Last film of the festival and one of the more interesting. It is a documentary about a group of Palestinians who have a Beach Boys urge to surf but who have no access to boards, teachers or a safe beach. The Israeli occupiers will not allow surf boards to be imported because they fear they will be used to smuggle in weapons from the sea to terrorists on shore. Boats for fishing are allowed because they can be tracked on radar but surf boards are invisible being so small and low to the water. The Surfers must therefore make their own but the club members do not have the knowledge or skills they need to make good quality boards. While on the surface this movie is about a small band of friends who wish to bring surfing to the Palestinian youth stuck on the Gaza Strip, it is really a window on a small oppressed population who endure the constant threat of war and yet try to hold on to their traditions and a reasonable life in an isolated, war torn part of the world. We gain insight into the place of women in that society and a traditional way of life that conflicts with the freedom of the surfing culture they dream of in far off Hawaii. One of the members of this small Surf Club escapes to Hawaii to learn new skills and how to build and repair surf boards. He however decides returning to Gaza is not for him and remains in the US at least at the time the movie was completed. This is not the best documentary ever made but it is nonetheless a unique view into a part of the world most of us never see. Worth the price of admission should you get the chance.
This is a documentary about the Rolling Stones recent concert tour to Latin America that ends with their historic first ever concert in Havana Cuba. The film follows the band around from Rio, to Montevideo to Peru and finally to Havana. In course of the journey we see the band members interacting including a great back stage performance of Honky Tonk Women with Keith Richards on acoustic guitar and Mick singing just the two of them. Keith and Mick are the leaders and they have the most screen time between them. The concerts are loud and entertaining the fans scream throughout often drowning out the music. The director clearly has a great relationship with the band and you get some wonderful moments with them all. The movie progresses but the Havana concert is the ongoing story as preparations are made. The date of the concert has to be moved eventually because it conflicts with President Obama’s visit to Cuba, the first of a US President in 80 years. The concert is moved 5 days ahead and is now scheduled on Good Friday. Not a huge issue in a communist country but the Pope gets involved and the whole thing is nearly cancelled. Thankfully the Cuban government intervenes and the concert goes as scheduled. The final scenes of the concert are an absolutely great performance of I Can’t Get No, Satisfaction. It is loud, it is great, the crowd is screaming, Mick is screaming and you just get totally absorbed into one of the archetypal rock songs of the 60’s. Great stuff. You have to remember these guys are all in their 70’s and the energy they exude would make any 20 year old jealous. Mick is stunning as he races around the stage, dancing and singing. The only member who acts his age at all is Charlie Watts and he is still a classic rock band drummer. So much fun.
The only martial arts film of the festival this year. The film a really fun, very typical martial arts film about a match between Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man in the early 60’s. Lee had come to San Francisco to bring the ancient Chinese art of Kung Fu to North America much to the resistance of the traditional Chinese. The story is that Kung Fu Master Wong Jack Man was sent to shut him down. That is the legend. The movie however takes a somewhat different tack and is just based on this historic and mythic match but has a more complex story of a blossoming friendship between the two as they fight evil Chinese criminal gangs in San Francisco. It was totally fun and while martial arts purists are critical of the film they just really lack any sense of fun. If you like martial arts and like the films you will really enjoy this movie. For those of you who are purists I suggest you avoid it or be prepared to suspend disbelief and just relax. Totally fun, totally without redeeming social importance and some great fight scenes. Which is what its all about anyway. Right!? Yeah!