Don Bauder 7:49 p.m., May 22
(Day 3 of the San Diego Black Film Festival is tomorrow, Saturday, January 28, of course, but we're posting this today because we know you check The Big Screen only when you're at work, and damned if you come in to work on a Saturday, and we wouldn't want you to miss out. The Big 8, of course, are those films which the organizers "believe will be the 8 biggest films of the festival in terms of strength and subject matter. Essentially, if a film makes this list, you can rest assured of its powerful subject matter, film quality, and blockbuster feel.")
Ever read Videogum's "Hunt for the Worst Movie of All Time" feature? It's wonderful stuff, full of thoughtful bile and a deep hatred for crappy art. It's funny, too. Anyway, when Videogum took on Margot at the Wedding, it started with the following (longish, but worth it) screed:
"Oh, white people. Will we ever tire of complaining about the aches and pains of our petty bourgeois existence? Boo hoo hoo, the line at the iPhone store was too long. Boo hoo hoo, the barista got the ratio of espresso to ice in my iced Americano wrong. Boo hoo hoo, the cuff-links I ordered on-line weren’t shipped overnight, and then they went to my apartment when I meant to have them delivered to the office, and I don’t have a doorman at my apartment, so I had to call UPS and give them an alternate address and they said they couldn’t redeliver until tomorrow morning. This is worse than apartheid!
Makes me sick to my stomach (which is full of foie gras and root beer floats and money).
Obviously, pain is subjective, and the pain suffered by the chronically self-indulgent is real. They actually feel this way! But pain is also relative, and the pain that they feel when their mimosa doesn’t have enough champagne in it is fundamentally less than the pain of someone having, say, their house torn down in the middle of the night. Does this mean that their stories don’t deserve to be told? It absolutely doesn’t mean that. It has been told, and The Royal Tenenbaums was a great movie. The end. But if you are going to tell their story (tell it again, because we already have The Royal Tenenbaums, so it’s kind of well-worn territory) then at least acknowledge that all suffering is not equal, and also maybe don’t make your audience suffer in the watching."
That screed stuck with me, and it came to mind again when I saw this trailer for Salay, one of tonight's Big 8 features. (Showtime at 6 p.m.; tickets for all shows available here.) A poor girl in Sierra Leone tries to navigate her way to life on her own terms, because life where she is now is terrible, and promises to become more terrible still (Aunty!) School is the way out, but school costs money. And hey looky, along comes rich uncle, who offers to pay! Except, of course, rich uncle is wearing pimp shoes...
The trailer left me full of dread. It also left me grateful that this sort of film is getting made.
A little bit earlier in the evening, at 5:30 p.m., the Festival is showing The Therapist. "Three relationships. One therapist. Can she help them? When you're the one who has all the answers, who has yours?"
Just 30 minutes before that, at 5 p.m., you get Lesson Before Love, which actually seems to involve suffering rather more like that in Margot at the Wedding. You know: relationships, personal fulfillment, that sort of thing.
And two hours before that, at 3 p.m.? That's when things get exciting. In The Custom Mary, "two preachers and a scientist obtain a relic of Christ's blood in efforts to make a clone for the second coming of Jesus Christ." Step aside, Kevin Smith's Dogma, there's a new theological circus in town.