Festival scheduling, as a diehard attendee, can be maddening. Generally four-weeks prior to the start of the festival, an official calendar of events is released. In most cases, you’ve already purchased your festival pass (or received some level of accreditation that grants you access to a special pass) and you begin creating your very own festival experience. You’re eager to read every synopsis for every film playing at the festival, scan through the list of names of celebrities and experts who will be on-hand to talk about their projects or major themes for this year’s event, and develop a carefully considered plan for your time over the upcoming days of the festival.
But there are too many films you want to see, because there’s been so much buzz on the festival circuit and the programmers who done an amazing job of curating from earlier festivals plus landing a slew of new and exciting projects from their submissions pool. And the films (along with their requisite Q&As with filmmakers after the screenings) start to bleed into not only each other, but also the industry workshops and talks.
You can’t see everything. When are we going to finally patent that cloning technology, so that you can enlist your very own private squad of mini-me’s capable of spreading out at events like this?
So, you make a draft of your ideal schedule and you check it twice, then twice more, then a hundred times after that. You double and triple book time slots, hoping that during the festival you’ll talk to someone who saw one of the films you’re struggling to make a decision over and they will give you that extra bit of insight that will tip you one way or the other.
Sometimes though, it comes down to blind luck. I’m a huge believer in the luck of the draw. You’ve got your schedule locked in your phone calendar and you’re standing outside a venue, waiting for the next showtime and you look up, realizing that another film is about to start in a couple of minutes. You could slip in right now, although you’ll miss your 2pm, but…
I lived through that very situation yesterday afternoon. I had walked out of my first screening of the day, answered a couple of emails, taken a quick phone call, and boom, found myself in front of a theater with a movie about to start. Sam de Jong’s narrative feature Goldie had been on the margins of my schedule, a title with promise that hadn’t cracked through with enough force to make me push it into contention. Until that moment.
It’s the story of a young woman (Slick Woods) with high-energy and a sassy confidence that’s outrageously outsized for her talent and place in life. She’s 18 years old, sharing a room with her two younger sisters, her mother, and her mother’s latest boyfriend, stuffed beyond capacity with their belongings. Goldie dreams of fame, which will come from dancing in music videos, but a few days before what she believes will be her big break, her mother gets pinched by the cops and she’s compelled to go on the run with her sisters. Goldie does everything she can to take care of the girls, while still working towards preparing for the video.
Based on my current circumstances, I felt like Goldie. Crazy and daring, willing to improvise in the moment to get closer to achieving my dream of finding that elusive perfect film. There’s a spirited vibe at the outset of the film, an animated sense of color and freedom that’s catchy and winning, before reality sets in. Soon, Goldie’s obviously conflicting goals create roadblocks that this 18 year old can’t sidestep, no matter how hard she tries.
You can’t always get what you want, the film seems to say, but unlike the song by the Rolling Stones, sometimes you also don’t get what you need. Goldie and I were both thwarted, in the end.
I left feeling like it was time to stick with my planned schedule. No more detours, which I did. Ending the day with House of Hummingbird, an international narrative from first-time feature director Bora Kim. The film’s set in 1994, in Seoul, where we walk alongside Eunhee (Jihu Park), an eighth-grader leading an unassuming life, quietly nestled between two very different siblings – a brother who the family is willing to make great sacrifices for so that he can earn a good education and a sister living a far more reckless lifestyle. There is tension in the marriage of her parents that no one speaks of, although everyone plainly sees the widening gulf between them.
Eunhee isn’t a great student, but she’s eager to find any fleeting joy she can, whether in her friendships with other girls, pursuit of a boyfriend, petty shoplifting and karaoke, or the surprising relationship she develops with her cram (Afterschool study) teacher, a slightly older collegiate tutor who hasn’t figured everything out in her own life.
House of Hummingbird moves at a more meditative pace than Goldie, but offers a similar reflection on the experiences of young women in very different settings and time periods. Both Goldie and Eunhee have dreams, and each faces a reality that beats and strangles their hopes.
I wasn’t expecting this connection in these stories or the pull of these two characters, especially not at the start of the day. The Hummingbird experience made me reconsider Goldie and appreciate how watching someone else’s drama unfold, we gain perspective.
By happenstance, I got exactly what I needed from these two films. If only Goldie and Eunhee had been as fortunate. That’s what separate the real, the reel, and festival life.