Fangle’s Movie Rankings for Athens’ 2017 Annual Film Festival

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Culture Staff Writers | Sydney Dawes, Leslie Termuhlen,  Alexis McCurdy, Ashley Edgell, Raichel Jenkins, Korina Meister

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea

Directed by: Dash Shaw

Reviewed by: Sydney Dawes

Rating: 2.8/5

Image via My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea trailer, MovieClips Trailers, YouTube.

This animated feature follows Dash, a high school sophomore infamous for his purple prose on the school newspaper. He soon becomes jealous of his friend Assaf, who is getting special attention from the paper’s editor. Dash crafts a story in order to humiliate his friend; this results in punishment by the school’s principal. Dash stumbles upon documentation that states the school isn’t up to code and isn’t sound enough for the addition of the auditorium that is already near completion. Soon enough, the school collapses into the Pacific after a small earthquake. Dash must join forces with his classmates and school lunch lady in order to get out of Tides High alive.

I was initially concerned with “My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea” when a warning popped up before the film began, stating that those who have epileptic seizures shouldn’t watch the film because of its use of the animation’s intense use of color and sound. Everything about this film was odd: the animation, the story line and the characters themselves. For me, the film’s saving grace was Lorraine the Lunch Lady, who was voiced by Susan Sarandon and was basically a middle-aged ninja survivalist. The theme behind the plot – friendship — was sweet, but the main character, Dash, was absolutely annoying. The film’s humor was witty and sometimes hilarious, but overall, lacking.

My Life As A Zucchini

Directed by: Claude Barras

Reviewed by: Korina Meister

Rating: 3.8/5

Image via IMDb.

This movie was bittersweet and very endearing. It takes place in France, following the life of Zucchini, a young boy who was abused by his mother which placed him in a foster home. Though scared and alone at first, he begins to fall in love with the other kids in the home, and finds the affection he never had before. The movie exhibits that though some children have lived hard lives, they still retain their childlike innocence and ignorance. A simple movie littered with both funny and sad moments, “My Life as a Zucchini” tears at the heartstrings but ultimately brings a smile to your face.

The Transfiguration

Director: Michael O’Shea

Review by: Alexis McCurdy

Rating: 4/ 5

Photo via The Transfiguration Trailer, Indie and Foreign Films, YouTube.

“Transfiguration” is a story about how a young teen, Milo, believes he is turning into a vampire. But just because there are vampires, does not mean that the actions of the main character were based off wild imaginations similar to those of “Twilight.” This film is not for the weak of heart. As Milo ventures through his life, tracking his monthly killing sprees in training to become a vampire, there are multiple times when his actions are both appalling and frustrating. Throughout the movie, audience members are sickened and disturbed at the graphic imagery presented. Although the reasoning behind this imagery is held until the end, some parts of the movie make you want to leave right that second. It is not ever made clear how Milo became a vampire, and whether his fascination is real or imagined. But in this void of clarity, the audience can begin to see his perspective when his imagination starts affecting his reality. Milo, living as an impoverished teen with his brother, Lewis, has lost both of his parents. There is some hint that Milo’s obsession with blood began with finding his mother dead, bleeding out and cold to the touch in her bedroom.

But, looking past the gruesome scenes, you can see a highly relevant message accompanied by beautiful videography. “Transfiguration” is a story about how we all carry our burdens and how we choose to filter and work through those burdens in our life. We, just like Milo, struggle to balance love, power, violence, school and grief under the same umbrella. It consumes our thought so much that we reevaluate the worth of everything in our life. Transfiguration does an amazing job of shedding light on a concept so dark and intricate, no one wants to talk about it.

 Kedi

Directed by: Ceyda Torun

Reviewed by: Raichel Jenkins

Rating: 4.1/5

Photo via IMDb.

If you expected this cat documentary about the stray cats of Istanbul to be heartwarming and pleasantly simple, you were correct. This film features a set of seven stray cats and most importantly, how they’ve impacted the lives of their caretakers. Torun delves into humanity’s relationship with cats, different reactions to the stray cat epidemic in the city and heartwarming stories that could be anyone’s relative. This film garners a 4-star rating for the fact that it bridges cultural barriers between audiences with a very simple message, we all get lonely and cats help…either purposefully or by accident.

The Space Between

Directed by: Amy Jo Johnson

Reviewed by: Sydney Dawes

Rating: 4.2/5

Photo via The Space Between trailer, Amy Jo Johnson, YouTube.

“The Space Between” focuses on the story of an infertile man, Mitch, who finds out his “miracle” infant daughter is not his own: the little girl is actually the result of a hookup Mitch’s wife had with an awkward college kid — Danny Baker. On Mitch’s angry search for the biological father, he meets a troubled teenage girl, Emily, struggling with self-harm and the pain that came when her mother committed suicide. As Mitch and Emily venture, Mitch’s wife and her close friends and family pile into a limo to stop Mitch from hurting Danny. Shenanigans persist during the journey, all ending in a glorious burlesque show.

Although this film was at times frustrating, it was also heartfelt, sincere and comical. “The Space Between” celebrates the crazy, stupid, beautiful thing that is life. This is a film best viewed with an open-mind: the first few minutes make you believe it’s going in a much different direction than it actually does. Overall, “The Space Between” triumphs as a comedy with deeper meanings: sacrifice, acceptance and love.

Alone Among the Taliban

Directed by: Mohsen Eslamzadeh

Reviewed by: Leslie Termuhlen

Rating: 4.6/5

Photo via Athens International Film and Video Festival.

“Alone Among the Taliban” was a captivating documentary that was a long time in the making. Mohsen Eslamzadeh took an incredible risk to get access to the Taliban for this documentary, something that had not been done in over a decade. Eslamzadeh, an Iranian journalist, had to travel to Afghanistan and immediately switch over his currency and clothes to match that of the Afghan people in order to not stand out. Then, he made his way to Helmand in the southern part of Afghanistan.

At Helmand, Eslamzadeh talks to locals, who all have differing opinions of the Taliban and whether they are making Afghanistan safer or not. He also talks to prisoners in the Taliban jails about why they are there. He discusses the most harmful offense landing you in jail – disloyalty against the Taliban. Throughout the documentary, Eslamzadeh talks with several authorities within the Taliban, working his way up the chain of command to get more information and to get his questions answered.

“Alone Among the Taliban” captures the difference between developed cultures and developing cultures. The film has been controversial among media outlets since its debut. This is because it shows the group in ways that many haven’t seen it – as human beings, family members and friends. Check out this documentary for a first-person account of the way the Taliban lives.

 Whose Streets?

Directed by: Damon Davis and Sabah Folayan

Reviewed by: Sydney Dawes

Rating: 4.7/5

Photo via Athens International Film and Video Festival.

“Whose Streets?” is a documentary that focuses on the activism that followed the killing of Michael Brown, Jr. It also shows viewers the interactions between police officers and citizens during the Ferguson riots in 2014, producing a clear timeline of how events progressed and escalated. The documentary follows multiple organizations and modern civil rights leaders and how they address racism in their communities. It also follows the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death, including court proceedings that stated the police officer who shot and killed Brown was innocent of murder and working out of self-defense.

This was a painful documentary to watch. Not only did it highlight issues such as police brutality, but also it put light onto other issues that contribute to inequality: poverty, education and incarceration, to name a few. This documentary was rather unfiltered, and I loved it. This is not an event that should be sugar-coated in any way. Viewers can capture a glimpse into what really happened at Ferguson: most of the footage used to make the documentary came from the phones of protesters who were there.

Undocument

Directed by: Kyla Simone Bruce and Amin Bakhshian

Reviewed by: Sydney Dawes

Rating: 4.8/5

Photo via Athens International Film and Video Festival.

“Undocument” follows the stories of different people in the Middle East attempting to immigrate to other countries. This movie tackles the many challenges an immigrant can face during his or her journey — health troubles, pregnancy, poverty, legal matters — by giving heartbreaking, yet hopeful glimpses into the characters’ lives. During the film, audience members get to follow a pregnant woman in Afghanistan attempting to reunite with her husband in Iran. Next, viewers see life through the eyes of a young boy living with his mother and other immigrants in an uncomfortable apartment in Greece as they await passage into the UK. The story transitions into the worries of a Nigerian man, co-habitating with his girlfriend and her teenage daughter in London: his visa expired and he thinks his detainment is inevitable. Finally, the film ends with a story of a legal interpreter in London, ethically plagued by a case dealing with a detained mother and her child.

“Undocument” left me in tears. The emotions portrayed in the film were intense and vulnerable, and the topic of the film is very relevant to current events. “Undocument” does not leave its audience with feelings of hope and happiness; it’s not supposed to. Rather, it challenges audience members’ perceptions of humanity, equality, and how just a justice system really can be. It’s riveting’ it’s heartbreaking; it’s real. 

In the Hills and Hollows

Directed by: Keely Kernan

Reviewed by: Ashley Edgell

Rating: 5/5

Image via In the Hills and Hollows trailer, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, YouTube.

“In the Hills and Hollows” explores the state of West Virginia that is now dominated by the coal industry. The documentary portrays the lives of real individuals who are living or have lived in West Virginia through the coal phenomenon. Throughout the motion picture, residents of West Virginia describe their horrific experiences with fracking and what it is doing to their home state. Some residents have even had to pack up and move because the living conditions in their area are so poor. Most people don’t realize how bad of a problem fracking is becoming, but the individuals in the film tell their horrific stories first hand.

I personally enjoyed watching this documentary and found it to be educational and packed with information. “In the Hills and Hollows” does an excellent job of explaining how the population of West Virginia has been affected by fracking. The use of real residents telling their story spoke volumes to me, and helped me to realize that I wouldn’t want those experiences happening to me or my family. Before watching this film, I knew that fracking is obviously harmful to the environment, but I had no idea of how bad the damage was in West Virginia. The use of images from the fracking sites allowed for a visual of the problem first-hand, which made the film even more intense. I would rate this film as a five because I found it very informational, and I believe that everyone should educate themselves on what is happening in West Virginia and other states across the country.

 

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