No Tomorrow, Heiran, The Sonosopher, The Greatest, and Starring Maja

No Tomorrow is kind of a documentary about the death penalty, but the directors only came to this material since their previous documentary, Aging Out (also shown at Cinequest) was an important part of the trial. One of the primary subjects of that earlier film, who had done well despite being a product of the foster care system, was murdered in an alley. The prosecutor for the case saw the earlier film as a way to show the victim as a whole person, and to show the potential that was lost when she was killed.

I found the film was a little more about the filmmakers than it really needed to be, and perhaps less about the pros and cons of the death penalty than I expected. With the caveat that I was sleepy and missed some parts, I’ll give the film  out of . Note that some friends I talked to afterwards liked it much better.

An earlier showing at Cinequest was the world premiere. The filmmakers had intended to be at the screening, but were snowed in in New York. A short message from them was read before the film.

Heiran is an Iranian film about an Iranian girl who sees a boy (named Heiran) on the bus home from school (not a school bus–he’s not a student). There’s a spark, and they find other ways to meet. The problem, at least from her parents’ point of view, is that he’s Afghan.

I liked the Iranian scenery that I would never have expected to be in Iran. I thought the lead actress was good, albeit rather melodramatic (which seems to be standard practice for Iranian films). And the grandfather was great. The sound was muffled, but that was only a minor problem since I don’t speak Persian. Overall I’ll give it a low  out of . Note that a film teacher who I’ve taken some classes from was at the screening, and liked it significantly less than I did.

The Sonosopher is a low budget documentary about Alex Caldiero, who is some combination of poet, vocal artist, philosopher, and performance artist. He seems to emphasize his points by opening his eyes wider.

He’s pretty out there, which makes it surprising that he’s a Mormon. Apparently he was attracted to some historical mystical aspects of the religion that are not a mainstream part of the religion these days.

I found it hard to get into the film except in a few short segments. His philosophical ramblings reminded me a bit of the film Waking Life, in that the thoughts expressed are far more interesting to the speaker than to the audience (to me, anyway). And the generally low image quality and rapid editing were distracting to me. I’ll give it a high  out of . This was the world premiere.

The two filmmakers were at the screening to answer questions:

  • Alex was their teacher in Utah
  • They spent two years following him everywhere, recording all of his performances and going with him to Sicily and New York
  • The fast cut sections were not his idea, but he confirmed that they are a good visual representation of his mind
  • There is a very wide variety of reactions to his work
  • They took over 100 hours of footage, plus archival materials–then they just dove in to find a focus for the film
  • The non-word text on the screen was really his text, and he is able to reproduce performances quite closely
  • Even Alex would say he doesn’t completely understand what he’s doing

The film was preceded by the short Grande Dame, starring a transvestite quoting Shakespeare. I definitely enjoyed it. out of .

The Greatest is an as yet unreleased film with Susan Sarandon, Pierce Brosnan, and Carey Mulligan. It opens with Mulligan and a boy all over each other, taking off their clothes, dot dot dot. What happens not long after that is early enough that it shouldn’t be considered a spoiler, but I would rather not say more. I will say that I was reminded of Moonlight Mile.

The performances all seem very good, with Brosnan slightly out of his depth, Sarandon being as good as you would expect, and Mulligan showing that An Education was not a fluke. The writing is generally good, though there were a few moments that rang false. The production values are top notch. I’ll give it out of .

Starring Maja is a Norwegian film that is kind of hard to watch. The title character is a teenage student who is overweight but really wants to be an actress. At a wedding she attends, she talks to the videographer (Erika) about being an actress. Through a thought process that I still don’t completely understand, Erika decides to start filming Maja round the clock. Maja makes a fool of herself, and often doesn’t realize she’s anything but a star. Like I said before, it was mostly hard to watch.

That said, there were some moments that felt real and even on the edge of touching, raising it up to a solid out of . An earlier showing an Cinequest was the North American premiere.

All seen on 2/28/2010 at Cinequest.

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