AFI Film Festival Report...
Here are more review blurbs from the AFI film festival. [Rating scale 1 to 10]
Bright Leaves (8) - Ross McElwee (Sherman's March) returns with another idiosyncratic documentary. This time he heads to North Carolina to dig up information on his great-grandfather who helped start the tobacco industry in the late 1800's. McElwee investigates history, personal stories, a Hollywood movie about his grandfather - staring Gary Cooper titled 'Bright Leaves' - and the effects of tobacco both good (economic) and bad (cancer and death) in our society. At once insightful, self conscious, funny and poignant this is the kind of documentary that everyone can appreciate - the problem is how do you market such a film?
The Flying Classroom (6) - A big hit in Germany this film by Tomy Wigand is about a bunch of tough but lovable kids in a boarding school. The film takes a positive approach to boarding schools and troubled youth and in this way treads the ground perfected by Francois Truffaut. But after a while it begins to feel awful thin and a bit moralistic and even though the acting is very good the style is a bit flat.
She Got Game (6) - The subject of women's professsional tennis is explored fairly well in this documentary. The doc is good when it follows the trials and travails of Canadian Sonja Jeyaseelan who is a second tier player on the circuit. The film too deals a bit with parental expectations as well as the pressures on young women in the sport. The filmmakers seem to want to indict the industry (or society, or magazines, or TV) but the evidence they provide comes up short on proving that there is a real problem with inflated and unrealistic goals for young women and girls (which BTW is a problem). Everyone they interview - including Sonja - seems to be having a good time traveling, playing tennis for a living, signing endorsements and making money. So what's the problem?