Located two hours outside of Chicago right over the border in Wisconsin, Beloit is a small little town with a bustling and cool artisan scene with some local bars but also some great little eateries (Bushel & Pecks and their Bloody Marys deserve mention). In the latter half of February, just as a balance of snow and cold hits the town, the Beloit International Film Festival offers its wares in select venues across town. Other films such as Lake Michigan Monster, Olympia and Ape Girl were selected for interviews but here also is a selection of other films screened.
Eternal Winter Set against the work camps set up by the Soviets for the Germans during the latter half of World War II using men and women to mine for fuel as the war raged on, this film is both lush and harrowing at times. The lead character Iren, as played by Marina Gera, shows a dexterity of will, moral structure but also an essence of survival as her journey through the bleak winter gets more and more bleak. The icy surroundings as well as almost Siberian (if not actual) isolation moves the story as the idea of what is real and what is not plays on her mind. Like “Prayer Before Dawn” and “Papillon”, what might have seemed extraordinary turns normal. Iren’s one essence of redemption is Rajmund, played by Sandor Csanyi, who teaches her the rules of survival and cigarette making among other things. The eventual resolution is expected in certain ways but shows that all notions are fair in love and war.
Deany Bean Is Dead This blend of black and romantic comedy follows Deany Bean who is stuck in a dead end job with a vicious boss. This mild mannered woman takes her anger and rage out once she is fired and she sees that her fiancé returned from vacation with a new fiancée. While the slapstick works well especially with the brother of her former fiancé in a closed space, the comedy strains credibility because the dinner guests are too trusting to seem any more than plot points. Alison Marie Volk brings a likability and an earnestness to Deany but also a desperation of sorts that becomes almost unlikable and yet understandable at same time. The essence of therapy and new age resolution almost seems ironic if it wasn’t played so earnestly.
Family This undeniable story of both repression, revenge and almost at times nihilism is a stylish foray into family dysfunction although one told by a woman within Tel Aviv. That structure alone is unique but Veronica Kedar, who wrote, directed and stars in the film as Lily, brings a macabre spectacle reflected in an non linear structure that shows an unraveling of a mind but also the path that led her to this point. Kedar gives a matter-of-fact normality to Lily even as her tale (related afterwards at her therapist’s home to said doctor’s interested daughter) spins more out of control. Lily’s father is domineering but oblivious, her mother consumed by tradition, her sister by expectation and her brother by all kinds of other demons. It is the interaction with Avi as played by Ishai Golan that is the most unnerving and well played simply because of the odd dynamic that they bring to it. Like “The Killing Of The Sacred Deer” it uses a whirlpool of emotion and irony to spin the story further and further. Avi’s final resolution is both heartbreaking and reprehensible especially a scene where he sings a song on a piano surrounded by the nightmare that has been created.
By Tim Wassberg
Here is a selected track entitled “Toughest Day” from the original score for the film SEVERE CLEAR, composed by Cliff Martinez (Traffic, Narc, Solaris). Severe Clear is the award winning film based on the memoir by First Lieutenant Mike Scotti as well as video footage shot by him and other members of 1st Battalion, 4th Marines on the outset of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. SEVERE CLEAR is an uncensored first person account of combat. Uncertainty, Chaos, Disorder…This is WAR. Coming to Theaters March 12th from Sirk Productions.