Here’s one last post on some interesting SXSW films. I didn’t get a chance to put together full reviews for these, so check out some snapshots after the jump.
A documentary that recalls both The Gods Must Be Crazy and the work of Werner Herzog…minus his cool voice-overs, Ghostland examines one of the oldest cultures in the world both–the Ju/Hoansi Bushmen in Namibia–in its element and as four members of the tribe take a trip to Germany. Even though the Namibian government is already forcing members of the Ju/Hoansi to give up some of their ancient traditions, one wonders if this change won’t naturally be accelerated by their journey to the West. The time we spend in their world and them being thrust into ours is a startling juxtaposition. Few films reveal the absurdity and excess of much of Western civilization with such quiet, yet powerful, insight.
Given nuns’ relative invisibility in much of our society, a film with a young nun in the lead automatically makes for an intriguing viewing experience. In Little Sister, much like one of last year’s great indie films, Metalhead, religion and goth mash up to form a sweet tale of family dysfunction, reunion, and reconciliation. Colleen (Addison Timlin) returns home after a lengthy absence and confronts her pill-popping mom and her reclusive brother, who’s hiding out in the family basement after being terribly disfigured in the Iraq War. Colleen is forced to minister to her family even as she questions whether or not she wants to stay on the path to her final vows. Little Sister benefits from strong performances from Timlin in the lead role and Ally Sheedy as her mother, Joani.
Andre Royo won the jury prize for best lead performance, and it was absolutely the best choice. In one of his strongest performances since The Wire, he plays Ashley Douglas, a recently-released prisoner trying to re-build his life in south central Los Angeles. He befriends the eclectic Jeremy (the excellent newcomer, George Sample III) and the two go into business together recycling old refrigerators. Ashley tries to win back his old love, Linda (Ashley Wilkerson), while leading on his new girlfriend Nat (Kellee Stewart), who can give him a place to stay after his mom kicks him out of the house. The film benefits not only from Royo and Sample’s captivating performances, but from writer/director Josh Locy’s quirky script that captures a real sense of place and tone. Hunter Gatherer reaches a heart-breaking conclusion that also feels completely uplifting.
A dark tale of obsession and manipulation, Pet stars Dominic Monaghan as Seth, a troubled young man, who works at an animal shelter in Los Angeles. He bumps into Holly (Ksenia Solo), on whom he had a high school crush, but when she spurns his advances, he captures her and stores her in a cage in the abandoned basement of the shelter. Even in captivity, Holly manages to turn the tables on Seth, making him her pet and forcing him to bend to her will in disturbing, torturous ways. For much of the film, Pet is a taut narrative, but it gets grotesquely unwieldy in the final act.