Stories of Outcasts, Outsiders & the Exiled
by Alex Garcia Topete
One can measure cultures and define societies by looking at their outcasts and how they host those in exile away from their homes—an outlook which several films of DIFF 2016 bring to the silver screen.
There’s the exile and isolation, both geographical and psychological, explored by A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS, Natalie Portman’s directorial debut set in newly-established Israel, and FIVE NIGHTS IN MAINE, Maris Curran’s narrative anchored on mourning and family conflict.
There is the kind of exile we make ourselves, as is the case in HOW HEAVEY THIS HAMMER, a touching yet infuriating example of our society’s mysterious ability to freeze men in adolescence. Erwin is both conscious of and frustrated by his stunted existence, but is either unwilling or incapable of getting out of his rut. Empathetic but pragmatic, this film portrays a funny, forlorn vision of North American masculinity at a crossroads.
There’s persecution that turns people who belonged into outcasts, as shown in HOOLIGAN SPARROW, Nanfu Wang’s documentary about protesting corruption and the establishment in Southern China and facing the harshest of governmental repressive retaliations.
There’s isolation that happens within the self, as shown in IN VIEW with its remorseful Ruth secluding herself while trying to drown her past demons and drink away her regrets, or as proposed in LIFE, ANIMATED with Owen, whose only connection with the real world come from the fantasies of Disney films, overcoming the yoke of autism.
There can also exist a sense of displacement in one’s own skin, like that of the characters in COMPLETE UNKNOWN, as they try to find themselves and escape from their self-established lives at the same time, making for an intriguing journey of metaphysical and at times comedic proportions.
Then there are films like Garrett Zevgetis’s documentary, BEST AND MOST BEAUTIFUL THINGS, a joyful story of self-discovery that celebrates outcasts everywhere.
There’s the non-stop sense of danger that comes from not belonging to a place, exploited to thriller-levels in RIVER as the protagonist becomes a fugitive on the run (literally) in Laos because of his good intentions in a bad situation, while KILL ZONE 2 provides an action-packed, all-time-high-stakes take on that same sense of impending doom in a strange territory.
Perhaps these movies prove taht feeling like an outcast is not only human, but also the only way that we can gain perspective and figure out our true selves.
DALLAS STAR AWARDOscar-nominated cinematographer Ed Lachman’s selected credits as a cinematographer include the Emmy nominated HBO mini-series Mildred Pierce and films including DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN, THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, and the Academy Award nominated film, CAROL.
DALLAS MAVERICK AWARDOur inaugural honoree, director, editor and producer Monte Hellman, has a career that spans six decades. He has exemplified cutting-edge filmmaking across multiple genres, working with budgets, from high-to-low, and with casts featuring stars to complete unknowns.