and distribution ring with ease, marshaling his lieutenants and maintaining a clean chain of command. Donnie’s the big dog and everyone else benefits.
One day Donnie calls Hank into his restaurant. He wants Hank, a small-time dealer, to join the operation. A merger, he proposes. Hank sees nothing wrong with this and secures his place on the organizational chart. Hank is making money, a fact that his girlfriend loves, and making connections. But then things change, Donnie brings Hank along to “talk to” a competing dealer. Suddenly Hank realizes he’s in over his head.
Last year, I was able to see Patrick Rea’s Nailbiter and his name (along with the filming locations of KCMO, KCK, and Lawrence) drew me to this movie. I’m glad it did. While Rhino is completely different than Nailbiter, it’s obvious that Rea knows how to keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s amazing that the film is only 45 minutes long, because I felt well connected to the characters and fearful for Hank. From our third person view, the audience knows more than any of the characters, and that creates the most suspense.
Rhino w/ From Dad To Son & Lift shows again at 1:00 PM on Sunday at the Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet.