When Disko (Emilio De Marchi), the big-boned and light-footed loan shark of the hustling and bustling neighborhood of Ottakring in Vienna dies unexpectedly, he leaves behind a vacuum of power with his debtors at the mercy of the other neighborhood thug and loan shark, Frau Jahn (Susi Stach). Disko leaves a dense and cryptic will in the form of a little black book to Sammy (Michael Steinocher), a small time crook with a nonchalant exterior and a princely heart.
As luck would have it, this all unfolds at the same time that Valerie (Cornelia Gröschel), a graduate student in economics decides to go to Ottakring to research just this kind of economic system. At first Sammy and Valerie are like olive oil and balsamic vinegar; a good combination if you can keep them well blended. The romantic comedy is pretty entertaining; predictable—as this genre tends to be—but well done in spite of some plot gaps. In addition, director Michael Riebel plays with the concept of complementary currencies, like that currently in use in the U.K. and known as the Bristol Pound. The motley crew of secondary characters add to the economic and comedic resilience of Planet Ottakring.
Planet Ottakring shows on Dec. 3 at 3:15 p.m. and Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the Alaska Experience Theater (333 W. 4th Ave.).
In the 1930s, Sinclaire Lewis wrote It Can’t Happen Here, a satirical novel that imagines a presidential election in the U.S. in which an unqualified, egotistical, and tyrannical candidate is able to rile up the masses by making false promises to return to traditional values, improve the economy, etc. Once the masses blindly elect this rotten orange, he pulls a switcheroo. Instead of restoring the country to patriotic greatness, he sets up a totalitarian state, not unlike that of the Third Reich—but that’s just fiction after all.
NANA is a compelling documentary about the life of Maryla Michalowski-Dyamant—a Polish Jew who not only survived Auschwitz but lived a long life after the camp—dedicated to making new generations aware of the extremes human beings are capable going to under despotic regimes. The documentary was a labor of love from Serena Dykman, Michalowski-Dyamant’s granddaughter and a personal narrative spanning three generations. Most importantly, the film features an abundant amount of direct interviews of Michalowski-Dyamant conducted over decades by multiple people and media outlets.
This content is rich, captivating and speaks volumes to the political situation then and now. Michalowski-Dyamant was more than a survivor, she was one of the few beacons of light remaining after the Holocaust. Her story transcends because she is brilliant and compassionate and can’t help but make connections between suffering, history and hope.
In her own words, Michalowski-Dyamant describes to the world how such atrocities unfolded as Jews were demonized, their existence labeled illegal and exterminated. Her truth is beyond powerful, it reaches into—and opens—the hearts of viewers and she gives them courage to think honestly about whatever situation they are living. She reminds viewers that just like these atrocities happened in Germany, they can happen anywhere if people let them.
As the film unfolds, the young director uses cinematic devices in combination with multiple voices—including her mother’s and her own—to relive Michalowski-Dyamant’s experience. As the film’s contributors read from Michalowski-Dyamant’s memoir they help fill in gaps.
At two hours, the documentary feels about 10 minutes too long, but its message is so important that everyone should see the film. Although the content is heavy, it is laden with moments of hope and joy. Michalowski-Dyamant is funny and her sense of humor runs deep; for this reason alone, viewers should stick around until the end of the credits in order to catch some real gems in the form of outtakes.
NANA shows on Dec. 4 at 2 p.m. at the Anchorage Museum (625 C St.).
“Demimonde” is from the French meaning, “half-world.” In the 19th century, this term was used to refer to people who were on the fringes of the upper classes or respectable society. In the film, also titled Demimonde (Félvilág, original Hungarian title), Mágnás Ekza (Patricia Kovács) plays a prominent prostitute who comes close to the edge of the respectable class but is unable to make the leap into respectability, even with money to burn. The film, written by Norbert Köbli and directed by Attila Szász, has the potential to delve into themes of class, aging, desire and power but tends to fall short on most fronts. Elza’s social infrastructure is comprised of her housekeeper, Rózsi (Dorka Gryllus), and a new young maid, Kató (Laura Döbrösi), along with a handful of admirers and lovers. As the film progresses, it depicts Budapest in the early 1900s—the fashions, streets, social spheres of decadence with religious dogma and misguided piousness nipping at the heels: It’s inviting. The cinematography and sets are quite fetching and the acting is solid on all fronts. Unfortunately, the plot is stale and predictable, even if there are threads of interesting concepts running in parallel such as Elza’s struggle to accept her aging and what this means to her livelihood, or the ideas inspired by conversations about Joan of Arc and then a direct visual connection with Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 The Passion of Joan of Arc in the closing scenes. These two threads are riveting but not fully-explored; the unfortunate path the filmmakers decide to take is antiquated and lesbo-phobic, as though they couldn’t imagine a more thought-provoking and complex resolution to the plot.
Demimonde shows on Dec. 3 at 8:15 p.m. at Bear Tooth (1230 W. 27th Ave.).
Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show
Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show is even better than it sounds! Director Carrie Preston works with performance artist Kate Rigg and composer Lyris Hung to bring to the screen performance, music, video and sketch comedy that tackles the funny, complicated, cultural confusion regarding stereotypes of Asian-Americans and Asians in America. Rigg and Hung are a performance match made in heaven. Their work is on point, sharp and critical of people outside the culture and within it alike and for different reasons. Although they tackle sensitive subjects, their performances are not heavy-handed or unfair. It’s refreshing to see conversations sung, shouted and played out in ways that result in sheer delight. Rigg’s ability to improvise and deliver is noteworthy.
The sketch comedy in Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show would make SNL jealous. The film is shot on location in New York where the feel and grittiness at the heart of the city shatters biases through the sheer persistence of diversity in a way that only New York can. The performers create a safe—but critical—space for all viewers to learn, grow and pee in their pants a little.
Hello Kitty, nail salons, Chinatown bargain shopping, Pokémon and bowl cuts? Bring’em. Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show is definitely one of the highlights of the film festival.
Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show shows on Dec. 3 at 1:30 p.m. at the Alaska Experience Theater (333 W. 4th Ave.) and on Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. at 49th State Brewing Company (717 W. 3rd Ave.).