Three Films To Drive For!
With all of the options these days it’s good to know that we can still enjoy movies on the big screen. And this month the 14th Annual Mendocino Film Festival invites all of us to enjoy any or all of the 42 films to be screened over the festival’s three days: May 30-June 2. There is an abundance of choice as the list of films includes 13 films fresh from Sundance, three films from SXSW, two California premieres, and an array of award-winning independent and international films. And you get to see them all right here in Mendocino County.
We went through the list of films and must tell you that we couldn’t find one film we absolutely loved. We found three. (Actually there were more than three but we didn’t have space to write about all 42 films.) The three filmmakers have given us everything we want in a film. Visuals, music, emotion, history, and above all, a good feeling when we walked out of the theater. Our choices are The Biggest Little Farm, Gay Chorus Deep South, and Holly Near: Singing For Our Lives.
Three years ago we were charmed by the film The Organic Life. This year we were drawn to The Biggest Little Farm, a film that follows two dreamers and a dog on an odyssey to bring harmony to both their lives and the land. John and Molly Chester make a choice that takes them out of the city and onto 200 acres in the foothills of Ventura County, naively endeavoring to build one of the most diverse farms of its kind in coexistence with nature. This was not a piece of land where you just drop seeds and they’ll automatically grow. The land the Chesters chose turned out to be utterly depleted of nutrients and suffering from a brutal drought.
The film chronicles eight years of daunting work and outsize idealism as they attempt to create the utopia they seek, planting 10,000 orchard trees and over 200 different crops, bringing in animals of all kinds– including an unforgettable pig named Emma and her best friend, Greasy the rooster. Both they’re dreams and their understanding of farming evolves. And happily we get to go along for the ride. The Biggest Little Farm screens in the festival tent Saturday, June 1, 10:00am. Admission is $12.
In our current tempestuous political times it’s with open arms we welcome a film like Gay Chorus Deep South. The film displays courage, emotion, music, and love; and there’s also acceptance—at least for some—that gives hope to the idea of an inclusive society. In response to a wave of discriminatory anti-LGBTQ laws in Southern states and the divisive 2016 election, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus embarked on a tour of the American Deep South. Led by Gay Chorus Conductor Dr. Tim Seelig and joined by The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir; the tour brought a message of music, love and acceptance, to communities and individuals confronting intolerance. Over 300 singers travelled from Mississippi to Tennessee through the Carolinas and over the bridge in Selma. They performed in churches, community centers and concert halls in hopes of uniting us in a time of polarization. We don’t reach utopia as the film ends, but it does give us hope. Gay Chorus Deep South screens in the festival tent Saturday, June 1, 12:30pm. Admission is $12
The final film in our favorites is Singing For Our Lives, using the immense charismatic personality and talent of Holly Near. The Singer, songwriter, and social activist has been performing for well over 50 years and in the process has created a unique soundtrack for the feminist peace and justice community. From her roots in Ukiah, California to sold-out shows on some of the most iconic stages to million-person peace marches, Singing for Our Lives documents the story of the activist and her art. It also serves as an important testament to a time—a time of protest and coalition building, and the weaving of a multicultural consciousness always rooted in contemporary activism. Featuring Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, the late Ronnie Gilbert, and the late Tom Hayden with appearances by Pete Seeger, and others, this film, directed by Jim Brown elevates Near to her deserved status of iconic artist and activist, and speaks to anyone who believes in peace, justice, feminism, and humanity. Singing For Our Lives screens in the festival tent Saturday, June 1, 5:30pm. Admission is $12.
As we indicated at the outset, these are “three films to drive for”. And happily for you, they are all showing on Saturday, June 1. (And there’s time for a late lunch as well.)
One more thing. I remember something I read years ago—a quote from humorist Evan Esar that applies to many of the people in these three films, and with luck it's something for each of us.