Wednesday, 6/21/2017

The Great Divide

American Indies 2017

The Great Divide

Kyle Mooney: Writer and actor in BRIGSBY BÄR

For years, FILMFEST MÜNCHEN has been known for its selection of US Independent films, formerly in their own sidebar, now subsumed in the International Independents section. Even if the current crop of films can hardly reflect the divisions of the Trump era, having been shot long before the Inauguration, the fault lines of America are already palpable in indie cinema.

Two films chart the racial divisions of the Melting Pot: GOOK by and with Twilight star Justin Chon takes place in Korean community on the eve of the 1992 L.A. Riots. Brothers Eli and Daniel have a shoe store in South Central, where they are exposed to daily racism from the locals. When the Rodney King verdict comes down, all hell breaks loose.

Baltimore is another US crime hotspot, not only since THE WIRE. RAT FILM charts the history of the Baltimore rodent population, from urban planning to spiritual questions. Filmmaker Theo Anthony paints a colorful portrait of the Maryland harbor town.

 Madeline Brewer and Mark Webber in FLESH AND BLOOD

In semi-autobiographic, semi-documentary FLESH AND BLOOD, director/lead actor Mark Webber returns from jail to a family - his real family - that doesn't offer any more support.

US artists try to break out of this vicious cycle with an increasing number of absurd comedies. BRIGSBY BEAR stars Mark Hamill, Andy Samberg and Claire Danes in a surreal coming-of-age story, which Vanity Fair called "the feel-good kidnapping movie of the year". In COLUMBUS, Ohio architecture provides a link and support to the lead characters in crisis. In FITS AND STARTS, writer David (Wyatt Cenac) tries in vain to keep up with his successful wife (Greta Lee), while in doc AMERICAN VALHALLA, Iggy Pop and Josh Homme compete in the Coolness arena.

 Greta Lee and Wyatt Cenac in FITS AND STARTS

Multihyphenate Noël Wells (MASTER OF NONE) will come to Munich to premiere semi-autobiographical MR. ROOSEVELT and acts in Bob Byington's absurd sci-fi vision INFINITY BABY, in which user-friendly babies are cloned that never cry or need attention. Noël will also speak at the Panel FILMMAKERS LIVE: WOMEN IN INDEPENDENT CINEMA on Thursday, June 29 at 6:00 pm and present her film at Culture Clubbing afterward at 7:30 pm.

In THE BIG SICK and BAND AID, couples deal with their relationship troubles in different ways. Anna and Ben start a band to write songs about their relationship. Director and lead actress Zoe Lister-Jones shows how to turn negative energy into positive in BAND AID with creativty.

 Zoe Lister-Jones: Writer, director and actress in BAND AID

In Michael Showalter's new entry THE BIG SICK, the cultural difference between Pakistani comedian Kumail Nanjiani and American Emily (Zoe Kazan) are so great he breaks up and is confronted with her parents when she falls into a coma.

US indie films serve as a seismograph for the quakes and faultlines along the Great Divide of US culture, if there is such a thing. Come along for the ride!