The Nobel Prize Winner, Dreaming Nicaragua, The Liverpool Goalie, and Soul Surfer

[I mostly wrote this a year ago but am only now posting it.]

The Nobel Prize Winner is Dutch and in black and white. It’s labeled in the program as a comedy, though I would say it’s closer to being a drama with frequent humorous moments. The main two characters are writers. Joachim is a poor writer who asks, unsuccessfully, for a small advance from his publisher just before he finishes a novel he’s been working on for years. Meanwhile Fabian is a famous novelist with the same publisher and writers’ block, who is expected to finish a new book any day now. There are many other characters, and the connections between them eventually all become clear.

That this is a film about writers seems fitting because to me it all meshed together wonderfully, if not always (or even often) happily. I really liked it, and give it a strong  out of , putting it very close to my favorite film of the festival so far. An earlier showing at the festival was the North American premiere.

Dreaming Nicaragua is a documentary about Nicaragua, and specifically about teaching art to very poor kids, focusing on four in particular. The conditions are amazingly primitive, including one family that makes its living scavenging from a dump—the kids in that family say that the nice part is that the family works together all day long. One other girl dreams of being on TV, and is shown interviewing people, asking surprisingly good probing questions. The film was good for the content, but fairly pedestrian in structure, so I’ll give it a lower  out of .

The executive producer was at the screening to answer questions (there may be spoiler below, if a documentary can have spoilers):

  • The filmmakers met the art teacher along the way, if I heard correctly, meaning that angle was not premeditated.
  • What has caused the poverty? Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere, behind only Haiti. It is similar to Costa Rica, but hasn’t developed the tourism industry.
  • Does the film have distribution? So far the only solid plan is to play at film festivals. The film won an award in France. It is showing in Geneva at a UN meeting. And they have had some offers from European TV.
  • The Fabretto Children’s Foundation has helped to create a pine basket cooperative that has since become self-sufficient.
  • This foundation is specific to Nicaragua. Fabretto brings lunch and additional teaching, since the official school day is only 4 hours long.

An earlier showing at the festival was the U.S. premiere. They do have Facebook and Twitter pages.

It was preceded by Margarita, a dialog-free animated short that at first seemed enchanting, but turned way too treacly at the end, so I cannot recommend it.

The Liverpool Goalie is a Norwegian comedy about a junior high school boy named Jo who is very smart, watched over by an uber-cautious mother (possibly because his father died in a bathtub fall), and is somewhat addicted to collecting football (soccer) trading cards. He is also somewhat obsessed with the new girl in class, Mari, who is as smart as he is but far less afraid of the world. The title refers to the one trading card that everyone is missing to complete their sets.

The film was extremely fun, and the sequences showing Jo imagining might go wrong are hilarious. I’ll give it out of .

Soul Surfer was the closing night film at Cinequest, though there was a day of encore showings of some films the next day. It is a dramatized version of the real life of Bethany Hamilton, who was a rising star of surfing when her left arm was bitten off by a shark when she was 13 years old. In the film she is played by AnnaSophia Robb, and her parents are played by Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid. At times it felt a little like a television movie with a bigger budget, because it’s a little corny and clichéd. But after seeing and listening to Bethany after the film, it may be that the Hamiltons are kind of corny in real life. Since the whole family lives to surf and is very religious means that makes a certain kind of sense.

In the end, the film worked quite well for me, and was still in my thoughts the next day. The surfing footage is incredible, giving me a better appreciation for the sport than I have ever had before. I would give it a lower out of . This might have been the world premiere, but I was never 100% sure of that.

Presenting the Life of a Maverick award to Bethany and the Emerging Maverick award to AnnaSophia was the founder of the Mavericks giant wave surf competition.

After the film there was an interview with Bethany and AnnaSophia, lead by Kathleen Powell, one of the founders of Cinequest (there may be spoilers below):

  • Bethany is very religious in her words, wearing a cross, etc.
  • She hopes to inspire others, keep surfing, etc.
  • She is more scared of not being able to surf than she is of sharks
  • The movie is a bit of a distraction to her training
  • AnnaSophia started acting at 9 years old
  • There was a poster of Bethany at the Denver airport, so AnnaSophia saw it on every trip
  • AnnaSophia is also religious
  • Bethany was actually way happier in the hospital in real life, but that didn’t seem realistic
  • AnnaSophia took a two hour surfing lesson three years ago, then started to train when she got the role
  • Bethany did all the stunt surfing for the second half of the film
  • The family dog in the film is Bethany’s dog
  • They wrote a book and then produced a documentary before this film
  • Bethany had seen AnnaSophia is in a few films before this
  • Filmed quite a bit on Oahu, so the Hamiltons moved there
  • The Hamiltons have been very involved in the film
  • Everyone involved in the film went surfing in their off time
  • Dennis Quaid was even surfing when he could be golfing (apparently that says something)
  • AnnaSophia: The more you know about the ocean, the less scary it is
  • It sounds like Bethany got a lot of help writing her book
  • Bethany is [or was when I wrote this] 21
  • What’s next? She likes to take it one day at a time, surfing, competing, inspiring, etc.
  • She wasn’t aware of Cinequest before

All seen on 3/12/2011 at Cinequest.

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