LAFF 2012 Reviews: Dead Man’s Burden and Short Films Program 1
The 2012 LA Film Fest is now in its fourth day and we have already seen some really exciting documentaries and films. There is plenty to discuss, but right now I wanted to share some of my thoughts on two programs that I saw.
Dead Man’s Burden
When you go to a Film Festival, there will always be movies that you pick to go see solely based on the synopsis and maybe a photo of the film, because you can’t find anything else (like a trailer or clip). Sometimes it turns out really well and other times it turns out pretty bad. Unfortunately, Dead Man’s Burden ended up being the latter for me.
Dead Man’s Burden is an indie Western film which takes place right after the Civil War in New Mexico where we meet the McCurry family. Daughter Martha McCurry has always wanted to leave the family farm she grew up on and with her father’s recent passing, she seizes the opportunity to try and sell it. However, the return of her long thought dead brother, Wade, who unbeknownst to Martha is also a defector in the Union Army, puts a bit of a halt in her plans.
The movie started out pretty well, it looked great, I liked the feel of it, but soon it became clear that the story or characters weren’t all that compelling. To make things worse, the film had a slow rhythm, which really gave you time to contemplate why the story wasn’t working and why you just didn’t care about these characters all that much.
However, it wasn’t all negative. The film had some really good scenes and moments. Barlow Jacobs (Wade) and David Call’s (Heck, Martha’s husband) performances were pretty great. I’m even curious to see more from director Jared Moche, but unfortunately this movie as a whole didn’t come together for me.
Rating: 4 out of 10 stars
You can catch another showing of Dead Man’s Burden at the LA Film Fest Friday, Jun 22nd 9:50pm at Regal Cinemas L.A. LIVE 10.
Short Films Program 1
In all four years that I have attended the LA Film Fest, this is the first time that I go see one of their Shorts Programs. While I didn’t love every one of the films, there were a few that were definitely worth a watch. Here’s a quick breakdown from my favorite to my least favorite.
Asad – An amazing short about a young boy in a Somalian village. This short had so much heart and featured only Somalian refugees playing the characters. The resolution was so fun and original, I wish this short would be expended into a film. If you can get your hands on it, makes sure to watch it.
You can find Asad on Facebook and Twitter.
Another Bullet Dodged – The director of the short said that he wanted to make a short that said more about the person who watches it than the short itself and I think on some level that’s true. I personally found the whole thing really well executed and it will definitely spark some sort of reaction in the audience, which I think is a success for the film. I would definitely be interested in watch whatever else director Landon Zakheim has done.
Don’t Hug Me, I’m Scared – The most bizarre yet fascinating short. Think of the whole thing starting out as a sort of puppet/sesame street like short with songs and all, but then things go horribly dark. It was pretty hilarious, unexpected and original.
Cadaver – An animated short about love told through a poem. I found it sweet. Director Jonah D. Ansell explained that he wrote the poem on a whim to send to his sister who needed help for an assignment in med school and while his sister didn’t use his poem, he ended up using it for this film. I call it a win/win.
Scanning – Short documentary about farmers in India harnessing the power of seeds. Very interesting.
First Birthday – An Asian gay man goes to a family birthday party without his partner and spends his time at the party longing for him and acceptance of his family.
Fun fact: The director Andrew Ahn put most of his family in the film but didn’t tell them what it was about then showed them the film as his coming out to them. I think that’s kind of inspiring.
I Am John Wayne – This one was a little too slow for me. It follows a young man going on a horse ride on the day of his friend’s funeral.
New Gift – I’m still trying to figure out whether this one was a documentary or fiction and what it was really about. So it didn’t work for me.