WE DON’T NEED A MAP (Warwick Thornton)
Celebrated Australian aboriginal filmmaker Thornton (Cannes Camera D’or winner Samson and Delilah) returns to this festival with a provocative and often visually stunning excavation of the origins of the Southern Cross constellation symbol that adorns his nation’s flag. Alarmed by how this symbol has been co-opted by white nationalists, to the point where he feels it’s become a “new Swastika,” Thornton embarked on this project. He speaks with various tribal elders, scholars, activists, and musicians, traveling across the country to discover the Southern Cross symbol’s deep rooting in indigenous culture, and how it was transformed and appropriated by the European settlers who came later, and used it to support their marginalization, oppression, and outright genocide of native people.
Even though this is a heavy subject – with obvious parallels to recent US events – Thornton leavens this with quirky, self-deprecating humor, a deceptively breezy air, and some breathtaking shots of the night sky (much of it shot by Thornton’s son Dylan River).
(Oct. 20, 6:30pm)
ALMOST HEAVEN (Carol Salter)
This beautifully charming, observational film follows Ying Ling, a 17 year-old girl training as a mortician at a funeral parlor in Changsha, Hunan Province, China. Through her eyes, we witness the rituals and practices of how the dead are prepared for family viewing and eventual cremation.
The film plays upon the contrasts between this vibrant young woman and the nature of her job among corpses and crying, grieving people. Though she’s respectful of the grave nature of her duties, at times for her it’s just another boring job. She also does the things any girl of her age does: hang out in the mall, play video games, argue with her parents on the phone. There’s also a low-key romance with a co-worker that occasions some of the more touching scenes of this film. Ironically for a film that contains so many images of death, Almost Heaven is ultimately very hopeful and uplifting, as much for the viewer as for its subject.
(Oct. 22, 12pm)
PRE-CRIME (Matthias Heeder and Monika Hielscher)
This unsettling exploration of technological tools being used by law enforcement brings the scenario of the film Minority Report – in which police try to prevent criminal acts in advance by predicting who is most likely to commit them – into our present day reality. Through interviews with those on all sides of this issue – legal scholars, social workers, activists, journalists, those victimized by technologically enhanced surveillance and racial profiling – Precrime chillingly explores what happens when human elements, indeed humanity, becomes replaced by tech tools lacking transparency and accountability.
(Oct. 21, 8pm)
CHOMO (Maayan Arad)
This short film follows a Tibetan Buddhist nun (whose nickname lends the film its title) studying for a prestigious degree that up until then was only reserved for monks. We’re immersed in the intense study and meditation, which in the case of the goal that Chomo and the other women are striving toward, takes up to 17 years to complete. This is a rich portrait of women breaking barriers in a quiet way that is no less powerful for that.
(Oct. 21, 4:30)