Expedition to the End of the World A motley crew of Dutch scientists and artists sail through newly opened waters in northeastern Greenland, a consequence of rapidly melting ice sheets. The largely pristine environment is disrupted only by the odd encounter with an oil-exploration crew, but the mood throughout is philosophical. Director Daniel Dencik treats the area like a playground, seeming to openly copy shots from films by Terrence Malick and Stanley Kubrick, and his compositional sensibility is similarly coy: the score abruptly, perhaps awkwardly, veers from speed metal to classical grandeur. The cast, though, is esoteric and thoughtful, intent on taking the long view about both global climate trends and potential apocalypse.
The Kill Team Dan Krauss recounts the story of an American military platoon who killed for sport in Afghanistan, and the personalities behind it. While too slow to reveal the sensitive young Specialist Adam Winfield as its protagonist, his film is incisive as a condemnation of the military’s chain of command. It’s co-opted on the ground by a renegade soldier, and hampered by bureaucracy domestically as Winfield’s parents attempt to make their son’s claims known.
Maidentrip Barely a teenager, Holland’s Laura Dekker incites an international incident simply announcing her intention to sail around the world alone. Once cleared for passage, Jillian Schlesinger’s film is largely composed of Dekker’s own footage from her journey. Maidentrip can easily play as the inspirational story of a girl following her dream, but the film is smarter than that, revealing Dekker’s feat as a product of emotions any teenagers has: unharnessed passions, a borderline-irrational drive for independence, cynicism about adults, and simple stubbornness.
Narco Cultura Viewers of Breaking Bad are likely familiar with narcocorridos, songs celebrating the origin and feats of Mexico’s most notorious drug dealers. Shaul Schwarz’s remarkably ambitious documentary reveals the seedy but robust industry behind this stealth cultural sensation, which fluidly criss-crosses the US-Mexico border. Schwarz, a war photographer, sacrifices a more thorough examination of this phenomenon in favor of frequent reminders of the reality that keeps this bizarre genre thriving, but the film is nonetheless capacious and effective.
Public Hearing An interesting curiosity. James N. Kienitz Wilkins casts actors as the participants relating the transcript of an actual town meeting, a debate about the expansion of a Wal-Mart in upstate New York. The film, hermetically shot in extreme close-up, seems intended to reveal the performance of both earnestness and corruption (and tedium) in the democratic process, but the largely cartoonish performances render the experiment too cynical.
Remote Area Medical A great companion piece to last year’s The Waiting Room, Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman’s film is about a roving pop-up medical clinic that takes over a NASCAR venue in Bristol, Tennessee, for a weekend. The film demonstrates the endless need for freely available care, and the eternal combination of order and spontaneity required to make the health system work.
Suitcase of Love and Shame There’s unfortunately very little reason for Jane Gillooly’s atmospheric experimental feature to be a film, but its content — an audio collage about an adulterous affair between a middle-aged couple — is so fully embodied, and so sexually and emotionally frank, that this can be considered an opportunity to listen to one of the better (unairable) This American Life stories of recent years.
To the Wolf Something between Bela Tarr’s The Turin Horse and Beckett’s Endgame transported to the mountains of contemporary Greece, Aran Hughes and Christina Koutsospyrou’s film — combining documentary and fiction, though I couldn’t tell you exactly how — tracks two farming families in the potential death throes of their country and industry, and maybe even their lives. The film probably requires a second viewing to be fully processed and evaluated, but it’s beautifully executed and the final shot is an absolute stunner.
CAMDEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL | September 26-29 | venues in Camden and Rockland | full schedule and ticket information at camdenfilmfest.org