Commentary- Waste Land & Cafe (19th Philly Film Fest)

Monday, November 1, 2010

As promised, here’s a post on the two films screened during the festival that I never got a chance to write about:

Waste Land (synopsis) Filmed over nearly three years, Waste Land follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world’s largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he photographs an eclectic band of “catadores”—self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz’s initial objective was to “paint” the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to re-imagine their lives. Director Lucy Walker (DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND, BLINDSIGHT, COUNTDOWN TO ZERO (click for my Countdown post) has great access to the entire process and, in the end, offers stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit.

This is a documentary that I didn’t think I wanted to see. It sounded depressing or boring, well both really. Even after I started watching it, I was thinking, why should I care about this successful artist’s next mission to bring himself more fame. In fact Muniz himself approaches the project with an attitude of – I have so much, have accomplished so much, now I’m bored so I’ll attempt to give back. Then we meet the workers “catadores” of the trash dump, one by one. We hear their stories of why and how they came to work there and how they feel about it. Then we see them begin to work with Muniz on the trash murals that individually feature several of the catadores; and then we see how this small break from their ordinarily dismal lives, gives them hope for a future they never could have imagined before. Muniz stops trying to just “give back”, he becomes involved, touched by these people with whom he develops true and lasting friendships.

Hardship and suffering is something I try to avoid like the plague, cause the plague would be hardship and suffering – but I have to admit, it’s only by witnessing life down so low, that I can undeniably see the hand of God at work. These were people digging through nasty filth, germy yuck, disgusting refuse; looking for something of value. What they really discovered was that their very lives were of more value than they ever could have imagined.

One of the most moving moments of my life was being with Tiao at Berlin Film Festival, the second screening. Watching Tiao look at himself on the screen crying and looking at him crying and looking at the audience crying… it was incredibly moving. I’m the kind of person that questions myself a lot, like, are we doing a good thing here? I’m having a nice time because I’m so proud of the movie, but does it benefit everyone? It’s very important to me that everyone is doing OK, and I think they really are very happy with it. I keep listening out for things like jealously from the other people or have there been any problems or robberies, but I haven’t heard of anything negative. I think it’s really been a surprising, surprise good thing. - Director Lucy Walker

You can download the complete Q & A with Lucy Walker on – Click

Cafe – technically can be considered a food in film flick, although food doesn't play a major part. Still, it does take place in a dining establishment. One that would probably be condemned for health code violations, as none of the workers ever washed their hands before starting their shift!

Marc Erlbaum actually wrote the screenplay in a West Philly cafe. The film features Philly suburb native, Jamie Kennedy and Jennifer Love Hewitt. The movie all takes place inside the cafe or out front. We meet the regulars: The two coffee house employees, a semi-nerdy musician with a crush on his sexy, funky co-worker with a soft heart and low self-esteem (Hewitt), a small time drug lord (Kennedy) and his cohorts, a writer who observes the comings and goings of the patrons, a couple contemplating having an affair, a social worker conducting job interviews and a computer nerd who’s computer has caught a divine bug.

The comings and goings are orchestrated much like a play; in fact, I’ve seen plays that become movies, but this is a movie that would be better served as a play. I think the metaphysical philosophical subject matter would translate and resonate more fully in a staged medium.

But more importantly, how come it wasn’t until I started looking for pictures of Kennedy for this post that I found out he and Jennifer Love Hewitt used to be an item! Totally out of the loop on that one. Is that why she didn’t make an appearance at the festival?

Q & A with Director Marc Erlbaum and Jaimie Kennedy

Is there any symbolism to the rooster crowing every time the cafe door opens or closes?

A (Erlbaum):
The producers have asked me many times to remove the extraordinarily annoying rooster from the movie and I insisted on keeping it for my own personal reasons. Without trying to get too preachy or anything – it represents sort of a wake up call.

You can download the complete Cafe Q & A on – Click

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About This Blog

is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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