AFI Fest

AFI Fest 2014: ‘Haemoo’ is a harrowing film with blockbuster conventions

Contemporary Korean films have made a reputation of being the most grim experiences out there, replete with unabashed violence, incest, social inequality, and crime – Haemoo has three of those things! Adapted from a play by Kim Min-jung, it’s about a real life incident that occurred when a Korean fishing crew got mixed up in a botched human trafficking operation. Screenwriter-turned-director Shim Sung-bo’s adaptation is a harrowing film riddled with nail-biting suspense and easily accessible blockbuster conventions.

AFI Fest 2014: ‘Thou Wast Mild and Lovely’ is a sexually charged nightmare

If Terrence Malick had a twisted little sister, it would be Josephine Decker; the resemblance is clearly discernible in her sophomore feature, Thou Wast Mild & Lovely, utilizing Malick’s uninhibited and experimental handheld style but with her own dash of psychosexual drama. Decker’s story is framed against the backdrop of a quiet country farm, and shells out the kind of chills that not even Malick could muster.

AFI Fest 2014: ‘The Absent’ finds a steady rhythm

The Absent is almost a parody of what people who don’t really watch “art films” think they’re like. It is nigh-on plotless, lacking in incident, almost wordless, highly ambiguous, and incredibly slow. It can’t consist of more than a few dozen shots, each of which are either completely still or slow pans. Those shots either contain one, none, or (very rarely) two people. There is precisely one shot with a crowd. There are two scenes that contain any dialogue. It is a tremendously boring experience. It is a little more than 70 minutes long, but feels like it’s three hours.

AFI Fest 2014: ‘Felt’ shows the jarring effects of rape culture

It’s a rare discovery when a film can materialize the internal terror that women experience on a daily basis so disturbingly close to reality. Blurring the lines of documentary and narrative storytelling, Felt truly is a film that demands to be felt. It accomplishes its goal by penetrating the deepest, most harrowing aspects of trauma to tell one of the most powerful and jarring stories about the female experience and rape culture ever put on screen.

AFI Fest 2014: ‘Happy Valley’ is a riveting examination of hero worship and institutional scapegoating

Happy Valley is the very definition of a documentary whose parts are greater than their sum. At every turn, the viewer can sense a much greater film that could have been, tantalizing possibility lurking in the margins. The Penn State sex abuse scandal and its aftermath suggest so many things (not many of them terribly flattering) about American culture, specifically its football and college culture. But a lot of these themes are more gleaned by the viewer from what they see in the film than they are actively explored by the film proper.

AFI Fest 2014: ‘Song of the Sea’ has frustrating beauty

Song of the Sea is a beautiful film. Its vivid art style easily separates it from the prosaic sameness that currently grips much of mainstream animation. That’s the big advantage that animated films made by smaller outfits, such as Cartoon Saloon, have over the Disneys and Dreamworks of the world. But there’s a weakness to them as well, one that Song of the Sea stumbles on: a frustratingly muddled story approach.

AFI Fest 2014: ‘The Iron Ministry’ is a sensory tour of a society in microcosm

The first few minutes of The Iron Ministry are a black screen overlaid with the sound of train machinery. The darkness goes on long enough that some patrons were muttering over whether or not the picture was being projected correctly. Gradually, however, images come into view, though hazy and out of focus; hard to identify. The gears and bellows of the train pulsate and throb. They don’t look mechanical. It looks like the workings of grey, diseased organs. The first sign of human activity is a closeup of cigarette butts sloshing in a water-filled nook. And then people themselves finally enter the picture, mites living in the larger host body of the train.

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