I highly enjoyed my experience at the Chicago International Film Festival this year with the Greenville College Digital Media Seminar class. I enjoy foreign films, but have never really watched too many of them, so this was definitely an interesting experience. I am going to briefly review all four of the films I watched to give an overview of my time in Chicago.
1. Rams – Grímur Hákonarson
The first film I saw was “Rams“, directed by Grímur Hákonarson. This film was definitely good, but was not extremely outstanding in my mind. I enjoyed the storyline of the two estranged brothers who ended up bonding over their forbidden rams. My only issue with this film is that it was fairly stereotypical and predictable for a foreign film. There was nudity, subtitles, a rather obscure topic, and an unresolved ending. While none of these were major issues for me, I guess I just wanted something more. Maybe that could be coming from my Americanized desensitization to mundane stories. In America, we always want the big, loud, fast stories to hold our attention, but that was not how this Icelandic film was. One aspect I did like though was the fact that there was not a large amount of dialogue, so the subtitles were extremely easy to follow. I did not feel like I missed any part of the film on account of my reading subtitles.
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2. Why Me? – Tudor Giurgiu
“Why Me?” directed by Tudor Giurgiu was probably my least favorite out of the four films I watched. This Romanian film was centered around a lawyer investigating a corrupt politician, who ended up being framed by the people he worked for. Almost every government official in the film turned out to be corrupt except for the lead character, who ended up committing suicide before they could unlawfully convict him. This film was extremely hard to follow because of the large amount of legal jargon within the subtitles. They also talked extremely quickly, making the subtitles very hard to follow. Another issue was while they conversed very fast, the story itself did not progress quickly at all. This story is based off a true story that occurred in the early 2000’s in Romania, and they filmed his suicide scene where the actual man committed suicide. When they said that at the end of the film, I just wanted to scream “You just can’t do that!!!” I don’t think that has a real effect on the movie itself, but I felt like it was fairly disrespectful to that man. Maybe that’s just me, but I did not like that.
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3. The Surprise – Mike van Diem
“The Surprise,” directed by Mike van Diem, was definitely my favorite film we watched! It is a morbid romanic comedy that centers around a man and woman that both want to commit suicide. They both contact this “travel agency” that will help them “travel” to the other side, but they end up falling in love and go on the run from the company trying to kill them. After multiple plot twists, we discover that the woman’s father owns the company and it is her responsibility to kill the man she fell in love with. The couple ends up together, and I really enjoyed this film as a whole. Not only was the story engaging and entertaining, the cinematography and overall quality of the film was outstanding. The blue and gray tones throughout the film were beautiful, consistent, and symbolic of the coldness and death theme throughout. This film was from the Netherlands and even though it had subtitles, I still followed it very well and loved it!
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4. I Am Michael – Justin Kelly
“I Am Michael,” directed by Justin Kelly, definitely challenged me the most out of the four films I saw, and I am honestly still forming my opinion. It featured several American actors such as James Franco, Emma Roberts, and Zachary Quinto. This story followed a gay man who was an LGBT activist for most of his life who became a Christian and became heterosexual. While I am not sure if I believe that a person can change their sexuality, this film portrayed Christians in a very negative light. At first I thought it was going to portray Christians well because the main character discussed how sexuality does not define a person, but rather how much they love the people around them. I completely agree with that, but the film then turned him into a stereotypically judgmental, gay-hating Christian. This hurts my heart because I know so many Christians who hate gays and act like that towards people. In my opinion, God has called us to love all people regardless of how they live their lives. It is not our place to judge gay people or to say that it is a sin because God is the Ultimate Judge and He will be the One to make that decision. This film is also based off a true story, so I am interested in looking up this man to see if he really is a judgmental Christian now or if that is just how the film portrayed him. While this film does make me sad that this is how we are perceived, I think it is a huge cry out to Christians that we must change our ways. We cannot judge and hate and still call ourselves Christ-followers. We are to love all people, regardless of their sexual orientation. This is an American film, which I think is why this story hits so close to home. This issue of LGBT and Christianity is huge in our society now, and I believe we need to discuss it further.