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2017 SXSW Capsule Reviews – Porn, Sleep and Croatian Coen Brothers

By Seth Freilich | Film | March 31, 2017 | Comments ()

By Seth Freilich | Film | March 31, 2017 |


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You into documentaries and foreign films? Then you’ve come to the right capsule summary hot spot! Let’s get to it…

Pornacracy
Until I sat down to watch the documentary Pornacracy, I hadn’t really thought about that fact that most of us don’t really know anything about them model of the modern day porn industry. The porn industry of the 20th Century is an easy model to understand. Productions companies made videos that were available for rent in a section of the video store behind a curtain, or in those creepy stores with papered-up windows. Old school commercialism. These days, of course, it’s all online and with so much of it seemingly free, what’s the model? Turns out, that is an incredibly complicated and complex question, which director Ovidie tries to unravel with Pornacracy. She actually tries to cover a number of aspects of the modern porn industry in her 90 minute documentary: the (mis)treatment of women stars (especially in Europe), the rise of live cam girls, the rampant piracy running through many of these websites, and the money. The documentary is ambitious and while it is not great, it is a fascinating dive down the rabbit whole of a literal world wide web of online pornography.

Unrest
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is an illness that most of us have never heard of and, if we have, it’s largely followed by a punchline about sufferers being lazy or the like. And there may be some folks making it up or claiming to have something they don’t, but Unrest shows that the illness is real, and terrible. With a million patients in the US, and over 17 million globally, folks are on a spectrum when it comes to symptoms. Some function relatively regularly, while others are house- and bed-ridden, living in a virtual prison of their body. Director Jennifer Brea, a Harvard PhD who suffers from CFS since a viral infection, documents her own struggle, including her very raw discussions of suicide thoughts and the monumental effort it takes to maintain a marriage and any semblance of a life. She also documents the stories of others, including the heartbreaking stories of an English girl who has been bed-ridden since 14 (“I’ve grown four inches since being bed-ridden, I’ve never actually stood at this height”) and a girl in Denmark who is literally kidnapped from her home by doctors for 3 years because they believe CFS to be a psychological illness exacerbated by one’s family. Unrest covers not just the impact of this illness on its sufferers and their loved ones, but also its potential causes and origins, and attempts to cure it. While the doc is rough around the edges in terms of editing and its technical aspects, its breadth of discussion and insight more than make it worth the time to learn about something that one day may be accepted as a disease rather than a punchline much like MS before it.

Goran
Goran is one of those films that’s good to go into not knowing very much. Set in the beautiful hinterlands of Croatia, Goran is about the titular Goran (who looks like the love child of John Hawkes and Jason Isaacs) and his wife’s family. Mostly set at a family dinner and a subsequent trip to a remote cabin, the film goes back and forth feeling like a Coen brothers film and an indie family drama, until fully committing to the Coen brothers vibe with a third act that is dark, twisted and well-earned. The shame of Goran is that I don’t know if it will ever be available for public consumption and, even then, a subtitled indie film from Croatia isn’t going to get a lot eyes. But if you can, you should give it yours. Go for the male nudity, stay for the male nudity and violence!

All three of these films screened at the film portion of the 2017 South by Southwest Conference.


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