One of the reasons that I love being a librarian is seeing how books and media can connect people, it’s also why I adore being part of fandom. Yet I’ve noticed that some of the random moments of ‘oh look at this’ that happen easily online can be trickier to have happen in person unless you’re in the right sort of situation. In my experience, I’ve been able to find these interactions at conferences where there’s this idea that everyone is there to enjoy or learn and focus on the same general topic whether its science-fiction fantasy, anime or the world of libraries.
Recently though I was reminded of how sometimes all it takes is to be celebrating art in the same space. At the beginning of November I attended which feels like a wonderful small conference just about films. Then the Friday after Thanksgiving, I went to , a beautiful sculpture garden in New Jersey, where it was accepted to point out to a stranger a piece of art they might have missed. I’m going to take this entry to talk about the films I saw at the festival and the wonderful atmosphere of it and share some of the art I saw at Grounds for Sculpture. Art is important and the way it helps people connect with strangers always amazes me.
The genius of the Rehoboth Beach Film Festival is how its set up, as there aren’t many movie theaters in this part of Southern Delaware, the festival is held behind Movies at Midway. Now Movies at Midway is right off Route 1 as part of a long shopping area and has a large parking lot in front and back. They let the festival take over about half the theaters for their use and erect a tent directly behind the theater. This tent is the heart of the festival and a place where tickets can be bought, people will happily sit down with strangers and ask, what did you last see? Then in the movies, before and after, waiting in line and after, everyone shares their thoughts. There’s good food provided by local vendors, the Film Festival sells merchandise including cheap videos and DVDs which also create conversation. Also many people will see a lot of films and have a great deal to say. My family has visitors every time it happens because our friends enjoy it so much. This year, I only saw three feature-length films, but they were all films that I would highly recommend, mainly because I want more people to discuss them with. What I found interesting was that I somehow ended up seeing films focusing on young people and that felt as if they’re part of the same world as a lot of young adult fiction. I also saw a collection of German shorts which is harder to review but I recommend if you find any shorts on Vimeo or YouTube to give them a look.
Key of Life
Key of Life is a strange and wonderful Japanese film that reminded me a lot of an anime or a screwball comedy from the 1930s more than a modern comedy. The premise is fairly simple, two men go to a bathhouse and one of them steals the locker key of the other, when they are knocked unconscious. They end up switching lives and everything gets more and more complicated as both men work to understand exactly who they’re meant to be because nothing is truly as it seems. When I left this film, I was laughing and wanted to share it with everyone I knew. A warning about is that there is a subplot about gangsters so there is some blood but not a lot and the violence is not the focus of the film.
The Rocket is a beautiful and difficult film from Laos about tradition, progress and family. At the heart of the film is a young boy who’s believed cursed and his family who are forced to leave their village due to a new dam. This move sets off a cascade of difficult changes which they struggle against along with the remnants of the past all around them. It’s a painful film with violence, hatred and a great deal of honesty. The Rocket is also a beautiful film amongst the varied landscape of Laos and it shows a country in the midst of change. A warning that in the trailer, there’s nudity and violence but it gives a good sense of the film itself.
Wadjda is a film that has been given a lot of press that it well deserves as it’s the first film by a Saudi Arabian woman director. The story felt to me like a very good young adult novel in terms of the story and structure. Wadjda is a girl of about 12 who lives with her mother and finds lots of ways to be herself though by doing that she ends up getting into trouble. She decides that she wants a bike and begins to save up money for it and the movie shows her struggles and joys as well as all the moments that define being a girl and woman in Saudi Arabia. One of the most interesting comments I heard about it was my father said he felt that the movie kept repeating how women are squelched in Saudi Arabia. My mother and I disagreed since to us it didn’t feel like that was being presented that way but instead the director was showing how life is for women.
Another reason I found all of these films fascinating was the glimpses into growing up, families in places that I don’t know. The discussions all of them created were wonderful and I hope to have more about them in time.
At Grounds for Sculpture, a park that sits near the Hamilton train station in Hamilton, New Jersey which was once the fairgrounds for the New Jersey State Fair, other sorts of conversations were created. The park itself isn’t huge but its big enough that if you begin to walk, you can get lost in small paths and find yourself confronted with art. The day we went, I was in the mood to be on my own and so started to go about on my own, but as I walked as I found sculptures, I also found other people. When I saw a person walk by a sculpture that they’d passed, I told them about it. To be able to create a place where not only are you surrounded by art but others and feel comfortable speaking about the art to me is an amazing place. One thing that Grounds for Sculpture has done brilliantly is they’ve created places enclosed by walls or trees that invite you to peek in and feel as if you’re the only one there. To end I’m going to share a picture of one of these places where I felt I’d found another world, which is what art is meant to do.
A grove of statues.