Saturday, June 04, 2011

IFFBoston 2011 Day #7: Terri and The Whistleblower

The second-to-last day of the festival was a bit of a change-up from the past couple years, where the night would be spent at the Institute of Contemporary Art watching films about art and artists. That wasn't the case this year, with the venue moving a couple stops up the river to the Stuart Street Playhouse for a couple of higher-profile narratives.

Not a bad night. Both movies were good enough to recommend, though not exceptional. Both directors appeared for a Q&A, and it's always nice to see something at the Stuart Street Playhouse - it's a great facility and the people there are quite nice.

I'm a bit worried about the Playhouse, quite frankly - a couple days after this, they had a preview showing for Jumping the Broom, and then after that, they just seemed to vanish from sight. Not necessarily in terms of there being a hole at the bottom of the Radisson or anything, but their website has been saying "check back later" for the past month and there's been no listings in the paper. Given their hidden location (underneath a hotel; at least on foot, you've got to navigate some tricky traffic to get there), reducing visibility that way isn't going to do them any good.

Hopefully they haven't shut down; I'll be down there at some point in the next couple of days, so I may take a look. If they have shut down, it's a weird way to do it, especially since the festival staff was talking the theater up like it would be showing movies this summer.

The environment elevates my photography from terrible to merely poor, though:

"Terri" director Azazel Jacobs at IFFBoston 2011
Azazel Jacobs doing Q&A for his film Terri. If you've got the name Azazel, you sort of have to have hair like that.

"The Whistleblower" director Larysa Kondracki at IFFBoston 2011
Larysa Kondracki doing the same. As you might expect, this was as much about the subject and the differences between the film and real life as the movie itself.


* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 3 May 2011 in the Stuart Street Playhouse (IFFBoston 2011)

Earlier in this festival (and on many other occasions), I saw a movie about an eccentric kid growing up, and it was kind of annoying; even if inspired by actual people, the characters seemed like adult screenwriters. So it's something of a relief to say that Terri, for all its oddball tendencies, does have the ring of truth about it. It's not an all-time great coming-of-age movie, but it's at least populated by recognizable human beings.

Terri (Jacob Wysocki) is kind of isolated from the other kids; not only is he overweight, but he lives way off the main road with his uncle James (Creed Bratton), and Uncle James is getting to the point where his memory (among other things) has a pretty wide gap between the good days and bad days. When he shows up late for school wearing his pajama top for a shirt, he's sent to the principal's office, and Mr. Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly) decides to take a personal interest in him, meeting up with him once a week, like he does with some other kids such as Chad (Bridger Zadina). And while Terri's not in any particular trouble, he does manage to sort of be around it, when his staring leads to a kid with the charming nickname of "Dirty Zach" (Justin Prentice) being caught fingering his girlfriend Heather (Olivia Crocicchia) in home ec class.

Though Terri and the other characters can be kind of unusual at times, it's never a particularly forced oddity. These kids (and educators) are distinct individuals with their own particular issues and quirks, but should at least feel like familiar types from one's own school days. Director Azazel Jacobs, screenwriter Patrick Dewitt, and the cast manage the tricky balance between the familiar and the unique here, with the only real exception being Mr. Fitzgerald - even by the standards of dedicated and unorthodox film educators, he's a bit on the odd side.

Full review at EFC.

The Whistleblower

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 3 May 2011 in the Stuart Street Playhouse (IFFBoston 2011)

The Whistleblower has a good cast and a topic that provokes a strong emotional reaction, and when a project starts with that, making a memorable film can often come down to not screwing up. Co-writer/director Larysa Kondracki doesn't screw up; she makes a movie that's a notch or two above average, and the "based on a true story" factor doesn't hurt it at all.

It's 1999, and two women on different sides of the world have no idea they're on intersecting paths. Kathryn Bolkovac (Rachel Weisz) is a police officer in Nebraska, very good at her job but frustrated because she's having a hard time finding a department to transfer to near Atlanta, where her ex-husband is moving with her daughter. The lead she gets - working for a UN contracter to assist local law enforcement in Bosnia-Herzegovina - is a few thousand miles in the wrong direction, but the pay is good enough to give her a cushion when her hitch is up. Raya (Roxana Condurache) is a recent high-school graduate in Eastern Europe, whose friend Irka (Rayisa Kondracki) has lined up a chance to go west, working as waitresses and au pairs. Kathryn thrives - after helping the locals with their first successful domestic violence prosecution, UN Mission official Madeleine Rees (Vanessa Redgrave) gets her a post handling "gender issues". Raya and Irka, on the other hand, wind up in a situation where they need Kathryn's help badly, which is made more difficult because both the local police force and the contractors are thoroughly corrupt.

The cast won't necessarily bowl audiences over, but it may raise eyebrows. Rachel Wesiz, for instance, seldom disappoints, and she doesn't here. It's a precisely-pitched performance; there's never any doubt that she is very good at her job or that she is passionate about helping the women she finds in Bosnia, but she's not one-note or overly intense about it. She lets the audience see something developing with fellow "adviser" Jan (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) without gushy moments and similarly builds the increasing stress she's under.

Full review at EFC.

1 comment:

madhavi said...

its very nice i loved it