Monday, June 12, 2017

SIFF 2017 Comes to a Close with Films from Jairus McLeary, S.J. Chiro, and David Lowery

Jairus and Miles McLeary at Pacific Place. 
By May 29,
SIFF '17 was
well into its
second week
when I caught
a screening of
The Work, an
intimate, in-
tense docu-
mentary Indie-
Wire's Eric
Kohn
praised
when it pre-
miered at this year's SXSW Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Prize. The screening featured appearances from brothers Jairus (co-director) and Miles McLeary (producer).

McLeary's first feature (made with Gethin Aldous) is an atypical prison film in that it focuses more on therapy as it applies to men--in or out of prison--than on statistics or back stories, though they come into play, as well. Instead of spending their time exclusively with prisoners, the filmmakers documented a group therapy program at Folsom Prison that brings civi-
lians and inmates together--with no guards to supervise the proceedings.

The film made me angry at all the fathers who've taught their sons to hide their emotions, since all that fear and frustration is bound to come out in other ways, like the commission of violent crimes. One incarcerated participant who grew up in that sort of environment, cries for the first time in 15 years, an emotional breakthrough that's difficult, if cathartic to watch. Not surprisingly, the McLearys' father is a clinical psychologist.

S.J. Chiro and Clane Hayward with cast and crew.
For more information, check out the SIFFcast interview with Jairus McLeary at this link.

On June 2, I
caught local
filmmaker S.J.
Chiro's years-
in-the-making
directorial de-
but, Lane 
1974. Chiro
based the film on Clane Hayward's The Hypocrisy of Disco combined with recollections of her own communal living experiences. I firmly believe that
if she hadn't found the right actress to play Lane, it wouldn't work, so it's
fortunate that she found Sophia Mitri Schloss, who wears the role of ob-
servant, resilient 13-year-old with ease. In the Q&A, Chiro noted that
Sophia was too young when they first met, so the long pre-production
process paid off by allowing her to grow into the part. SIFF awarded Lane 
1974 the New American Cinema Competition Grand Jury Prize. The next
screening takes place during the Best of SIFF at the Uptown on June 17. Fun fact: KEXP DJ Kevin Cole plays an instructor at Lane's village school.

David Lowery at the Uptown.  
A Ghost Story
would prove to
be one of the
hottest tickets
of the festival.
I attended the
June 9 screen-
ing with direc-
tor David 
Lowery in
attendance. His
follow-up to
the well re-
ceived family film Pete's Dragon is an an odd, circular meditation on grief and place that features Rooney Mara
and Casey Affleck as a couple living in a haunted house. At the Q&A,
Lowery said that he recruited the actors via text message. They took him
by surprise when both agreed to participate before they had even read the
script (Mara and Affleck previously appeared in his western-melodrama
Ain't Them Bodies Saints). If anything, Lowery says, Affleck was perfectly happy to spend the bulk of the shoot under a sheet since he plays the ghost of the title (lest this seems like a spoiler, Affleck plays both haunted man and haunting man; the spoiler is in the way Lowery pulls it off).

And that's a wrap! I'm sorry I didn't get more of a chance to write about all of the films I saw, not counting capsule reviews for The Stranger, a program note for the festival guide, and two previous blog posts. These are the other titles: After the StormBad Black, Endless PoetryThe Fabulous Allan Carr, The Farthest, The FixerHandsome DevilLady MacbethThe Landing, Landline, The Last FamilyManifesto, My Journey Through French CinemaNocturama, The Oath, Sami BloodStep, and Weirdos. If I had to pick one favorite, it would probably be Bertrand Tavernier's documentary about French film. Here's hoping the proposed sequel comes to pass, because it would be great to hear what he has to say about Alain Resnais, Jacques Rivette, Éric Rohmer, Catherine Breillat, Claire Denis, Leos Carax, François Ozon, and so many of the other filmmakers that slipped beyond the borders of his 190-minute frame.



Endnote: SIFF '17 came to an end with the announcement of the Golden Space Needle Awards and the closing night film, Raoul Peck's The Young Karl Marx. I found no release dates listed yet, but the Orchard is handling distribution, so a theatrical release seems likely, particularly since Peck is coming off an Oscar nomination for I Am Not Your Negro. The Orchard will also be handling distribution duties for The Work and Lane 1974.

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