In the Guest Spot today, we have Dwight Edwards, the man behind the very cool Okie-film website The Filmcake. Dwight has attended deadCENTER every year since 2002 (we’re willing to forget the two years he was absent, as he was there in spirit), and even contributed to our live blog of the festival in 2009. Every Wednesday until the festival, we’ll feature his look back at the deadCENTER film festivals of old, starting with 2002. This week: 2005
The 2005 festival was madly hot. While Mad Hot Ballroom DID kick off dCFF ’05 at the Noble Theatre, the rest of the fest was literally sweltering. All the venues were blasting fans. Whatever good the air circulation might have provided was mitigated by the drowning out of sound on some of the films. Despite the sweat, it was still a blast of a festival. This week I’ll be looking back at Rosevelt’s America, Admissions, and The Fearless Freaks.
Rosevelt’s America — Winner of Best Documentary Short. I was underwhelmed by this documentary at first. I’ve been conditioned as of late to expect twists, quirky animated interludes and heist film-style tension in my documentaries. Directors Roger Weisberg and Tod Lending don’t really provide that flash. This is just a camera periodically following some guy around. But this is no average Joe. Rosevelt Henderson is a refugee from war-torn Liberia busting his hump trying to provide for his family while desperately hoping his wife can escape to America as well. I admit that all too often I take my natural-born citizenship for granted. This is NOT an underwhelming story in the least. And the drama of this little story increases exponentially given all of the untold immigrant stories that would be just as compelling if preserved on film. Seeing these stories of immigrants, legal or otherwise, who take advantage of their time in the United States to work their asses off to provide for their families makes me reconsider what being a real American really means.
This 25-minute documentary short is available as a special feature on the DVD for Weisberg’s feature length documentary Waging a Living.
Admissions — While Evie (Lauren Ambrose) interviews with various colleges, her savant sister Emily (Taylor Roberts) begins reading poetry of unknown origin. As their mother (Amy Madigan) and an English teacher (Christopher Lloyd) begin to take a keen interest in Emily’s poetry, Evie’s deception leads her to sabotage her chances for her own future. When we saw this one back in 2005 at the Tolbert Theater at Stage Center, I liked the movie while my wife thought it was “dreadful.” She assumed I was blinded by its star. That may have been true. At that point in time, I had a massive television crush on Claire Fisher (on HBO’s Six Feet Under). But upon seeing the movie again this time around, I still quite liked it. Sure, it devolves into Afterschool Special territory on several occasions. And, yes, there is a final twist that seems both odd and unnecessary. But at its heart, when it is telling the story of a young woman coming to terms with her past and future, it is a compelling and emotionally engaging tale. Who hasn’t felt overwhelmed or neglected? It’s those honest emotions shining through that make this one worth watching.
This 92-minute feature is available on DVD and Netflix.
The Fearless Freaks — Winner of the Grand Jury Documentary Award. It played at the Kerr Park amphitheater as part of a free outdoor screening after the awards ceremony. As in the band The Flaming Lips, Wayne Coyne is the central character in this documentary from Bradley Beesley. Coyne’s freaked-out take on the rag-to-riches story, his devotion to Oklahoma City, and his inspiring work ethic make him an engaging figure and local folk hero. With a nun puppet and a forehead dripping with blood, Wayne is hard to ignore. Emotionally, however, this film latches itself to Steven Drozd. He candidly admits to Beesley his struggles with drugs and even shoots up heroin (off-camera) during the course of the documentary. Not until Wayne literally smacks him upside the head does Steven realize that a change needs to be made in the direction of sobriety. Coyne then admits that they wouldn’t be able to maintain their current success if Steven was still abusing drugs. Upon watching it again this past weekend, I couldn’t help but to think about Drozd’s recent hospitalization. Get well, Steven.
And once again, like the other half-dozen times I’ve seen this film, I rush to my iPod afterwards to listen to “Enthusiasm for Life Defeats Existential Fear” only to find it nowhere to be found. I think this time will be the one where I finally break down and buy the “soundtrack” CD.
This 103-minute documentary feature is available on DVD and Netflix and can be seen on Hulu.
Next Wednesday: The 2006 festival…