2017 Women's Cinema Festival, Women's Cinema

2017 Women’s Cinema Festival – Day 14: [closing film] Jasper Jones & Awards Winners


Now we reached the last day of the Festival, Day 14. I’ve written everything I wanna say about this festival down below so just scroll down and read it. One last thing though, so what’s next after this? I have something in mind already so I’ll announce new project(s) tomorrow (the likeliness). Enjoy this last piece of the 2017 Women’s Cinema Festival. If you want a more comprehensive view (which I list all the movies from the selection), click on the Awards Winner post down below. Enjoy the piece

Jasper Jones

Rachel Perkins: Born in 1970 in Canberra, Australia. As the daughter of Charles Perkins, Rachel Perkins grew up in a politically active family. She regularly took part in demonstrations and dicussions on Aboriginal affairs. Perkins began her media career in Alice Springs working for the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA). In 1991 she moved to Sydney to work for SBS Television where she produced a number of documentaries including the award-winning Blood Brothers.

“I think the great thing about this book and certainly a large part of why I love it so much is that it wasn’t just about those big issues. It transcended the themes of racism, class, sexism and abuse to ultimately become a bigger story about empathy and understanding. Most importantly, it’s a ripping yarn, a terrific piece of entertainment, that doesn’t bash you over the head with issues but weaves them into great storytelling.”

The loss of innocence and the nature of prejudice play central roles in an Aussie-set “Jasper Jones”, so much so that people has compared it as an Australian answer to To Kill a Mockingbird. While “Jasper Jones” does evoke that classic novel and Stand By Me in the way the children has to come to term with many adult matters, this film adaptation gets pale in comparison with those films, mostly because it’s trying too hard at times and cramming too many plot points to the picture. The film begins when the bookish Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller) receiving an unexpectedly visited from the titular character (Aaron L. McGrath) who begs for his help. We soon find out why, in the bush outside of Corrigan town is the dead body of a young girl, Laura Wishart, Jasper’s girlfriend. Jasper insists on hiding the corpse and finds out the real culprit. What follows in the week of Christmas includes a town search for a missing girl, Charlie’s journey to learn the town’s secrets and prejudices, and romance somewhere in between.

First, it’s the loss of innocence theme that plays out the most prominence throughout the film. Charlie is forced to come to term with adult’s messy viewpoint: the town’s own racist judgement towards Jasper and his best friend Jeffrey Lu’s family (Kevin Long), a Vietnamese immigrant family in the midst of Vietnam war (it’s set in 1969); he learns about his own parent’s issues (always magnificent Toni Collette and  Dan Wyllie), and many deep secrets in the town. It’s angry for sure, but it also blends the playful voice of an awkward teenager who is in the process of growing up and the more serious subject matters. Some of the moments, as a result, can be on-the-nose with its intention. The townspeople’s slashing out at Jeffrey’s family for example, feel overplayed and Jeffrey’s triumph on his cricket debut is equally cheesy and clunky (I like the idea behind it by all means, having an Asian immigrant be really good at the Commonwealth’s sport)

Second, prejudice and in a more specific sense, racism makes up for another main theme of “Jasper Jones”. This is more of a commentary to the era than it raise anti-racism issues but as a nature of prejudice, people tend to form an opinion even before they get to know the subject. Take Jasper, who has a reputation an outcast based on his mixed race appearance or Mad Jack Lionel who is feared by the townspeople. When Charlie actually meets them he knows that all the prejudice he has against them are untrue. The film pacing starts to suffer,  however, when it hastily pushes too many plot threads forwardo with little time to fully develop them. Most notorious sequence is the new year eve, when Charlie basically jumps between different plot threads in a span of a single night that it’s hard to know what points the film tries to get across.

Angourie Rice plays elegantly as Eliza, Laura’s sister and Charlie’s love interest (sort of), and she remains a femme fatale (of sort) who holds the key to open the mystery. On the “mystery” level “Jasper Jones” is just barely functional, but it’s for the service of putting Charlie and his coming of age in the centre. I can see why it has a widespread appeal. It’s a film that mixes wonderfully between the kid’s point of view with the more serious (and still somewhat relevant) subject matters. The acting is solid across the boards and most of the time it succeeds in drawing and maintaining our attention, although at the cost of more coherent plot.

Awards Winners:

The one thing I need to underline is when it comes to pick awards from the selection, there is no exact science. Movies with higher grades don’t necessarily mean it can win the awards (although it certainly helps). I tend to pick the less obvious choices, but as you see below it’s a mix of no-brainer and underdog-for-the-win. Without further ado, let’s see the winners for 2017 Women’s Cinema Festival:

Best Screenplay: 

  • Agnes Varda & JR (FACES, PLACES)

For making a film that looks deceitfully simple but it works on so many level. On one level, Faces Places is about the creativity itself.  On second level, Faces Places is also about the duo’s fascinated about the lives of people in the rural area across France and on the most surface level, Faces Places is a breezy road trip film about a mismatched duo who carry a surprisingly strong chemistry (for a documentary) and overall a pleasure to watch.

Note: other two long shots for this award are The Rider (for its perfect blend between truth and fiction) and Laby Bird (for delicious dialogues). Nothing come close to the winner, however.

Best Ensemble Acting:

  • the cast in SUMMER, 1993

The respect for the kid’s perspective isn’t restricted only to the story, but also in the way Simon believes in her child actresses. There are many long, unbroken scenes with the two kids as the center, and it doesn’t feel like they’re acting at all. The adults are all fine by all mean but it’s the children (Laia Artigas and Paula Robles as Anna) who are the heart and soul and they carry the movie wonderfully.

Note: It’s an unanimous win for Summer, 1993

Best Female Acting:

  • Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)

Christine’s role feels like a breakout performance from a newbie who gives this role their all. The fact that it comes from a twice Oscar-nominated star Saoirse Ronan who goes back to her root is even more impressive.

Note: the girls in Angels Wear White and Sylvia Chang in Love Education are both strong contenders.

Best Director:

  • Ildikó Enyedi (On Body and Soul)

While the story department is somewhat lacking, On Body and Soul benefits from the director’s strong vision and smart framing. lose your eyes, think of this movie and there are many memorable moments that come directly to mind.

Note: This is the category that was the closest in term of picking out winners. Sofia Coppola (The Beguiled), Lucrecia Martel (Zama) and Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here) all had a good shots of this. Even less obvious choices like Chloe Zhao (The Rider) and Kamila Andini (The Seen and Unseen) were all good alternatives. My second choice is Chloe Zhao

Main Awards:

Best Debut Feature:

  • I am Not a Witch (Rungano Nyoni)

I am Not a Witch is a bold and confident debut from Zambian/Welsh Rungano Nyoni, whose singular voice makes this film a tragicomedy in a same sense of humor of The Lobster, and that is the best compliment I could muster.

Note: It’s a three-way war between this film, Summer 1993 and Lady Bird. I am Not a Witch edged out because it had the boldest voice and vision.

Best Critic Choice:

  • You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)

Ramsay’s interested in the void in-between each action, on the power of what we can’t see instead of what appeared on screen, on the power of inner scream than the dialogues the characters say. All these make the film, an otherwise B-quality thin plot, a cinematic treat with one of the most vibrant character in years that gets under your skin and refuses to leave there.

Note: Well, it’s the highest rated film so it handily wins this award. It’s science after all!!!

The Golden Moon (Women Cinema Top Prize)

  • Angels Wear White (Vivian Wu)

In lesser hands, Angels Wear White could have been a straight noir-crime about the investigation or a heavy crime procedure, or an overdraught message piece that stab at the corruption and holes in Chinese’s Justice, but for Vivian Qu, her lenses of focus is definite: it’s about these young girls and how they experience after that dreadful sexual assault carried out by none other than their God father, a high-ranking police official.

Note: For the Top Award, in the end it was a fierce battle between Angels Wear White and Lady Bird. While people could argue that Lady Bird is a better film and Angels Wear White is somewhat less restrain in its approach, it’s that very fact – 2017 was an angry year for women in cinema industry. So, congrats to Angels Wear White again for taking a top prize of this 2017 edition. I will see you shortly for the year 2016.

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