Every year, the Global Peace Film Festival appears almost Brigadoon-like on the Orlando event calendar, presenting a loosely themed schedule of humanistic flicks to attendees who can't be certain what to expect. Yet in some ways, the hazy focus of the GPFF is its very strength. Where else can you see a documentary about an interfaith retreat at Auschwitz and a drama based in the reality of a Leesburg Baptist women's shelter, all under the umbrella of cinema that promotes "hope and inspiration"? Even one reach into the festival's third annual grab bag reveals that the content and power of its message can vary wildly from show to show. To paraphrase Robin Williams, if you think you know exactly what this event is about, then you probably weren't there.
"We are destroyed people infected with idealism," explains one of the members of the nonviolent cultural movement AfroReggae in the masterful documentary Favela Rising. "Favela" is the Brazilian word for slum, and filmmakers Jeff Zimbalist and Matt Mochary drop us into the entrenched underworld of poverty and drug trafficking that lies in the hills outside Rio de Janeiro, an area the government has forgotten. We are introduced to Anderson Sa, a native of one of the most violent favelas; his story, like thousands of others, starts in a neighborhood ruled by drug lords and corrupt policemen. Young men are indoctrinated before adolescence into a brutally violent life and don't live far beyond that.
The senseless murder of Sa's younger brother sparked a new way of life for Sa, one inspired and guided by the avenging god Shiva. A true visionary, Sa rose phoenix-like from the ashes, using hip-hop music and the native rhythms of the street to bring a message of hope and peace to his people. His accomplishments, and those of his apostles in Grupo AfroReggae, are extraordinary by any measure, but Sa's mortality is confirmed when he suffers a tragic surfing accident.
The filmmakers allow Sa's story to flow as gracefully as a river, the viewer becoming as caught up in the powerful movement of the film as Sa's followers are enchanted by his musical teachings, which espouse education and honest work as weapons against poverty and drugs. Inspiration runs deep in Favela Rising; watching it is a life-changing experience, exposing us to the ongoing misery in another nation and the realization that one person can make a divine difference in the lives of countless others.
Lindy T. Shepherd
After the Apocalypse
If you remember that classic Twilight Zone episode in which a mute Agnes Moorhead fought off a horde of tiny aliens, you're among those best equipped to weather After the Apocalypse, filmmaker Yasuaki Nakajima's 72-minute, black-and-white, no-budget, dialogue-free portrait of five individuals trying to stay alive in the aftermath of an unspecified conflagration. Filmed in the mildly post-cataclysmic New York boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, the movie shows four males of various dispositions attempting to make use of the planet's dwindling resources which basically means vying to control the reproductive organs of the one woman (Jacqueline Bowman) they can find. It's a multiracial contest between conflict and cooperation, and many viewers will likely award the edge to the borderline-barbaric white dude whose coat appears to be made of insulation material (yet who has nonetheless managed to maintain a splendidly coiffed mullet).
Experimental in the Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland sense, the film looks to have been put together on a weekend and a whim, carried along by silent-movie acting that conveys the thinnest of narratives. A few eerie sound effects (of the breathing that reverberates inside a gas mask, for instance) enhance the unyielding minimalism. Otherwise, a late-arriving outbreak of cannibalism that's painted with the same cavalier brush as most of the other story developments sums up the overall malaise of this aimless cautionary tale.
Wednesday, Dec. 7:
7 p.m. Innocent Voices (Universal Cineplex)
Thursday, Dec. 8:
10 a.m. "How Films/Media Help Protect the Environment" panel (Orlando Science Center)
4:30 p.m. Shorts program (Universal)
5:30 p.m. "Making Films That Make a Difference" panel (DMAC)
7 p.m. The Touch (Universal)
7:30 p.m. Raising the Ashes (DMAC)
9:30 p.m. Balloonhat (Universal)
9:30 p.m. Visioning Tibet (DMAC)
Friday, December 9:
Noon Kilowatt Ours, Global Warning (OSC)
4:30 p.m. The Colt (Universal)
5:30 p.m. "Financing and Distribution" panel (DMAC)
6:30 p.m. Trudell (Universal)
7:30 p.m. Mission Movie (DMAC)
8:30 p.m. Favela Rising (Universal)
9:30 p.m. One (DMAC)
10:30 p.m. After the Apocalypse (Universal)
Saturday, Dec. 10:
Noon The Touch (Universal)
Noon Cosmic Africa (OSC)
1:30 p.m. Shorts program (DMAC)
2 p.m. Jones High School (Universal)
3:30 p.m. The Peace Patriots (DMAC)
4:30 p.m. Young filmmakers' short films (Universal)
5:30 p.m. Devaki (DMAC)
6:30 p.m. The Touch (Universal)
7:30 p.m. Human Rights Day shorts (DMAC)
8:30 p.m. The Big Question (Universal)
9:30 p.m. After the Apocalypse (DMAC)
10:30 p.m. Sci-fi shorts (Universal)
Sunday, Dec. 11:
1:30 p.m. The Peace Patriots (DMAC)
2 p.m. Almost a Woman (Universal)
3:30 p.m. The Road to Sulha (DMAC)
4 p.m. Devaki (Universal)
4:30 p.m. Water Planet and The River Runs North (OSC)
5:30 p.m. Balloonhat (DMAC)
6 p.m. Stranger in my Homeland (Universal)
7:30 p.m. Favela Rising (DMAC)
8 p.m. Head Trip (Universal)
9:30 p.m. "Peace Film Slam" (DMAC)
(Tickets: Universal $5.75-$8; DMAC $5.50-$7.50; Science Center $8 or free with admission. Festival passes $75-$500; 407-224-6625; www.peacefilmfest.org)firstname.lastname@example.org
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