YOU'RE LOOKING AT ME LIKE I LIVE HERE AND I DON'T | Filmmaker Scott Kirschenbaum strolled about an Alzheimer's care unit in California until he found his perfect protagonist, a tough, smart Jewish lady named Lee in her late 70s, who dances about, jauntily snapping her fingers, and who has contempt for all those other ever-dozing patients. Her health seems great, except that her talk is a jumble. Nevertheless, Kirschenbaum invites the audience to listen in, and, after a time, Lee's monologues have a kind of jazzy, poetic, winning illogic. Lee is A-OK!
PHNOM PENH LULLABY | Maybe my favorite work at Camden, and another astute Polish documentary. It's the disquieting story of a self-exiled Israeli who, reading Tarot Cards in Phnom Penh, becomes involved in a hurtful, often hateful, relationship with a hot-tempered, perhaps alcoholic, Cambodian woman. She has a shady past filled with, among other misadventures, giving birth to various and sundry children}. This documentary plays like a deep work of fiction, something from Celine or Graham Greene and, in this world of pimping and selling of young children, scratching at the Conradian heart of darkness.
LOVE AND OTHER ANXIETIES | I can't review this film made by Cambridge's Lyda Kuth because my wife, Amy Geller, produced it. I can tell you that it's an autobiographical probe in which Kuth faces up to her ever-semi-satisfied life, and the frailties of marriage, at the moment her daughter leaves for college. I can say, as a reporter, that the film screening was much applauded, and that I witnessed several middle-aged local women telling Kuth on the street how much they related to her documentary.
A final praise for the Camden Film Festival: the clever marketing of a section of works as Secret Cinema, allowing the Fest to sneak in new films that are opening officially at other major festivals. I can't reveal their titles — shhhhh!!! — but the two documentaries I watched, one about South African politics and one set on coastal Maine, were inspiring.
And one misstep for the 7th festival. One morning, a huge crowd gathered to hear four New England filmmakers each give a five-minute pitch for their work-in-progress to a very prestigious panel of distributors, television executives, and funders, all of whom deal with indie films. Somehow, the very worst pitch, delivered by a giddy, seemingly inarticulate, young woman who was totally unprepared, was declared the winner of Best Pitch in a secret vote of the panel, and garnered a $1000 prize. Huh? There were questions raised also if the winner was really from New England, and not a New Yorker. A dreaded Yankee! I was among the many horrified by the lame decision: we wuz robbed!