I feel like a slacker for only seeing two films today, though I actually saw a bit more. I went out to the Modern to see Dancing Across Borders, Anne Bass' documentary about a boy she met in 2000 while traveling to Angkor Wat. His name is Sokvannara Sar, though his nickname is "Sy" (pronounced "see"). Bass saw him perform in a Cambodian dance troupe and was sufficiently struck by his grace that she encouraged him to study classical ballet in America, even though at 16 he was supposedly too old. Now he's a professional ballet dancer, and finding one of those in Cambodia is apparently like finding a great NASCAR driver in Ethiopia. Once you get past this intriguing setup, the film doesn't have a whole lot of drama. Sy just makes the same adjustments to a strange land that so many other immigrants make. It does have a lot of well-edited dance footage (it's the first filmmaking effort by Bass, who's better known as a Manhattan socialite and ballet patron), and Sy himself is an engaging subject with a charming sense of humor. He has a great natural stage presence as a dancer, too. The auditorium at the Modern was pretty full. I just wish I had seen this with the Weekly's Leonard Eureka, who knows much more about ballet than I do and could give a much more in-depth assessment of Sy's talents.
I got back to the AMC Palace just in time to catch the end of Andrew Disney's presentation of short films, which concluded with a terrifically funny short film by the comedy team calling themselves BriTANicK about a guy who has his friends play an absurdly convoluted practical joke just so he can dump his girlfriend. (I didn't get the title of the short, unfortunately.) The screening room was packed and Disney was leading the cheers for developing a film industry in Fort Worth. He knows how to galvanize a room, too. Who knows? Maybe he can make it happen. The atmosphere in that theater was easily the best I've experienced at this year's festival so far.
My day ended with Breaking Upwards, a romantic comedy by Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones. The two actors not only starred in the film but also co-wrote the script, while Lister-Jones provided lyrics to most of the songs on the soundtrack and Wein directed. If this sounds like a vanity project, well, it plays like one, too. (Wein previously directed a documentary called Sex Positive, which played in Fort Worth as part of last year's Q Cinema festival.) The main characters, who are named Daryl and Zoe, are a disintegrating couple who try to ease into their breakup by "taking days off" from each other. Not surprisingly, it doesn't go as planned. Also not surprisingly, these characters are incredibly self-absorbed who engage in all sorts of unfunny banter. There was one scene I missed because the DVD kept freezing at the same point, forcing the projectionist to go back several times before eventually deciding to skip over it. It didn't impact my nonenjoyment of the film. Juno's Olivia Thirlby turns up as a girl who meets Daryl at a party. She couldn't make this any less of a dud. Hope the movies I see tomorrow turn out better. -- Kristian Lin