Movie Reviews: Salt Lake Film Festival

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The Salt Lake City Film Festival celebrates five years Sept. 26–29. Featuring the best in local filmmaking, along with highlights from this festival season’s national and international independent films, the SLCFF has something for every level of film buff. Whether you’re one of our pretentious film critics or just really like movie theater popcorn, make sure you check out the lineup of films showing at the various SLCFF venues over at saltlakecityfilmfestival.org. Here are reviews for some of the SLCFF films showing this year for your consideration.

A World Not Ours
Directed by Mahdi Fleifel
Screening: 09.27, 9:30 p.m. @ Tower Theatre

Ain el-Helweh, a Palestinian refugee encampment in Lebanon, is the subject of this cinematic memoir by Mahdi Fleifel. Each time Fleifel, who has lived in Europe since childhood, returns to his birthplace, he obsessively videos the lives of his relatives. As Palestinians, they cannot legally work in Lebanon, and rely on Fatah and family abroad for financial support. As Fleifel muses on the community he leaves behind over and over again, we get to know the men he compares himself to, the men who have stayed. Fleifel’s uncle, Said, who is haunted by the memory of his martyred brother, seems unreachable to his nephew. The filmmaker has sacrificed a certain familial intimacy for the presence of his camera, which allows us to see some of Said’s strange daily rituals: shampooing pet pigeons and crushing hundreds of tin cans to trade in for pennies. Fleifel’s grandfather, who resisted his now-dead wife’s pleas to leave Lebanon, is also heartbreaking. He dotes on his grandson, but spends most of his time sitting in the street, berating the children playing soccer outside his house and throwing his shoes at cockroaches. The heart of the film is Fleifel’s love for Abu Eyad, his best friend from childhood and a young man facing life without a country, an education or any clear future. By the end of the film, you’ll share Eyad’s frustration and rage. What you’ll barely notice is how brilliantly crafted this essay of home movies really is. Don’t miss it. –Samuel Hanson

Dead Meat Walking: A Zombie Walk Documentary
Directed by Omar J. Pineda
Screening: 09.28, Midnight @ Brewvies

Fans of zombie walks will, no doubt, enjoy this zombie-centric documentary, but Dead Meat Walking gets a little lost, with an overwhelming reliance on interviewees. Now, interviews work perfectly for a documentary format, but DMW is voiced entirely through the subjects of its interviews—with no narration—giving an aimless feeling to the path of the film. That being said, DMW contains an ample amount of footage from zombie walks all over the country, and getting to view the makeup and the costumes and the community involvement is the main reason to see this documentary. Appearances by Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead and Judith O’Dea from Night of the Living Dead are nice, but there’s no doubt that Thea Munster, creator of the first zombie walks, steals the show. Her passion for making these events more entertaining year after year, and the difficulty she goes through in running them and keeping them free, will make you want to put on some makeup and shamble out into the streets. –John Ford

Furever
Directed by Amy Finkel
Screening: 09.27, 7 p.m. @ Tower Theatre

It turns out that warm, fuzzy feeling you get from snuggling with a furry little friend can be scientifically explained, according to some of the interviews in Furever. This documentary covers everything you’d ever need to know about losing a pet, from the reasons why we grieve to the many, many options available to memorialize them. Pet lovers will empathize with the emotional stories told by those who have lost beloved cats and dogs—I even teared up at the thought of my own childhood dog, who passed away a few years ago—but how far is too far when it comes to holding on to those memories? Furever’s story gets more alarming as it progresses, and though it’s incredibly interesting, I couldn’t help feeling that it lost its objective tone halfway in. As I paid closer attention, the “Pet Parent” titles given to each interviewee and the closing remarks telling viewers to withdraw judgment started creeping me out more than the interviews with Salt Lake’s own “pet preservation” services. –Esther Meroño

Love At A Certain Age
Directed by Logan Hendricks
Screening: 09.29, 2:50 p.m. @ Tower Theatre

Following individuals and couples aged 72 to 103, Love At A Certain Age explores what love means to people as they get older. For the married couples, it can mean compromising with each other, putting up with your partner’s annoying habits and being there through hard times and bad health. For the single, widowed or divorced men and women in the film, it means dating—and that means heading to the local senior home and going dancing. Centered on the wonderful and lovable personalities of folks like the feisty, 101-year-old Max Steinberg and yard-sale junkie Gilbert Delgado, Love At A Certain Age will tug at your heart strings and make you fall in love with each of its characters over and over again. On top of being selected in the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, the Newport Beach Film Festival and the Salt Lake City Film Festival, Love At A Certain Age has won Best Documentary in the Fort Myers Film Festival and the Audience Award for Best Editing in the FirstGlance Film Festival. –John Ford

Wiebo’s War
Directed by David York
Screening: 09.28, 4:50 p.m. @ Tower Theatre

I don’t think of myself as someone who is generally charmed by bearded religious patriarchs, but Wiebo Ludwig, the subject of David York’s new documentary, has proved my assumptions wrong. In the late ’80s, Ludwig moved a group more or less comprised of his own extended family to a remote farm to escape worldly life and reconnect with Christ. Only a few years passed before Canada’s nationalized oil and gas company was drilling under his utopia to reach one of the largest reserves of natural gas on the continent. Ludwig and his clan would soon be accused of planting bombs at nearby gas extraction sites, and of involvement in the death of a 16-year-old girl from nearby Tomslake on his property. Though the film ultimately leaves the question of their responsibility unanswered, it doesn’t spare us graphic images of the environmental damage done to Ludwig’s world. A kitchen faucet breathing blue flames, children with swollen eyes, a miscarried goat and stillborn Abel Ludwig—born dead without a skull—are the critical images in this story, and the reasons you should force yourself to see it. –Samuel Hanson