Alexandra. Themes will pop up in the film festival program, almost without trying. Here’s one for you: movies about endearing, salty old gals. The quietly compelling yet also lively Polish film Time to Die train its focus on an old woman, fighting for dignity at the end of her life. And Alexandra is similarly fixated on an elderly protagonist, the type and demographic virtually invisible to Hollywood save for the occasional mawkish golden years confection. In Russian director Alexander Sokurov’s hypnotic quasi-neo-realist film, a grandmother visits her grandson in a military camp in Chechnya. With a relaxed, subtle pace, a dreamy sepia haze and a marvelous orchestral score by Andrei Sigle, the film portrays the humanizing influence of this old woman, who drifts freely between “enemies” and implicitly illustrates the absurdity of military decorum and war itself. Through this very specific war situation Sukorov touches on universal themes, suitable for wars and peoples everywhere.
Summerhood. As long as there are movies, there will be summer camp movies, and young director-writer-actor Jacob Medjuk’s Summerhood is an unusually enjoyable entry in the genre. It comes all the way from Medjuk’s hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and had its world premiere on Tuesday night. If the audience was stocked with friendly, the laughter mostly erupted from a genuine place, and the production values and clean, crisp camera work combine with a jukebox fulla’ 80s lite rock anthems (i.e. Foreigner’s “(I Just) Died in Your Arms Tonight”) to make for a carbonated treat of a summer flick. Four pre-teens are up to their various organs in pranksterism, early hormonal rumblings and envy for the next stage of the adolescent sweepstakes, while their counselor (Medjuk himself) dispenses sarcastic wit and wisdom, while trying to find his own way into adulthood. The film leans towards the nasty-sweet new teen comedy paradigm of Superbad, but it also manages to carefully balance the potty and sexual yucks with an underlying innocence and optimism.