LIFF 2012 Day 10

Ernest and Celestine (Fra) (review)

The madcap A Town Called Panic is showing as part of the retrospectives section, but you wouldn't be able to guess that it's by the same people behind this film.  A completely different artistic style and medium, Ernest and Celestine is aimed at a younger audience and based on the books by Gabrielle Vincent.

Celestine is a little mouse, growing up lonely in a mouse convent and having to suffer the constant drill of the sister in charge,  Like the others, she is tasked with going above ground to the world of the bears above, where discarded bear teeth are a valuable commodity.  But Celestine's mind wanders and she paints and draws instead, much to the ire of her peers.  Ernest is a large, permanently hungry bear.  When not sleeping or eating, he's earning a few pennies with his one bear band, something that gets him into trouble with the police above ground. 

When the two meet during one of Ernest's night-time garbage looting they quickly become inseparable, but the world of the mouse and the bear do not belong together, as forever told by both sides, and they are exiled from both societies.

Much less wacky than their previous film, Ernest and Celestine is a beautiful, half-finished watercolour masterpiece, still bearing some of the slapstick from A Town Called Panic, but tempering it for the more sedate and heart-warming story of learning to get along.  It's squarely aimed at children, but there is much for the accompanying mums and dads to enjoy here too.  An easy recommendation. 8/10

British Short Film Competition 2012
I Am Tom Moody - Tom Moody is on stage at his first gig with a bad case of stage fright.  His inner voice, Tom Moody the child is telling him he can't go on.  Very funny animated film with the voices of Mackenzie Crook and his son Jude. 8/10

Don't Hug Me I'm Scared - A jolly, colourful Sesame Street-esque childrens show about being creative, gets a little too creative.  Totally unexpected and crazy, employing several visual mediums to embrace the chaos. 8/10

Firewater Dreams - In a similar vein to yesterdays Apocalypse, this mini biography of Leeds-born guitarist and homeschooled folk singer Michael Chapman as he pays a return trip to the Count House, the site of his first big break many years ago.  Nice and everything but I didn't feel the connection to the man and it went on a little too long. 6.5/10

Dylan's Room - A single mother (The Thick Of It's Joanna Scanlan) mills around the untidy bedroom of her globetrotting (and maybe missing) son.  Thanks to his medicinal compounds and a nearby lighter, she imagines him there again, and the conversations she might, and would like to have had. 8/10

Walk Tall - You don't see many 85-year olds standing at the top of a 30ft tree, but 1948 olympian George Weedon remains spritely and spirited.  Here he shares with us whether we like it or not, the keys to a supple body and healthy spine into old age.  An affectionate and very funny semi-animated look at the life of a formidable man. (go here for the full film) 8/10

Return of the Sun - A short but concise mini-documentary about the lives of Greenlanders, focusing on the period of the year when they come out of perpetual winter night, and the effects of global warming on their livelihoods. 7/10

Porcelain - The secret life of a drinking mug is exposed in this part-animated short film.  Murray the mug shares his daily routine, his sugar addiction and the existential worries about being broken or replaced.  It's pretty funny but the joke wears a bit thin midway through. 7/10

Worm - Still a little emotional after his the funeral, an encounter with a worm with hallucinogenic properties convinces Phillip that it is the reincarnation of his late father.  Amusing but macabre. 7/10

The Hyperwomen (Bra) (mubi)

All cultures are affected by the new ousting the old.  The opening scenes of The Hyperwomen demonstrate this well; elderly Kanu, aunt to many of the younger members of the tribe, is the only one left who has in her memory the songs of her people.  She lies naked but for a tribal belt around her waist in a hammock, seriously ill.  Her husband, similarly letting it all hang out sits concerned nearby.  By contrast, her nieces and nephews work the fields in modern clothing, travelling by truck and using modern technologies we all take for granted today.

But all of that is about to change with the upcoming Jamurilkamalu festival, an extra-tribal get-together to remind the people of their roots and strengthen the social bonds that keep them together.  Several tribes of the Brazilian rainforests come together, and there is much preparation to do. 

And we get to see.  The process of the whole tribe re-learning the songs falls to Kanu to pass the knowledge on to her immediates, who go into the community and spread the word; but the songs are not complete, and a pile of old cassette tapes must be dug out and listened to.  This contains one of the most enjoyable scenes, where Amazonian tribesmen and women have to do that thing we have all had to - use their fingers to wind the tape back in.

It takes a little time to get going, but interest in The Hyperwomen builds as the songs go from nondescript mumblings of a single voice to an entire tribe, kitted up in colourful headgear and the crests of their parents painted over their bodies.  The festival (and the raucous night before) is worth the wait, and the privileged footage must have come as a result of many months of footage, and god knows how much preparation beforehand to get so intimately within the tribe. 7.5/10

Jason Becker's Not Dead Yet (UK/US) (site)

Jason Becker is the mega rock star you have never heard of.  Archive footage from the 1980's shows a formidable talent, entirely self-taught around the electric guitar.  Proficient with the guitar by 14, and by the late 80's he was getting recognised by some of the major labels of the day.  In 1990, after a gold-selling album with his band Cacophony and a solo period, no lesser talent than David Lee Roth had signed him up as a replacement to the outgoing Steve Vai.

Unfortunately - and devastatingly - the degenerative motor-neurone disease ALS, the same condition that affects Stephen Hawking, struck him down before they could release anything.  Within a year, he went from walking, to hobbling with a crutch, and after losing the ability to play his beloved chords, lost most of the rest of his bodily movements. It hit the man very hard and lesser people may have given up.

Obviously, Jason Becker is Not Dead Yet, hence the title,  Though ALS often results in death, it is as much down to the will to fight of the sould trapped inside as it is to maintain physical health.  Becker never lost his will to continue writing music, and even though he can no-longer directly play, a specially adapted computer and some proprietry eye-sign language allows him to communicate his compositions, slowly but surely, note by note.

Though initially suffering from similar 'who-he?' issues to Apocalypse, this story of the man who came back from the brink and continues to do his thing against all odds, and the dedicated family and friends who help him acheive it is inspiring and noble.  Becker was and is immensely likeable and the film does a very good job of communicating the emotional bonds between those who care for him.  8/10

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