SFIFF2013: “Stories We Tell”, “Twenty Feet From Stardom” and “The Search For Emak Bakia” – Capsule Reviews and Trailers

Stories We Tell

Stories_we_tell_03four-stars4“The crucial function of art is to tell the truth.” – Michael Polley

How many times have you seen or heard the words “Life Affirming” to describe a movie? At the risk of sounding cliché, Stories We Tell is not only life affirming, it’s thorough storytelling as well.

It is accepted, as well as it is inevitable, that truth, as presented in documentaries, will always be manipulated, if for no other reason than to simply keep the film’s editor employed. I suppose the same can be said in regards to how we interpret the truths of each and every one of our lives. Putting together pieces of memory and facts collected over the years from numerous players and events that make up one’s own life – soul-searching, if you will – is no easy feat, just ask Sarah Polley.

In her first step into documentary filmmaking, Sarah, in search of an utmost truthful family portrait, interrogated those closest to her (her family) regarding events surrounding different aspects of her mother’s life. Presented through real archival footage, as well as super8 reenactments, Polley’s plot twisting brave and candid truth-is-way-more-interesting-than-fiction story is the stuff most other so-called tell all documentaries wish they had the balls to present.

Showtimes for Stories We Tell: Mon, Apr 29th – 6:15pm (Kabuki)

Tue, Apr 30th – 1:30pm (Kabuki)

Twenty Feet From Stardom

Twenty_Feet_from_Stardom_02one-star2It’s safe to assume that director Morgan Neville‘s latest in a long string of music documentaries was not intended to confuse his audience… or was it? Just kidding, I’m sure it wasn’t.

Wanting to tackle more than one plot line in any given documentary should not be an unattainable goal, yet Neville’s overseeing of the numerous awkward crisscrossing edits between some of the performer’s personal stories and the history of the backup singing profession resulted in an ungraceful spectacle. It was like watching an elephant tap dance over a frozen lake.

And for those who don’t want to be beaten over the head with infomercial-like redundant inspirational messages, I suggest you do as a certain audience member at my screening did; leave as soon as the film mentions the 1990s (about 20 minutes towards the end) – assuming you make it that far.

Showtimes for Twenty Feet From Stardom: Fri, Apr 26th – 9:00pm (Kabuki)

Sun, Apr 28th – 3:45pm (Kabuki)

The Search for Emak Bakia

The_Search_for_Emak_bakia_01two-stars1Fans of the 1920s surrealist filmmaker, Man Ray, or fans of avant-garde surrealist art in general will most likely have an easier time digesting Oskar Alegria‘s (director) obsessive search to find the origins behind the title of Ray’s 1926 short film, Emak-Bakia. At first I thought my distaste for this movie was due to my unfamiliarity with the film’s source material. But, after quickly familiarizing myself with Ray’s cinépoéme, I’ve come to accept that this style of cinema, with all of its innovation and technical trickery, just doesn’t do anything for me, and neither do documentaries aimed exclusively to fans of avant-garde and surrealist films.

If, in the future, I start to grow an affinity towards this genre of film then I will no doubt revisit and reevaluate my position on this documentary, but until that time comes I would only recommend this to fans of Man Ray and his style of art.

Showtimes for The Search for Emak Bakia: Sat, May 4th – 6:45pm (Kabuki)

Mon, May 6th – 8:45pm (Kabuki)

Thu, May 9th – 3:30pm (New People)

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Categories: Reviews, San Francisco International Film Festival

3 Comments on “SFIFF2013: “Stories We Tell”, “Twenty Feet From Stardom” and “The Search For Emak Bakia” – Capsule Reviews and Trailers”

  1. Lawrence Chadbourne
    April 24, 2013 at 7:04 am #

    Adam: I’ve admired the previous two movies Sarah Polley directed. I am wary how much of the formal texture of Stories We Tell, with apparent contrast between Super 8mm film and video, will be lost in the digital version being offered by the festival, perhaps there will be a way sometime to see this in 35mm, and appreciate that more?

    • Adam Cuttler
      April 24, 2013 at 8:10 am #

      Hey Larry, I’m guessing the only time we’ll get to see this movie, as well as a buttload of others, in 35mm will be 15 years from now when the format has a resurgence, much the way vinyl has recently made a strong comeback. Fingers crossed that indeed this does happen.

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  1. Filmbalaya’s Guide to SFIFF56 2013 | Filmbalaya.com - April 30, 2013

    [...] We Tell – “Polley’s plot twisting brave and candid truth-is-way-more-interesting-than-fiction story is the st…” – [...]

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