It’s all in the Family…10 DIFF Films Flicks Focus on Familiar Politics
by Sam Iannuzzi
Great characters with common goals and a definitive connection often make the most compelling movies. It certainly helps when that connection is family. There are several films at this year’s Dallas International Film Festival where families play a big part in the central character(s) plight. The struggles are vastly different but the family ties that bind them are similar. The differences span a variety of cultural and social economic backgrounds from a single father and his son dealing with the religious tenants of the Hasidic Jewish faith to Scotland and the birth of the sport of kings, to the mean streets of Los Angeles.
Based on the true story of a father-son team who fostered the modern game of golf. Tommy and his father Tom’s relationship is tumultuous yet the pair became known as Scotland’s Golf Royalty. Tom gained renown as the founder of the Open Championships in 1860 only to later share the spotlight with his talented son. The relationship becomes strained over the years as Tommy struggles with lords and ladies of the country’s upper classes. His professional and personal struggles lead to discord in his family. Family is also a storyline behind the camera: Jason Connery, the film’s director, is also an actor from London and the son of legendary actor, Sean Connery.
A QUIET PASSION
Fans of 19th century poet and one of American literature’s most important figures, Emily Dickinson, may be familiar with the genius that she was, but they may know less about the person. Dickinson, a noted recluse, was a virtual unknown most of her life. Director Terrence Davies explores the role Dickinson’s family played in her work. Dickinson’s poetry is integrated throughout. Cynthia Dixon, an Emmy-award winning actress who played Miranda Hobbes on the HBO series Sex and the City, portrays Emily.
GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER?
One of the trifecta of big hits released in 1967 featuring Sidney Poitier – TO SIR WITH LOVE and IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT were the others – this classic, which received 10 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, has Poitier playing an African-American doctor meeting his Caucasian fiancée’s family for the first time. At the time the movie was released, interracial marriage was outlawed in 17 states. Legendary screen partners Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy play the girl’s liberal parents with grace despite an awkward initial reaction.
Performed entirely in Yiddish, this film tells the story of the title character as he struggles to make ends meet, and to prove himself as a man and a father to the New York’s ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish community, his son Rieven, and to himself when his wife Leah suddenly dies. Due to the rules of the religion prohibiting Menashe from raising his son alone, Rieven is adopted by his strict uncle, which only adds to Menashe’s heartbreak. The film follows their plight when the rabbi grants him a week with his son prior to Leah’s memorial.
Follow the journey of three tenacious young women and their quest to go to college. The three ladies also form a step dance team called ‘Lethal Ladies’ that creates the binding element for the three characters. When a mandate is issued in 2009 by the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women to send every student to college despite economic and social barriers, determined but challenged, these three seniors seek help from family, counselors and one tenacious dance teacher.
ELLA BRENNAN: COMMANDING THE TABLE
The story of Ella Brennan is one that takes us back to the roots of the entertaining and fascinating world of the New Orleans restaurant scene. Brennan started her career back in the 1940s and is the matriarch of the family that has dominated the culinary scene in the Bayou City since she opened the famous Commander’s Palace restaurant there. Interviews with Brennan, her family and some of the world’s most renowned chefs help chronicle the journey of this food industry pioneer.
The tumultuous streets of North Philadelphia are the setting for this documentary feature that was filmed over the course of a decade. Despite enormous odds due to the conditions of the country and the neighborhood, Christopher “Quest” Rainey and his wife Christine “Ma Quest” raise their children in a home that is a virtual sanctuary thanks to music, love, resiliency and determination. It’s one family’s triumph despite social injustice and turmoil in a time where the nation is divided.
While set in the early 1990s, this tale of the tense climate between Korean and African Americans in Los Angeles remains relevant today. Tension rises when two Korean American brothers Eli and Daniel, who are diligently trying to keep their father’s shoe store running, befriend a young African American girl. Kamilla’s brothers do not take kindly to their little sister hanging out with those “gooks” amid the escalating racial tensions in Los Angeles following the Rodney King beating. The struggles are multi-racial; the means of survival are complex.
IT’S ONLY THE END OF THE WORLD
Young writer Louis ventures to his hometown and his estranged family to try and help facilitate some peace and harmony to his disjointed family. Due to an environment filled with resentment and verbal attacks, Louis does not have much success. Minus repairing a broken family, he wants to at least accomplish his other goal for the visit: to let his mother, brother and sister know that he is dying.
In the wake of his big brother’s violent death, 13-year-old Dayveon (Devin Blackmon) struggles to find his way in an economically depressed Arkansas town. With no parents and few role models around, Dayveon is soon torn between the lure of a local gang and the friendship of his sister’s boyfriend, who reluctantly acts as a father figure.
DALLAS STAR AWARDBILL PAXTON (POSTHUMOUSLY)
Bill Paxton was an award-winning actor and filmmaker from Texas. In 1992, he landed his first leading role in ONE FALSE MOVE. Paxton went on to star in several hit films including ALIENS (1985), APOLLO 13 (1995), TWISTER (1996) and TITANIC (1997)
L.M. KIT CARSON
DAVID GORDON GREEN
This year’s L.M. Kit Carson Maverick Award Honoree is writer/director David Gordon Green. David Gordon Green’s debut feature, GEORGE WASHINGTON (2000) won the Discovery Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, and his second feature, ALL THE REAL GIRLS (2003) received a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
SHINING STAR AWARDZOEY DEUTCH
This year’s Shining Star Award Honoree is Zoey Deutch. Zoey Deutch is an actress known for VAMPIRE ACADEMY (2014), EVERYBODY WANTS SOME! (2016) and WHY HIM? (2016). Most recently, Zoey Deutch starred in two films selected at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, REBEL IN THE RYE and BEFORE I FALL.