Although I’ve seen my share of comedies at AFIFEST Presented by Audi, it seems that film festivals often show darker films than many people are used to. That is in part because they are made not so much to sell tickets to a large audience as to bring a story to life that the filmmaker wants to tell. My choices for Monday all had a bit of darkness to them, even when they were showing hope.
Angels are Made of Light is a documentary by James Longley about a school in Kabul, Afghanistan. After years (actually decades) of conflict, the educational system in this old part of town is in ruins—literally. Even as a new school is being built, the walls in the old school are falling down. We meet some of the students (mostly boys, although there is a section that focuses on girls) that are trying to get an education, but the realities of their lives make it hard. Many need to work to help their families. The film weaves in some of the history of Afghanistan and its many wars.
Romanian director Ioana Uricaru gives us Lemonade, a story set in the U.S. about a woman trying to get her green card. She has married a man (For love? We don’t know.) and brought her young son over. But a corrupt immigration official and various other challenges begin to ruin the life she has made here and hopes to establish. It offers a look at the desperation that many face as they try to find a life in America.
Playing with Lemonade was a short, Desert Rats, by Shaz Bennett, a story of a girl whose father was abandoned as a child in the Utah desert by a polygamous father. She returns to the desert to remember him.
From Quebec comes Genesis from director Philippe Lesage. It is the story of two siblings as they struggle with love, belonging, and alienation. Guillaume (Thoédore Pellerin) is something of the class clown in school, but he is often the odd man out in social situations. His older sister, Charlotte (Noée Abita) leaves a safe, but unexciting relationship, but in her new relationships she is vulnerable both emotionally and physically. Both are seeking to understand how to deal with their yearnings and find someone to love. The last half hour of the film switches to a summer camp with a young boy and girl in their first experience of young love. That add-on is meant to remind us of the simplicity and awkwardness of youthful yearnings, but really distracts from the more powerful stories of Guillaume and Charlotte.