Fantastic Fest Mini-Reviews – Part 2

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Not every film can get an in-depth review, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have anything to say. Here are some more thoughts from screenings we attended.

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The Lure is a Polish horror musical about mermaids and it pains me to say it isn’t as enjoyable as that discription promises. Gold and Silver,  mermaid sisters, come ashore and join a caberet act at a night club. Both film their own set of struggles. Gold cannot curb her bloodlust for human; Silver falls for a bandmate who can only really love her if she became human. The look of the film is shiny and neon, which works well to bring everything to life, but I struggled at multiple points in the film. Motivations and relationships were so unclear that I wondered if perhaps something was lost in the translation. To the film’s credit, the cast is great. There’s an undeniable sexiness to the whole affair. And the ending manages to overcome some of the murky unexplained aspects to be full of emotion and potency.

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Bad Black is more of an experience than a narrative. Without background on the community in which the film is made, it would be incomprensibile to most audiences. So what is the background? Self-taught writer/director/producer Nabwana Isaac Godfrey Geoffrey (IGG) has transformed his ghetto community outside Kampala, Uganda, into a mega-low-budget film studio dubbed Wakaliwood. With budgets around $200, Nabwana churns out amateur masterpieces of action. The cast hails from the neighborhood, the sets are constructed by whatever is available, and the special effects beyond  primitive. Despite all this, what Nabwana has managed to produce is packed with creativity and charm. Reminiscent of the “Sweded” films made in Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind, Nabwana’s film have a genuine heart that cannot be denied. Adding to this already fascinating story is the presence of Alan Hofmanis, a Long Island native who moved to Uganda to produce and star in Nabwana’s films. In Bad Black, he plays a doctor who is trained by a no-nonsense kid named Wesley Snipes (yes, that’s right) in order to become a commando tough enough to face local crime lord, the titular Bad Black, a woman who stole his father’s dog tags. Bizarre, laugh-out-loud funny, and utterly unique, Bad Black brought a huge smile to my face.

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Chin-Yu-Ki‘s subtitle is “A journey to the West with farts.” That alone made it a must-see for me at the festival. A parody the ancient Chinese novel A Journey to the West, the film tells story of a monk named Genzo as she embarks on a pilgrimage to Tianzhu with an assassin named Taro Yamada, who she hopes to reform. Taro’s two most deadly weapons are his penis and his anus. Genzo posses mystical buddhist powers that allow her to unstrap bras with her mind and make bad dumplings edible. Essentially a live-action cartoon, Chin-Yu-Ki revels in its immaturity. It’s so stupid that it’s endearing.