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KIFF: Day Two in Review

October 2, 2011
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Another fun-filled day at the Kansas International Film Festival, everything from the effects of violence on TV to card-counting Christians was covered. Here’s an overview my second day at the Fest.

Lesson Plan. Directed by Philip Neel & David H. Jeffery

It’s hard to imagine the horrors that occurred during the Third Reich ever happening again, but at a Palo Alto high school in 1963 a “simulation” was done to show students how the Germans were manipulated by the Nazi Regime and the experiment quickly showed how susceptible the mind can be. A new organization was formed within the school called “The Third Wave”. Memberships cards were given, informers and bodyguards were assigned, and mock-trials and assassinations were held to weed out those not embracing the project. Within a week the Third Wave has swelled to over 200 students, and those not affiliated were shunned, sometimes with threats or physical violence. Lesson Plan retells the events through the stories of those who experienced it. An examination of how easily influenced a mind can be, the film is as though-provoking as it is terrifying.

Habermann. Directed by Juraj Herx.

Habermann is based on the true story of a German saw mill owner, August Habermann, in a small Czechoslovakian town who attempts to find a balance between keeping his Czech workers safe (many of whom are Jewish) while maintaining a working relationship with the Germans. Through all of this he hides a deadly secret: his wife, an orphan, is actually half-Jewish. Varying greatly from most movies about the Nazi regime, it takes the bold move of observing the violence that occurred, not only to Jews during WWII, but to the Germans at the end of the war. The film is not overtly political however; it plays mostly as a soap opera, full of intrigue, deceptions, twist and plenty of turns.

Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians. Directed by Bryan Storkel.

There is nothing misleading about this title, the documentary recounts the story of a bunch of youthful Christians, many of whom are pastors, who learn to count cards as means for a living. They became the Church Team, one of the most well-funded blackjack teams in America. Interestingly, this is by far the film (at least to my knowledge) that has generated the most discussion. It shows not only the stigma that surrounds Christians in America today, and how taboo it is for some to go against the grain of their own conventions. Amusing regardless of your own point of view and sure to spark a few heated debates, Holy Rollers is a laid back, fun-loving movie about gambling, God and a few things in between.

I Want to Be a Soldier. Directed by Christian Molina.

Alex is an eight-year old kid who loves his parents, wants to be an astronaut and can’t wait to be a big brother. This is until the babies won’t stop crying, his parents can no longer dote on him and he spends all of his time watching TV. He becomes obsessed with the violence that washes over him on a daily basis. He shaves his head, acquires defiance towards authority and trades in his wishes of space for those of the battlefield. I Want to Be a Soldier is an exploration of the how outside influences can shape a child for better or for worse.

 

Silver Tongues. Directed by Simon Arthur.

Silver Tongues is the story of two lovers who wander from town to town taking on new a personality in every locale they visit. Their goals are not monetary, but instead to manipulate and potentially alter the lives of every person they encounter.  Their vindictive game, however, eventually begins to spiral out of control. I’m, honestly not sure a brief synopsis can fully illuminate what is going on with this film.  It keeps the audience off-kilter from start to finish and it is as much a kinky thriller full of tense suspense as it is a meditation of identity, loneliness and a person’s innermost desires.

 

We Need to Talk About Kevin. Directed by Lynne Ramsay.

Kevin is a boy who committed a brutal massacre on his high school.  We Need to Talk About Kevin is not his story though. It is the story of his mother (Tilda Swinton) who is trying to gain closure on her painful past. The film is told in flashback and intercut with the present. It contemplates the relationship between mother and child and how dangerous a  small wound can get when it is never given the opportunity to heal. The film is a reflection on a subject that will never be easy to watch, but is poignant, ethereal and impossible to shake.

More info on the festival can be found here: http://kansasfilm.com/

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