Once again, the Twin Rivers Media Festival is upon us. And once again, festival director Carlos Steward (the man behind World Cinema) has managed to line up an impressive array of films for the event, which runs from Friday, May 28, through Sunday, May 30, at the Courtyard Gallery, 9 Walnut St., in downtown Asheville.
I was able to view the top two of the features being shown, both from the UK: The Lark and Rock and Roll Stole My Soul. The Lark is a very dark, very creepy and ultimately very disturbing film that deals with a strange woman who is hiding in a decaying building with her two children. Exactly what they are hiding from is rather vague, but it seems to be apocalyptic in nature and the outside world is referred to as contaminated. The building is far from ordinary and is as much a character as any of the humans in the film. It seems to exist in some realm of perpetual darkness with something like portals that reveal strange and quite unsettling images.
The film’s plot — to the degree it has one, since the aim of the film is to disorient the viewer (and it’s good at that) — concerns what happens when two outsiders arrive. They appear benign at first, but slowly seem less and less so. But then the question arises as to how much of anything that we’re shown can be trusted to have any but the most tenuous connection to reality. The film provides a kind of answer, but this does nothing to dispel the heavy atmosphere.
The Lark — which clocks in at a reasonable 70 minutes — was shot in a scant 18 days in Cornwall, and is unusual in that it boasts no less than three directors. The results may frustrate you. They may alienate you. I think it is very unlikely, however, that the film will leave you feeling indifferent. I’m not sure I liked it. I’m not sure one can like it. But I do know that it made an impression on me.
I was pleasantly surprised by Adam Simcox’s Rock and Roll Stole My Soul, which qualifies as something of a mockumentary. But then, generally speaking, it’s my belief that the mockumentary is a hideous form of filmmaking that ought to be shut away and made taboo for at least several centuries. I think heavy fines — and possibly even sentences involving hard labor — should be handed out to anyone who makes one of these things and palms it off as filmmaking. But Simcox doesn’t use the form to slap a bunch of bad camerawork, crappy dialogue and stupid comedy together and call it a film. He actually makes something of note out of his “documentary” about the “greatest rock band you never heard of.”
I wasn’t as surprised after I looked up Simcox, whose name sounded familiar, and discovered that he’d previously made The Superhero — one of the 2007 winners of the Twin Rivers Media Festival. Simcox is a savvy filmmaker, who I’m a bit surprised hasn’t attracted the attention of the mainstream. Perhaps his work is just a little too peculiar for that, but he has what it takes — and goodness knows I’d rather see either of his films than a lot of what Hollywood dishes out these days.
The festival’s winning film will be shown on Friday at 8:30 p.m. That evening kicks off with a showing of Chris Bower’s Solatrium, which I still haven’t managed to see, but about which I keep hearing good things.
The feature films will be screened Friday at 8:30 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m. The short films will be shown from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Experimental films will run 1 to 2 p.m. and animation will be from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, as well. Documentaries and outdoor films will be shown Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. For more information and the complete festival schedule, visit www.twinriversmediafestival.com.