On The Waterfront: Joshua Looks At Day One Of The Waterfront Film Festival 2012

Well, it’s here. Of all the film festivals the world has to offer, and of the few different ones that I’ve actually had the fortune to attend, I have yet to meet a festival quite like the Waterfront Film Festival.

The what, you may be asking? The Waterfront Film Festival, now in its 14th year of existence, is slowly becoming a Midwest staple in the indie film scene, and is a completely volunteer run, non-profit, non-competitive festival, looking to prop up the very best in truly independent cinema. Held in Saugatuck, Michigan, this writer has a personal connection to the festival, as it’s my hometown, but even in spite of that, just as a film fan, I look forward to this time of the year. A relaxed atmosphere hoping to bring film and filmmakers to the public, the festival runs for three days, and hopefully these digests will be at all informative.

The first film I had the pleasure of seeing was the Mark Potts and Cole Selix written-and-directed piece, Cinema Six. Starring the likes of John Merriman, Mark Potts and Brand Rackley, the film was an odd beast to start with. A well made independent feature, very much (and even admitted by the filmmakers) a riff on films like Office Space and Slacker, the film features a breakout performance from Potts, playing the shy and aggressively introverted Gabe, his fellow cast mates always seem to get themselves caught up in histrionic performances. Seemingly giving line readings instead of felt out performances, the film has a field day with off color language, so much so that it makes the entire feature, aesthetically, come off as very over the top and melodramatic in a way.  That all said, the film is well made, and there are hints of something really interesting below the surface. Be it a couple afraid of getting to close, so much so that they are physically and emotionally abusive to one another, or a family on the brink with a second child on the way, the film attempts to muse on deeply mature themes (and in these moments the film truly thrives), but instead settles for cliché ridden plotting and melodrama.  Definitely one to hunt down if you can find it, as it has the hints of something really special, but it just doesn’t seem to go over that final hump to that point, instead opting for a truly odd little film.

Next was Clay Liford’s Wuss, a film I really fell for, and have a full review for HERE. So enough musing on that.

Finishing off the evening I had the chance to see a film entitled Bucksville, from director Chel White. Following the story of a man trying to break out from a life stuck in the middle of a  militia, I may have yet to see a more tonally scatter-brained film all year. Featuring a handful of fine performances, the film features a turn from Tom Berenger, and the film completely shifts once he appears on-screen. For the first half of the film, the piece plays as a backwoods Michael Haneke film. Ambient, meditative, and visually sparse but stunning, the opening hour is an absolute wonder. However, following the appearance of the Berenger, the film turns on a dime, and goes from nearly silent meditation on violence and human relationship with it, and becomes something of a proto-escape film. Featuring an overbearing score, the film completely shifts its tone and even style, becoming blunt in its themes, emotionally empty and cliche ridden plot wise, taking away from what could very well be one of the most tense hour-long spans of film I’ve seen in a very long while. Save for a brilliantly crafted chase sequence (itself ending with a complete thud), the film’s conclusion is anti-climactic, and won’t leave you thinking about much on your way out.

Overall, it was a fine opening day cinematically, but a wonderful start to what will likely be a top-notch festival. We’ve got musicals coming up, an always great documentary slate, and even a few CriterionCast favorites (Green and Dorfman) on their way, so come back tomorrow for my thoughts on Day Two of this year’s Waterfront Film Festival.