Dispatches from the Charleston International Film Festival 

CP film reviewers dish on the festival

The Charleston International Film Festival has come and gone, and the response from three of the City Paper's film reviewers, who attended three different blocks, is overwhelmingly positive.

Kevin Young attended the festival’s opening night block:

CIFF has come and gone again but not without leaving the attendees something to remember. The first night brought out local filmmakers to meet and talk about all things movie-related. After a block of films were shown at the American Theater, the gathering relocated to Chai’s for an after-party that some, including this guy, can’t remember much of thanks to the abundance of drinks that were being served that evening. I do remember a lot of folks talk about films but not enough about movies. For some, the zenith of the festival was the appearance of director Richard Elfman at Cinebarre There, he presented his colorized version of his 1982 classic Forbidden Zone. The movie is a bizarro musical that showcased all things politically incorrect and the music of Oingo Boingo (a band that featured Elfman and his brother, Danny, the fella who has done scores for countless Tim Burton flicks and The Simpsons). Though I was unable to go personally, I heard from friends that this screening was attended by a small yet boisterous crowd snapping pictures and taking videos of the drum line that Elfman, decked out in a clown suit and toting a bass drum, used lead folks into the theater.

Susan Cohen went to Saturday’s S.C. Film Commission Indie Grant Shorts and had this to say:

Family members, actors from the films, and plain ole festival attendees packed the seats of the American Theater for the Charleston International Film Festival block dedicated to winners of 2010’s S.C. Film Commission Indie Grants. Each filmmaker got $10,000 to spend on their projects, which ranged from documentaries to comedies to dramas. Steve Daniels’ Dirty Silverware was the clear standout of the block. The fantastical story behind why everyone’s utensil drawer contains a mismatched spoon reminded me of a mix of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Edgar Wright, and Requiem for a Dream-era Darren Aronofsky (without all the bleakness and drugs). His special effects were especially impressive considering the grants only total $10,000. Another favorite of mine was Toogoodoo, by Lee Waldrep, about a guy post-breakup. Its ending reminded me a lot of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil — it was unexpectedly dark and, for lack of a better term, fucked up. I loved it. I also enjoyed Maria White’s The Debutante Hunters, a doc about ladies who hunt, and the series was rounded out with Down Turn by Rodney Lee Rogers, The Movie Critic by Gary Davis (which happened to star Rogers), and Ash and Water by Nicholas Samuelson.

And Ryan Finn checked out the closing screening of American Jihadist on Sunday:

CIFF came to a close on Sunday with a block devoted to director Mark Claywell’s propulsive and gray-shaded doc American Jihadist. A story of the early life and violent times of self-professed freedom fighter Isa Abdullah Ali, the incisive film picks apart the complexity of how an American could come to celebrate a purposed life as a mujahedin in the ’70s and ’80s, as well as how he could come back from this with his humanity still intact. Claywell’s film was quite well received by the audience. Afterward, the director fielded questions from the crowd. Although the film could be difficult for Americans to watch in our current geopolitical climate, Claywell was hopeful that his movie was fair to its subject, without necessarily pushing a viewer into any one viewpoint. Judging by the sober and rational discussion questions fielded, he succeeded. The Q&A brought about a discussion of Isa’s opinion of current political/military ventures abroad, his passion for saving himself through faith, and his conviction about ensuring that an audience would see him as a passionate fighter for the protection of others rather than a vicious aggressor. Unexpectedly, one man in the audience even revealed that he had been a friend and compatriot to Isa at the time and had a story similar to his. The man complimented Claywell on his film’s balance and unbiased representation. The audience certainly seemed to share this appreciation, too.


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