Mammoth Lakes Film Festival: Intimate and Exciting

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The Mammoth Lakes Film Festival is entering its sophomore year with a wonderful, eclectic selection of films and intimacy as refreshing as the crisp Mammoth Mountain air. We’ve been enjoying views of the recently snow-dusted peaks (yes, in May) along with three film offerings on the fest’s first full day.

 

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First up: Shorts Block One featured 5 cutting edge short subjects. Above and below the female duo behind The Emily & Ariel Show,  a fast moving, witty combination of stop-motion puppetry and live action depicting a night between 20-something friends.  Visually arresting.

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Below, fest programmer and Slamdance alum Paul Sbrizzi asks questions in Q &A’s refreshingly run right after each short with attending filmmakers.  No more mass questions at the end of the program – these immediate sessions provided a lot of insight into the making of the films.

 

 

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Below, director Adrian Geyer discusses Tisure,  my favorite of the shorts viewed so far, an incredibly poetic take on a relationship, set in a vast, natural setting in the hills of Venezuela. The remote location, which Geyer said took 8 days on horseback to reach, was discovered while he was researching a feature-length documentary. This beautiful short serves as both a fictional imagining of the early life of his documentary subject, and a completely immersive, experiential rumination on the fragile construct of human life and the awesome and fearsome timelessness of nature. Don’t miss.

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The filmmaker shot on 5D, but the look is that of classic widescreen film.

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Below, Got a Girl director Isaac Blade.  A witty study of relationships, this short played before a feature presentation later in the evening. Blade spoke on the collaborative process behind his project, and the strong use of music in a lively and truly fun film.  Blade, who fine tuned this perfectly crafted love story for nearly a year,  is already at work on his first feature project.

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And now the features:

Atlan is a simply terrific Iranian documentary that takes on a “man and his horse” story that stuns with its visual images and moves with its presentation of a Turkman horse trainer and his beloved but intensely stubborn horse, Ilhan. The title refers to a phrase its protagonist learned as a small child just beginning to speak “Mount a horse and depart.” Another must-see.

Mad is a narrative first feature by director/writer Robert G Putka, who while he was unable to join the audience in person, nonetheless participated in  a post-screening Q & A via iPhone. This family dramedy features wonderful performances by two estranged daughters and their just-past-a-nervous-breakdown, bi-polar mother. The “fun” is definitely in dysfunctional here,  as are plenty of poignant moments.

The fest also hosted a happy hour at the official accommodation of this 5 day event, Sierra Nevada Resort and Spa. It was a truly enjoyable beer, wine, and hors d’oeuvres gathering that allowed attending filmmakers, attendees, and press to mingle and discuss their work. The resort, by the way, is gorgeous.

So far, the fest has lived up to its founder, Shira Dubrovner’s wishes that the programming be thought-provoking and the atmosphere unpretentious. We look forward to tomorrow’s films – and if you have free time this Memorial Weekend,  consider a drive to the mountains.

 

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  • Genie Davis; All Photos: Jack Burke

 

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