Friday, June 15, 2007

SIFF #12 - Love in a bubble, and Rollergirl mania!

I have found through the years that you usually can't go wrong choosing a film by one of SIFF's featured Emerging Masters. A) Usually the films are good, and B) The director is almost always there for an extended Q&A. I had no problem deciding to see Eytan Fox's The Bubble. A few SIFF's ago I was impressed by his compact and moving Israeli-soldier love story Yossi & Jagger. The Bubble (Habuah) (6/8) is a love story between Noam (Ohad Knoller), a young Israeli man who falls for a Palestinian man named Ashraf (Yousef 'Joe' Sweid). It is almost a Romeo & Juliet story, as the two struggle to be together. In Tel Aviv, Ashraf risks being discovered and sent back to Palestine, and it is even more impossible for Noam, a Jew, to visit Ashraf in his home. In Tel Aviv, Noam and his friends live in a "bubble" of openness, freedom, and acceptance, and try to pull Ashraf into the fold, but the inevitable politics and culture clash intervene. The cast was overall excellent, especially Ohad Knoller as Noam (who played Yossi in Fox's previous film). The relationship between Noam and Ashraf is sweet and almost innocent, and the community of friends is well-developed and warm. But if you've seen Fox's previous films, there is a sense of impending doom.

Director Eytan Fox accepted the Emerging Master prize from more and more sleep-deprived SIFF-director Carl Spence. The Q&A was really interesting, and Fox was a very engaging speaker, telling of the modern youth of Israel, especially in Tel Aviv, plus touching a bit on the political situation. A man right up front in the audience yelled out, "Just say it! Say the word! The word is OCCUPATION!!!" That ruffled Fox a tad, but he managed to steer his comments away from anything too controversial. I would have liked to stay for the whole Q&A to see if there was going to be a fist fight, but I had to dart to my car and rush over to the U-District to the event that turned out to be the hottest and most fun ticket of the festival.

The world premiere of Blood on the Flat Track: The Rise of the Rat City Rollergirls (6/8) had a massive line spilling all the way around the corner and down the street. The box office said Sold Out and there was electric buzz in the air. ALL the cool kids were at this event! I couldn't help but grin while waiting to get into the theater. A red carpet was rolled out under the marquee, and all the gussied-up rollergirls, with their men, their women, their pals, their mothers, and their kids were preening and posing, flashbulbs exploding right and left. Seattle needs to learn: THIS is what a world premiere should look like! (see links to tons of photos here) Once everyone was inside, the vibe was like a rock concert, with energy crackling in the air. Throughout the film, people were applauding the credits, hooting at particular skaters, and roaring in delight at the particularly brutal moves on the track. It was a raucous screening!

The film has wit and sass, plus charm and personality to spare. The interviews with the women are easily the best part of the film, as the girls are, unsurprisingly, sharp, funny, and cool. As a fan of the whole RCRG phenom (which really swept the hipsters in this city out of nowhere the past couple years), I was delighted to find that the girls' personalities are as colorful in real life as they are on the track. A montage of the four teams being described by their foes is particularly hilarious ("They eat children." "They're all lesbians." "They have a high proportion of blonde ponytails.") If one of the rollergirls stands out in the interviews, it is Basket Casey, an intense spitfire from the team Grave Danger. The filmmakers obviously knew they got the goods in her interviews as her eyes would light up with delight when describing the theatrical violence of the sport, like "knocking the snot" out of another skater.

The film itself was very entertaining, though sometimes the timeline is a bit muddy, and it had some occasional ugly technical issues. For instance, no matter how excellent the sound bite, you simply cannot use a clip of an interview where the lighting is basically non-existent, leaving a shadow of a talking head in a dark room. Ooops. Hopefully they'll clean some of the technical issues as Blood on the Flat Track makes the film festival rounds. That said, kudos to whoever did the closing credits of the film... the animated rosters of the rollergirls and their teams were REALLY cool.

Considering how the audience was stacked in the film's favor at this premiere, I have to admit I am VERY curious how it will place in the audience awards at the end of the fest!


Vickie said...


I am SO JEALOUS you got to see the RCRG movie!!! I pray...PRAY, I tell you!...that it somehow, in some way, manages to get into TIFF (if the filmmakers are even bothering to try). I will be first in line!


Les Sterling. said...

Just a note about the darkness during the premiere of "BLOOD ON THE FLAT TRACK" - I had noticed the same thing, but it turns out that it was a projection issue at The Neptune - not the film itself. At the Saturday screening, the lighting was perfect.

Linda said...

Thanks, Les, I'm glad to hear that! The sound bites during the dark scenes were fine, but the murky look of the film was frustrating. I'm glad to hear that it was corrected, and wasn't an issue with the film itself!