2017 Milwaukee Film Festival: Columbus, A Life in Waves, and The Challenge
By Livia Peterson
Sunday, October 8, 2017 was my final day to take in the sights and enjoy the 2017 Milwaukee Film Festival. I arrived at the Downer Theatre full of excitement to attend “Columbus” and “A Life in Waves” and departed the Oriental Theatre somewhat depressed. If one is under a tight budget, one will realize that it is much easier to remain at one theatre for a few movies and then, theatre hop to attend one or two more films.
The librarian and architect enthusiast Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) and Korean man Jin (John Cho) establish a friendship and examine the architecture in Columbus, Indiana. Despite the meandering pacing (one particular section allowed me to briefly snooze), “Columbus” provides a strong female led narrative, incredible performances, and gorgeous cinematography. Director Kogonada beautifully balances the travelogue and character study and thus, even if you are not into architecture, the film gives you no choice but to appreciate Columbus architecture. B
“A Life in Waves”
The documentary chronicles the life and career of the electronic music pioneer Suzanne Ciani. Prior to attending the film, I knew absolutely nothing about Ms. Ciani. “A Life in Waves” is a formulaic documentary: intermixed with archival footage and interviews – and yet, I learned a lot about its subject. Of course, the Question and Answer session with producer Bradford Thomason following the screening added depth: “She had such a rich career, it was a challenge to find which aspects to hone in on” and “It sure seems like it…she’s touring all over the world”. Despite its conventionalism, “A Life in Waves” allows the viewer to respect electronic music and Ms. Ciani. C
“The Challenge” is a challenging film, no pun intended. The Qatari sheikhs practice amateur falconry in the beautiful desert. The film obliterates nearly all boundaries of documentary filmmaking: nonexistent interviews, jaw dropping scenery, and frequently feels like a found footage film, especially during the final ten minutes. While lacking a coherent narrative, the visual aesthetic is immensely resplendent. The slow and meandering pace may provide a snoozefest; however, it is easily appreciated with a film festival audience and the director Yuri Ancarani in attendance. Yet, the Question and Answer session is outright hilarious and fun: “This isn’t a movie about the East, this is a movie about the West” and “This is a movie about tradition genetically modified by capitalism”. Despite I am not fond of “The Challenge” upon the initial viewing, the film may require several viewings to fully appreciate its intentions. C+
“The Challenge” was preceded by the short film “The Hanging”: An equally mesmerizing subject that should’ve been a feature film. B+