It kicks off May 7. I was able to get a sneak peak of three films playing the festival. (Check out the festival's complete schedule here.)
Brett Ingram’s documentary profile of visionary artist, raconteur, clothing designer, scientific illustrator, packrat, bath enthusiast, conservationist, and fantasist Renaldo Kuhler is sure to be a fan favorite. Through elaborate illustrations and notes, Renaldo has created an alternate land called Rocaterrania. At first, it’s almost impossible to perceive how detailed this world is. But as the film goes on, we discover that Rocaterrania has its own language and customs, various leaders and coups, wars, prisons, museums, houses of worship, even a small film industry. The history of Rocaterrania loosely parallels the events in Kuhler’s own lonely life (he was raised on a ranch by a status-seeking mother and a brilliant but disapproving father). But Kuhler—a kindly, funny, and often courtly companion—makes it clear that he is not wasting his beautiful mind. “Each person is a nation into himself and what he does with that nation is up to him,” he says. And we are convinced.
The Slovakian director Juraj Lehotsky has created an achingly humane and visually arresting film about four blind people and their lives and loves. Peter is a music teacher who lives a life of middle class normalcy with his wife, who is also blind. While the puckish Peter clowns around on his keyboard, guesses ski jump distances by listening to the hang time on TV or —in one phantasmagoric sequence—fantasizes about a world under the sea, his wife patiently and lovingly knits him a sweater. Miro is a swarthy gypsy madly in love with the sheltered half-blind Moni, who’s afraid to leave her family. Elena is pregnant and worried that her child might be sighted—wouldn’t she better equipped to raise a child who was more like her? Zuzi is a dreamy school girl who chats in a message room with a boy who doesn’t know that she is blind. There is an intimate and otherworldly beauty to Lehostky’s characters: Peter teaches a boy on the piano; as the sun sets they work in the dark. Miro’s blindness makes him a more tender lover. Elena and her blind husband decorate a Christmas tree and touch the bulbs to see if they are illuminated. Zuzi has a friend paint her fingernails. Blind Loves, which has a short running time of just 77 minutes, has an accumulated power. It’s impossible to look away.
A slight but affecting black and white film from promising British director Shane Meadows. The scrappy and resourceful 15-year-old Tomo has escaped his small town to try his lot in the big city (he shruggingly says he has nothing to go home to and we believe him). Sensitive Marek has just moved from Poland with his father. The boys meet, immediately fight—as boys will do—become best friends, and eventually vie for the affections of a Parisian waitress, who, while much older, is equally amused by them both. (She’s rather lonely herself and enjoys their attention). Somers Town may have a gritty realism—Marek’s mostly well-intentioned father drinks too much and can be neglectful; at one point Tomo gets beaten up by a group of hoods—but nothing of serious consequence occurs. A neighborhood hustler takes Tomo in and tells him he has to do everything he says. “Like sex stuff?” the boys asks, unimpressed (we were wondering the same thing.) The older man looks appalled. No, not like sex stuff. Like cleaning the house stuff. The film ends with an unlikely burst of technicolor happiness that rivals Slumdog Millionaire’s.