AFIFest 2018 Presented by Audi continues to remind me of why I like to go to festivals. It’s not just seeing lots of movies, but it is about how movies can truly push us to consider what happens in the world from various perspectives.
Vox Lux, from director Brady Corbet, is a look at celebrity. In the first half of the movie, we see Cassidy (Raffey Cassidy), a fourteen year-old survivor of a school shooting who rockets to fame after she writes a song that becomes a cultural touchstone for grief. Soon, she is making records and globetrotting in the care of her manager (Jude Law) and older sister (Stacy Martin). During that time, her Christian roots slowly erode. In the second half, Celeste (now grown and portrayed by Natalie Portman) is about to start a comeback tour. She exhibits every bad stereotype of a self-obsessed celebrity. Her life becomes even more complicated when a group of terrorists use masks from one of her music videos in a mass-shooting in Europe. We see a day of spiraling out of control. The first half is more interesting part. The film is set to open in December.
The winner of this year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes was Shoplifters by Hirokazu Kore-eda. This is the story of a group of a family of grifters. When they come upon a neglected and possibly abused little girl, they take her in, but in time their secrets all come out. Kore-eda has made a number of films that explore family life and trying to understand the nature of family (cf., Our Little Sister; Like Father, Like Son, Nobody Knows, I Wish). The concept here is if it might not be a good thing to be able to choose our families. Kore-eda is one of my favorite filmmakers. This film is set to open later this month.
Is it imperative to save life? Styx, directed by Wolfgang Fischer, asks us about our moral responsibility. When Rika (Susanne Wolff), an emergency doctor, sets off on a solo sailing vacation, she runs into a storm. The next morning, she sees not far off a derelict trawler loaded with people being smuggled from Africa. The boat is floundering and the people need help, but her 20’ boat won’t handle them. She calls for help. There are promises made of rescue, but nothing happens. She is warned to stay away. One boy manages to swim to her boat, but the effort nearly kills him. What is her responsibility? Why will no one else be responsible? The film is a metaphor for the refugee crisis in many places around the world. Who can take them in? Why won’t some countries? How does this relate to the “immigrant caravan” moving through Mexico? This was a powerful film—perhaps the most powerful I’ve seen at the festival so far.