Captured motion

By Intrepid Girl Reporters

With the Calgary International Film Festival soon upon us, some of the Gauntlet’s intrepid girl reporters went searching for some of the festival’s best films. Here are some of their thoughts.

Max Minsky and Me

Nelly Sue Edelmeister’s name is practically bigger than she is. The skinny, awkward 13-year-old girl, blessed with brains, but somewhat lacking in social skills and athletic ability, is the heart-warming protagonist of Max Minsky and Me. She is intent on being an astronomer and nothing deters her focus, except a rather hopeless crush on Luxembourg’s resident royal heartthrob, Prince Edouard.

When Nelly (Zoe Moore) finds out her school’s basketball team is headed to the tiny country for a tournament hosted by His Highness, she suddenly decides to limber up, with the help of Maximilian Minsky (Emil Reinke), a new student with a sloppy school record and an attitude to boot. Nelly winds up juggling Max’s homework as part of the bargain, as well as Hebrew, an overbearing mother and a well-meaning but interfering extended family, all to dazzle her Prince Charming.

The film’s imaginative cinematography stands out, with freeze frames, sped-up background shots and borderline cliche techniques, like spotlights and slo-mo, that fit with the genuine innocence of the story. Combine that blatant CG shots of Nelly in her element sitting on planets and among shooting stars, the visuals of the film are simple and fun, enhanced by the naturally beautiful scenic views of Berlin and clever colour palates. Despite being yet another literary adaptation, the movie is a cinematic accomplishment and well deserving of its many international accolades.

Max Minsky and Me is an endearing coming of age movie that combines realism and fantasy to create a wonderfully told story. Brilliantly contrasting the quirky world of young teenagers against more significant themes and adding in a perfect mixture of wit, truth and heartbreak, Max Minsky and Me never takes itself too seriously and finds its place as an off-centre yet conventional tale of belonging and growing up.

..Silvia de Somma

Full Battle Rattle

The experience of war is one that is impossible to replicate– not that this stops the military from trying. Investing an exorbitant amount of money apparently gets you a fairly accurate set of 13 Iraqi towns to cut your democracy-spreading teeth on, though the practice will probably never compare to the real thing.

Full Battle Rattle examines a virtual Iraq in the heart of the Mojave Desert. The military hires actors to portray Iraqis, troops spend weeks there preparing before being deployed to the real place and strategists plan scenarios and events to test their army’s aptitude.

The documentary follows a set of soldiers as they go through eight different scenarios they are likely to face after going to war. Most of the focus is on their experiences and the film doesn’t explore the strategists and their role in depth. While the emphasis on the soldiers is interesting at first, it soon becomes boring and the film’s development stagnates. There is some exploration of the actors– some of which are real ex-patriot Iraqis– and their stories, including their struggles to leave Iraq and remain in the U.S., which adds intrigue to situation, but not much else.

The concept of an elaborately-staged training ground is definitely interesting and directors Tony Gerber and Jesse Moss touch on some of the questions and concerns that are inevitably raised by its existence. Ultimately, Full Battle Rattle fails to examine the bigger picture surrounding its subject, making for a quickly tiresome affair.

..Amanda Hu

Wonderful Town

Wonderful Town is a version of the classic love story– the kind where the two lead characters have to hide their love for each other from everyone around them and one that almost always ends tragically. In many ways, this film feels like a poem: it is descriptive and beautiful, but also dark and ominous.

Aditya Assarat’s fourth directorial endeavor takes place in a small Thai town, three years after it was devastated by the tsunami that hit on Boxing Day in 2004. It is one of those rare films that accomplishes what it has set out to do.

The sincere, underplayed acting is surrounded by cinematography that is elegantly beautiful, creating something that is both visually attractive and moving. The actors are strong enough to give their characters depth with minimal dialogue.

The film is slow moving, feels quaint and humble and is littered with eerie undertones. The score is the only thing that takes away from the film. It is a tad over the top at times, trying to suggest and promote ideas of looming danger lying straight ahead. In spite of this, the film is a well-done portrayal of a time-honoured plot on top of modern-day events.

..Michelle Carlson

Dear Zachary

A sad story can be heartwrenching in its own right. In Dear Zachary, the true tragedy of this film is that the events actually happened.

Dear Zachary focuses on the court case surrounding the death of Andrew Bagby. The film takes on the form of a video scrapbook being put together for Bagby’s son, who is born after his father’s death. Filmmaker Kurt Kuenne uses home video clips and family photos, as well as personal interviews collected from family and friends to construct Bagby as a person. The court case of Bagby’s death is interwoven throughout the film, supported by clips of the trial and court documents. The film takes on a personal note for the filmmaker, Kurt Kuenne, who met the film’s subject, Bagby’s, growing up in California and was a lifelong friend. Kuenne provides narration and insight into his relationship with Bagby, as well as his motivations as a filmmaker for this project.

The start of this documentary jumps around and mirrors the confusion surrounding the death of the subject. Viewers may feel disconnected at the start due to the film’s jumping from interview to interview, which the narrator later rectifies by explaining the story from start to finish. The film serves two purposes: honouring a victim of crime and highlighting the flaws of the Canadian justice system. These two topics are complimentary and there’s no sense that either has precedence over the other. The film manages to appeal to the viewer’s sense of emotionality and rationality as a result.

The message of Dear Zachary is not lost on the commemoration of a life. Rather it uses the connection with its viewers to promote the issue of bail reform, an issue that is not necessarily at the forefront of the consciousness of the viewer.

..Elyse Merriman

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