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ON FILM

Festival reviews to keep spooling

By Philip Martin

This article was published May 23, 2014 at 2:13 a.m.

For me, the Little Rock Film Festival isn't quite over.

I still have movies to see and digest. I still haven't gotten through all this year's Arkansas shorts (though I've seen enough of them to say they were one of the highlights of this year's festival). I have a reasonable explanation for this: So many people are invested in these movies -- friends and families of the filmmakers, as well as the filmmakers themselves -- that I hate to take up a seat in a sold-out venue. Besides, I usually can arrange to see local projects before or after the festival, and I can't always do that with some of the other festival films. I'm obligated to treat the festival like a work deal; I'm interested in maximizing the number of movies I see so I'll be prepared to review them if or when they open theatrically.

So bear with me -- I'm thinking about reviewing a lot of the Arkansas films on the blood, dirt & angels website over the next couple of weeks. (If you want to read reviews of some of them now, check out University of Central Arkansas student Tanner Smith's website Smith's Verdict -- smithsverdict.wordpress.com.)

Two of the films that I have seen, Mark Thiedeman's Sacred Hearts, Holy Souls and Tara Sheffer's 13 Pieces of the Universe are simply terrific movies that demonstrate uncommonly well-developed cinematic sensibilities. I'll post a full review of Sacred Hearts, Holy Souls -- which won the Charles B. Pierce Award for Best Made in Arkansas Film -- on blood, dirt & angels when I get a few minutes. Our sometimes columnist Levi Agee, who's a programmer for the festival, had an interview with Sheffer on the blog last week and writes about Thiedeman's film in his Screengems column elsewhere in this section.

I also want to write about Taylor Feltner's docmentary Man Shot Dead and David Bogard's A Matter of Honor (its star, Ed Lowry, won for Best Made in Arkansas Performance). And I'll probably write about a few of the other Arkansas-made films as we go along.

Overall I was impressed with the quality of the films at this year's festival, particularly the narrative features. David Zellner's Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is among the best films I've seen all year, and I was gut-punched by Alex R. Johnson's Two Step, a violent Texas noir. I didn't appreciate Leah Meyerhoff's I Believe in Unicorns until I saw it on the big screen (which points out a danger in reviewing off computer screens, though I doubt that'll change the way anyone does business).

I'm also intensely interested in the conversations Robert Greene keeps starting with his "cinematic nonfiction" -- a hybrid form that uses documentary material to construct a narrative arc -- though his Actress might be more fun to talk about than pleasant to watch. There's a kind of Lars von Trier quality to the film; people are just as liable to reject it out of hand as to overpraise it, but it's a serious and provocative piece of work. Je ne quitte pas, another work of cinematic nonfiction, picked up the best documentary prize at this year's festival. It's a wonderfully funny and heartbreaking movie.

Finally, at this year's gala, someone asked me why MovieStyle didn't have more on the festival while it was ongoing. I don't know if I did a good job of explaining it on the spot, so I'm going to try again now.

The main reason there wasn't more on the festival in last week's MovieStyle is because most of the festival hadn't happened when the section went to print. (Like all of this newspaper's feature sections, we're printed in advance of the publication date.) And because the section's mandate is to cover the films that are opening in Arkansas that week, every Friday we try to review every film that is opening in the state. So last week we had to worry about Godzilla, Million Dollar Arm and other movies. We are limited by the amount of space we have in the newspaper and by the amount of time we have in a day.

While it might seem reasonable to look for information on the film festival in MovieStyle, the reality is that we can only do so much. We can cover the festival in the Sunday Style section, in Thursday's Weekend and online -- my blood, dirt & angels site is a good place to look -- but MovieStyle is pretty much locked in on what's opening in theaters every week.

Maybe we need to adjust that, given that traditional movie theaters are just one way that we consume moving images synced with sound these days. I promise you I'm giving it some thought.

Email:

pmartin@arkansasonline.com

www.blooddirtangels.com

MovieStyle on 05/23/2014

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