For a medium sized city, Tucson sure has a lot of film festivals. We live in a film-loving community, I’m proud to say, and each festival has a special flavor. Now, I don’t want to seem like I’m playing favorites, but I do have to admit that there’s one local festival that seems designed just for a film snob like me—an 8-day event featuring top releases from around the world, along with awards, special guests, and retrospectives. From Tucson’s premiere art theater The Loft Cinema, it’s The Loft Film Fest—happening this year, 2018, in its 9th annual edition, from November 8th through the 15th.
I can only name a few highlights from this rich and exciting schedule. Shoplifters is the latest picture from Hirokazu Kore-eda, a Japanese director whose stories, often about families and children facing unusual challenges, I find consistently interesting. This one is about a very poor family that has taken to shoplifting to survive. When they find an abandoned little girl, a victim of abuse, they take her into their home. Shoplifters was the winner at the Cannes Film Festival this year.
Another family is at the center of Birds of Passage, directed by Christian Gallego and Ciro Guerra. A Colombian family, members of the native Wayuu tribe, become embroiled against their will in the violence of their country’s drug cartels. Guerra’s previous film, Embrace of the Serpent, about a native shaman of the Amazon, was one of my favorites of 2016, so I’m really looking forward to this one.
3 Faces is the latest from Jafar Panahi, who has somehow managed to continue making small but important cinematic statements even after being banned for 10 years from filmmaking by the Iranian government. 3 Faces is another hybrid of fact and fiction in which the director searches for the truth about a woman who supposedly died of suicide after being forbidden by her family to act in a film.
I did get to preview a couple of films on the schedule. The Great Buster is a fascinating portrait of silent film comedian Buster Keaton. Directed by Peter Bogdanovich, The Great Buster describes the entire arc of Keaton’s life, from his childhood days in vaudeville through his success in pictures, and then his sad decline once sound films came in. Then the film goes back to highlight in detail the ten full-length films from the 1920s on which his reputation as one of the greatest comic directors and performers in film history is based.
I also watched Transit, the new film by Christian Petzold, one of the most important filmmakers in Germany today. Right off the bat, the audience is plunged into either an alternative present or near future in which fascism is taking over Europe and performing ethnic cleansings. A young member of a resistance group (played by Franz Rogowski) escapes from Paris to Marseille where he hopes to take passage to Mexico, and in the meantime is embroiled in some very mysterious events and relationships. An unusual aspect is that even though the clothes and cars are modern, the plot details are often more 1940s, and it turns out that Petzold adapted this from a World War II novel by Anna Seghers, merging that time period with the present to evoke the current threat from the extreme right. It’s tense and well-acted, with a gut-punch of an ending.
There are dozens of other features and shorts playing, a screening of the great independent classic Killer of Sheep with director Charles Burnett appearing in person, and much more. For the full schedule go to loftfilmfest.org. See you there!