Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

Last Flight to Abujah

The last few days of the festival are upon us, and if you've slacked on your SIFFage, there's still time to do something about it. Judging by what I've seen in advance, the programmers have saved some of the best for last: Closing weekend (6/7 – 6/9) has at least five sure-fire hits that I personally guarantee will provide you some major cinematic enjoyment. So get to SIFFin'!


The Bling Ring
The Bling Ring{North American Festival premiere. Screening as part of the SIFF 2013 Closing Night Gala, June 9 at 6:30pm at the Cinerama}
Following up 2010's dour Chateau Marmont-set drama Somewhere, Sophia Coppola stays in L.A. and this time serves up some grade-A good trash. There's already been a Lifetime movie dramatizing the real-life subjects portrayed here: a group of fame- and celeb-obsessed teens who in 2008-2009 habitually waltzed right into celebrities' vacant (often unlocked!) homes, promptly helping themselves to clothes and jewelry and cash — sometimes carrying the loot off the premises in (also stolen) designer handbags. The Bling Ring doesn't really have as much to say as a Lost in Translation, or even a Marie Antoinette, but it's slick and fun… and occasionally horrifying. (Imaginary Amie and I saw this together, and I reckon her review will be similarly positive.)

Die Welt
{screens June 7 at 3pm at the Uptown}
An unaccountably captivating fiction/documentary hybrid set in contemporary urban Tunisia. Told in four distinct chapters, the loose narrative begins with 23-year-old DVD salesman Abdallah attempting to convince one of his customers not to purchase Transformers 2 — his lengthy, thoughtful, very funny diatribe conveys a beautifully region-specific POV. We continue to follow Abdallah through a series of gorgeously-shot daily-life sequences, each with its own little stories and yearnings, all of which ultimately support his vivid conceptions of a better life in Europe. A wonderful film that would've made an excellent double-feature with its thematic cousin Una Noche.

Go Grandriders
{screens June 7 at 1:30pm at the Uptown}
Sometimes we need to put aside our cynicism and just allow ourselves to be touched. Case in point: this sweet documentary — Taiwan's highest-grossing non-fiction film ever — that follows a group of 17 elders (average age 81) as they tour the entirety of the island country's coastal border by motor scooter. The trip is charming and fun, but the universal element of all good documentaries is found in the participants' backstories, the beating hearts of journeys far more arduous and lengthy than a 1,178km coastline.

Horses of God
{US premiere. Screens June 7 at 6pm at the Uptown and June 8 at 6pm at the Kirkland Performance Center}
Compassionate, weighty drama based on the events leading up to Moroccan bomb attacks in May 2003. The first half of the narrative establishes the lives of several young friends living in the slums of greater Casablanca. By the tougher second half we've advanced years to key moments in the lives of four members of the group — all of whom are eventually recruited by Islamic fundamentalists and turned into suicide bombers. The final act's nerve-jangling ticking clock is evened out by consistently impressive film craft. Riveting, powerful stuff.

Last Flight to Abuja
{North American premiere. Screens June 8 at 5:30pm and June 9 at 12pm at the Uptown}
This deliriously pulpy flick was a Nollywood smash, and it’s one of the African Pictures sidebar's more purely entertaining entries. Opening in the midst of emergency-landing prep during a Lagos-to-Abuja flight, and gradually unveiling the stories that brought its passengers and crew to their ill-fated journey, the pot-boiler narrative crackles with far-flung twists aplenty: somehow the filmmakers manage to shoehorn corporate intrigue, blackmail, infidelity and murder in there. Yes, the script is completely ridiculous and undeniably over-the-top, the acting for the most part isn’t what western audiences consider “good”, and the technical aspects fall short of what we expect from today's action films. But Last Flight had me from its Bank Gothic prologue titles through its sweat-dreanched finale — and the two are only an hour and 20 minutes apart.


Crystal Fairy
Crystal Fairy{screens June 8 at 7pm at the Harvard Exit and June 9 at 5pm at the Uptown}
Jamie (Michael Cera) is doing an ugly-American thing in Chile; his intention is to experience the effects of a local hallucinogenic cactus. In a fit of assholery/drunkenness the night before the foraging trip, and much to the chagrin of his local companions/guides (director Sebastián Silva's actual brothers), he invites a hippity-do-dah named Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann) to come along. What happens next isn't all that great — until Crystal Fairy is nicknamed "Crystal Hairy". I'll let you guess what her travel companions might mean by that.

Wish You Were Here
{screens June 7 at 9:30pm at the Egyptian and June 9 at 3pm at the Uptown}
A tropical beach holiday in Southeast Asia leads to a psychologically complex mystery when one of a group of friends goes missing; back home in Sydney, one of the travelers (played by Joel Edgerton, who you may know from Zero Dark Thirty and Animal Kingdom) is peculiarly cagey about it all. The trip's big revelations (via flashback, of course) are frustratingly piecemeal — a straightforward telling of events could've been far more effective — and by the third act the story's suspense is revealed to be plain-ol' arbitrary info-withholding. But the film is slickly-produced and occasionally pretty, and Edgerton is an undeniably magnetic screen presence.