The White Sands International Film Festival began on Wednesday, September 4, 2013. The festivities have ended (see the list of winners HERE), but my coverage and reviews continue for a little while longer. With a full schedule that was “packed with some of the most engaging, amazing and intriguing features, short films and documentaries anywhere,” I am continuing my coverage of reviewing the films presented and spotlighting some of the work that you may have missed.
As a reminder: All films for the White Sands International Film Festival here are rated on a simple 5-star rating.
Each star is given based on the following:
- Original story/Presentation
- Acting/Authentic Characters
- Cinematography/Audio/Special Effects
- Look & Feel/Storytelling
Disclaimer– reviews are solely and independently my own opinion and do not reflect the opinions of the WSIFF board, judges, participants and viewers (or anyone else for that matter).
WSIFF Reviews: Round 7
>>>>> For previously posted reviews for official selections of the WSIFF, please visit HERE.
Category: Feature. (IMDB page)
A woman who battles agrophobia retreats into the refuge of her apartment and refuses to have any interaction with the outside world for over a year, until she needs to call a plumber. The woman, unnamed, once used to be an actress on stage and this story focuses on her journey when her “protective shell” is inconveniently invaded.
Starting out rather slowly focusing on the protagonist and her mundane routines of brushing her teeth, sitting on the toilet, ordering takeout and expressionlessly watching old movies, Sparrow’s Dance takes some time to move forward but turns around and those who stick it out find reward through its entertaining and endearing following acts. The malfuction of the toilet introduces a plumber into her world with a unique sense and appreciation for the little things and quirks. It is the interactions with this patient and persistent plumber that make the awkward and anxious characters (each of them in their own little way) rather endearing, personal and understandable.
Exposing themselves to each other (her more than he), their emotions and wishes are put on stage and their budding relationship…cute and trying, is full of patience, love, understanding and beauty. Making the effort to invest time in someone you love is an important message not lost on the audience of this romantic drama. The two lead actors share an impressive chemistry and their genuine performances make this film worth the effort of watching through the first act that is a bit excessive in establishing the character.
Sparrow’s Dance won Runner-Up in the category of Best Director at the 2013 WSIFF.
From Zimbabwe to Santa Fe
Category: Documentary. (IMDB page)
From its striking and informative opening, this documentary grabbed my attention with its appalling statistics of the country of Zimbabwe. A presentation of the efforts put forth by communities in Zimbabwe to make and sell baskets at the annual Santa Fe International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, NM. The making and selling of the baskets is so important to the communities there as basket weaving funds the majority of the differing groups’ lives and welfare. The stories of their beautiful is interwoven throughout this documentary that carries with it a universal understanding of perseverance, poverty, providence and persistance. It is not just a story of baskets going from Zimbabwe to Santa Fe but it is also a story of hope, truth and happiness.
Mixed with a few appreciated jokes that range in subject from the difficulty of the English language to dropped cell phone calls to the “organization” of the US government, this documentary has much more for all audiences to relate to than may be expected. Sometimes, audiences in more priviledged situations tend to forget that humanity across the globe all share universal cares, needs, concerns and desires. From Zimbabwe to Santa Fe ensures that this truth is not forgotten by its audience.
Following the different candidates on their journey to sell their baskets in America (as the currency in Zimbabwe has been abandoned by the government), we see the steps they have to make from deciding who will represent their communities to deciphering the details of the application process to making deadlines and delivering the merchandise and more. The director enables the audience to join and sojourn along with these women in the arduous task of creating beautiful baskets and providing for their community. Beautiful baskets made by those with beautiful souls and motives, From Zimbabwe to Santa Fe is a documentary for all peoples from all walks of life to watch and enjoy.
From Zimbabwe to Santa Fe won 1st Place in the category of Best Documentary at the 2013 WSIFF.
Category: Feature. (IMDB page)
“Welcome the Sanitarium.” -a greeting given by a doctor in a white coat (played by Malcolm McDowell) at the end of a tone-setting introduction that precedes an anthology of three stories of committed patients troubled with mental illness. This collection of stories loosely connects three tales that are engrossing in and of themselves and full of thrills, emotions and amazing performances from the likes of John Glover (Smallville), David Mazouz (Touch) and Lou Diamond Phillips (Winner of the 2013 White Sands International Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award).
Sanitarium entertains by providing admittance into the minds and stories of its patients. Each with a tale told much like those told from the archives of shows such as Night Gallery, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Sanitarium makes the viewer question the clarity of the line between reality and insanity, genius and obsessiveness and restrains the attention of its audience much like a straight jacket does its occupant. It’s beautiful cinematography, sound, camera work and more are matched by the captivating performances of its cast.
Unfortunately, it plays out less like a movie and more like an actual stringing together of television episodes. Not to take away from each individual performance and story, but the stories, pieced together by a doctor who does little more than introduce the stories in a Rod Serling fashion, have little relation to one another and hinder the film’s cohesiveness. The three different directors, working to bring back this style to television and comic books (as was stated in the Q&A following the presentation) will undoubtedly find much success and followers through the medium of a television show. As a movie, however, the film is lacking.
Sanitarium plays with and preys on the mind and its journey into insanity, escapism and questioning reality is an entertaining one the leaves audiences still unsure of the events that transpired. Psychologically thrilling and even reminiscent of recent television shows such as American Horro Story, this film is best seen with the mindset of a mini-anthology full of mind warps, intriguing (and lasting) ideas and impressive acting. (Major kudos to Lou Diamond Phillips in his role.)
Look for Sanitarium to be available soon.
The White Sands International Film Festival offered some fantastic viewing experiences this year. Stay tuned for FOUR more final posts about the festival which ran from September 4th-8th.
- Spotlight of Passionflower
- Spotlight/Review of Subterranean Love
- Spotlight/Interview for Against the Grain
- Recap, Photos and Final Thoughts/Thanks of WSIFF.
***Want to read MORE reviews?
Remember: For my full coverage and listing of all films reviewed, movie spotlights, photos, interviews and more, be sure to click (and visit often) the tab at the top of the screen entitled “2013 White Sands International Film Festival Coverage” for quick links to every post about WSIFF. OR, you can visit WSIFF.COM and click the link referring you to the “Official Blogger for 2013 WSIFF.”***
Thanks for reading! Happy watching.
–Terrence Faulkner, a.k.a. “TheFocusedFilmographer”