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Friday, April 10, 2015

The 7th Annual River Bend Film Festival- April 9th, 10th, and 11th, 2015

Image result for 7th annual river bend film festival 2015Greetings from South Bend, Indiana. This is my second time covering the successful and coveted River Bend Film Festival. Thursday, April 9th was documentary shorts night. Three docs were shown at IUSB's (Indiana University South Bend) Wiekamp Hall. Their running times totalled approximately 2 hours. A question and answer session followed two of the three presentations. Anyway, here are the star ratings:

The Healing Wall * * * 1/2 Stars
Director: Christopher Kosiniski
-The Healing Wall refers to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It is located in Washington, D.C. and shows approximately 58,272 names of men and women who've lost their lives in combat (via a war that lasted almost twenty years). From the opening film score which is powerful in its essence, "Wall" is an exhausting, detailed documentary that my uncle (a Vietnam Veteran himself) would wholeheartedly approve of. Director Christopher Kosiniski uses a barrage of film making techniques to get his point across. He shoots archive footage, insightful interviews, lots of zoom shots (I like the one where he zooms in on an old TV set in dense space. Said TV is showing Vietnam War coverage in its most brutal nature), and something you rarely see. He frames a few shots with the corners being mini split screens that contain blurry overtones (I haven't seen this in a while. Maybe I've never seen it). As for the overall proceedings, well they begin with Vietnam vets (from Northern Indiana) talking about the war and how it affected them when they came home. Then, The Healing Wall dives strictly into the Memorial itself. You get to know how it was constructed, who designed it, and when it was erected. Things I didn't know about this structure since I hadn't seen it after the age of ten: 1. the names listed are not in alphabetical order, they are in chronological order. 2. you as a visitor, can see your reflection in the granite stone. That to me is a mark of gaping symbolism. 3. there is something called a traveling wall. It can be delivered to someone who can't make it to D.C. on their own. I'm not sure what it's made of but what an interesting concept. Anyway, The Healing Wall clocking in at roughly 57 minutes, sometimes drags a bit. However, it's a story that needed to be told and you wonder why it took so long to tell it. Bottom line: This was the best of the three that I saw last night. Case in point: A standing ovation took place when the end credits rolled.

Dockery & Son * * Stars
Director: Jack Truman
-A mother and her middle age cub live in a small town of 24 people. They own a low rent antique store filled with mostly junk. They have one or two customers (who are barely seen and never interviewed) and never charge for coffee. Oh and they don't have any indoor plumbing so they relieve themselves in a medium-sized, plastic container (be forewarned, this is the first doc I've ever seen that actually features a fart joke, ugh!). That's the basis for Dockery & Son, a 14 minute documentary short that ultimately pales in comparison to the other two that were shown last night. This was the only one in which the filmmakers either didn't show up for their screening or didn't want to participate in the Q & A. I yearned to converse with everyone involved and assess an idea of why it was made. I was also curious to know if the actual town of Milford existed (I know of a Milford, Indiana but its population is at least 1,500). Finally, I needed to find out if the cast members were actors (and everything was staged) or real life people. If I had these questions answered, I might have relegated a higher rating. Nevertheless, Dockery & Son is slow moving even for its short running time. It has an enclosed feel to it. The characters spend every minute either rambling with each other or talking to themselves (isolation from being in limbo I suppose). They're happy with their banal existence. Therefore, it's hard to sympathize with them, it's hard to care for them, and it's hard to root for them because they don't want their situation to improve. I as an audience member, was devoid of any enamorment.

Should Tomorrow Be * * * 1/2 Stars
Director: Malini Goel
-A father of two and a husband who's been married for over forty years, sustains a fall which leaves him paralyzed from the neck down. That's the basis for this 24 minute documentary that packs an effervescent, emotional punch. Acting as director, narrator, and the daughter of said quadriplegic, is Malini Goel. The footage of her father recovering in a NW Indiana hospital hadn't been viewed in six years. Goel however, decided to do something with it. She took just one film class, did a little research online, and strung together something special as a first timer. What a natural! I mean, I would've wanted to hear a little more from her brother and mother (in interviews). However, after a meet and greet, she assured me that her other sibling is a more quieter, reserved person. Anyway, the proceedings are shot in the standard doc style (which is a good thing) coupled with a smidgen of a mature, reality TV show. The questions asked: Should her dad pull the plug and end his life so he won't suffer any more pain? Or should he choose living and continue to soldier on? That prompted me to almost insert the first spoiler alert I've ever given for a documentary short. It also prompted me to announce Should Tomorrow Be as the first of its kind to have a surprise ending. In a slight of hand, this thing goes down one path and then abruptly pulls the rug out from underneath you. The outcome is an unbridled celebration of life. Of note: The ending title card in "Should" says, "every day is a gift." That's words to live by and coincidentally, it's something my mom loves to say (she was with me at the screening).

Written by Jesse Burleson

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