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2009 Fargo Film Festival Reviews

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The last two showings on Thursday, March 5th, of the Fargo Film Festival were Native American Voices entries.
This segment was hosted by Prairie Rose, the Director of the Native American Voices competition. Prairie pointed out that while the Fargo Film Festival is 9 years old, the Native American Voices competition has been around for the last eight of them. She then opened the proceedings by singing a Native American blessing after pointing out that story telling in Native American culture is considered a sacred undertaking

The first offering, which received an Honorable Mention in Native American was a short called "Good Looking," a short about a young, well I'm going to say Native Canadian, since it was a Canadian production, and when I lived in Canada(almost thirty years ago) that was the proper term. Now there's something about First Nations. but I'm unsure of the details so I'll stick with what I'm used to.

In any event, the young girl is a struggling actress, unable to find a part. Finally she lands a role in a zombie film which has sexual overtones(the film) in which she is to bare part of her anatomy in a semi=rape scene. She and her boyfriend, who also struggles as a hot dog vendor wrestle with what the right and wrongs of the situation and eventually resolve both their predicaments. Kind of a sweet little 17 minutes. The movie is entitled "Good Lucking."

The last presentation, the Native American Voices Best Picture winner was a blockbuster. In these reviews I have departed from my usual form of writing about the movie without divulging very much of the plot, since many people, me included, don't like to be told what they're going to see. In the case of the Fargo Film Festival, though, I am assuming that whoever might read the reviews will probably not have a chance to see the movie under discussion, so in order to properly describe the Festival, I'm free to describe the offerings in detail.

In the case of the Native American Voices winner, "Moccasin Flats: Redemption," however, I'm going to revert to my usual style, since I hope many people have a chance to view this feature length film(another Canadian production), which is one of the best movies I've seen in quite some time.

The movie is about a Native Canadian named Red who returns to his old neighborhood, presumably in Saskatoon, after a five year stretch in prison. The neighborhood is called Moccasin Flats, which has a reputation of being the worst neighborhood in Canada. Red checks into a half-way house and meets his old gang members and old girl friend. Life resumes for Red, who supposedly has changed from his former drug addicted self. But he still has to deal with his culture and horrific nightmares. Now I think we all now that recovering from drug addiction is not a simple matter, and I even found myself rooting for Red not to use any drugs, even though I know that just putting down the bag is not enough. But enough of the finer details.

The movie is about Red's life in Moccasin Flats, a murder of the leader of his gang that needs to be solved or else
a gang war will likely result, Native Canadian spirituality, and about the struggles of some relatively straight people to make Moccasin Flats a livable place.

The actors, except for the police and a do-gooder or two, are all Native Canadian, and I'm not sure that they were acting much of the time. The overlying story is what happens to Red, but as I've indicated, there are a few well written and interesting sub plots.

If you like movies about people, life, particularly the not so pleasant side of it, or just like well acted and scripted movies then I think you'd like this. There is very little violence, just enough to make the story(ies) make sense.

I seldom outright recommend or not recommend movies since we all have different tastes, but in the spirit of "At the Movies," I'm going to say "See It," if you can.

Saturday night was the final night, during which the category winners are usually shown. I will report on the Best Documentary Feature and the Best Narrative Feature.

The Best Documentary Feature award went to "Abel raises Cain," a feature length documentary about a professional hoaxter, Alan Abel, who was present at the showing. The story is told by his daughter Jenny. Alan makes his living, such as it is, by manufacturing hoaxes to perpetrate on the media and thus the public. One of them, which is a recurring theme, is about an organization against breast feeding. Of course there is no such organization. but Alan manufactures all sorts of reasons why breast feeding is unhealthy and sexually arousing and therefore should be banned. He appears on several talk shows to promote his "organization" and make his bogus points about the ills of breast feeding.

Another of his favorites is a campaign to clothe animals, since children should not see their private parts. He also poses as the teacher in a school for beggars. He also arranges a marriage of Idi Amin to an American so that Amin can become an American Citizen. This is done in front of media cameras under the watchful eye of the CIA, FBI and State Department. All involved are actors, of course, and at this point one might get a glimpse of what makes Alan tick. Of course the government can't expose this hoax without exposing their support of the mass murder Amin, thoch would no doubt cause a national and international uproar.

These hoaxes are filmed as they occurred and there are many, many more of them. I wondered how one makes a living like this, and he doesn't make much of one, but he appears on many talk shows, which, according to Abel, were desperate for guests in the 70's and 80's. He also, it came out during the all too short Q & A that followed had a producer that funded many of the hoaxes. I think the packed house enjoyed this film to an individual.

The Best Narrative Feature was "River," another Canadian offering. This was a slice of live drama about a young lady in a small city in Saskatchewan that cleans office buildings for a living. She meets a young man, who apparently is a writer(it isn't clear how he supports himself, but then in Canada, you don't have to). The movie simply shows them going about their daily affairs, which in the girl(Roz)'s case usually involves drugs. They wind up living together, but no intimacy is ever shown. They go for bikerides, have coffee, go on picnics. I'm not sure why this is supposed to be interesting. Finally, at the end of the movie, it's clear their relationship is not a romantic and that Stan, the young man, has some sort of sexual identity crisis that involves some sort of psychological voyeurism. But nothing is resolved(mabe that's the point) and they go their separate ways.

I found this about as interesting as an hour and a half episode of One Tree Hill. And to think, I could have spent this time out in the lobby listening to Alan Abel. In my opinion, Moccasin Flats: Redemption would have been a far better choice for Best Narrative Feature, but then, I don't get a vote.

Now that the Festival is history, I'd like t write my usual overview. I think this years Fargo Film Festival was much stronger than any of the previous ones. With the exception of the last movie presented, I though every offering was at least worthwhile, and many of the offerings worthy of viewing on their own.

The daytime showings were stronger than in previous years(I remember one year watching what turned out to be a long film commercial for a drug and alcohol treatment center: we've moved way beyond that). In general, I felt the quality of film at every level much stronger than in the past. Congratulations to Margie Bailey and Prairie Rose and the rest of the directors of Fargo Film Festival 9.

The Downtown Duster