DIFF Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Outcasts, Misfits and People Who Don’t Belong
by Alex Garcia Topete
Starting with the opening film of the Festival, the Dallas-set BONNIE & CLYDE, and followed by its peer 1967 prison-themed classic COOL HAND LUKE, the tone and unofficial theme of this year’s DIFF becomes apparent: outcasts and misfits… And it makes sense to highlight such a theme, for everyone has at some point felt like they don’t belong.
Sometimes one doesn’t belong to a place, like Adrien and Anna in Francois Ozon’s FRANTZ. Set in post-World War I Europe, French Adrien finds himself out of place in Germany when visiting the grave of his German friend Frantz, while Anna finds herself the stranger when she travels to France looking for Adrien. Their story reminds audiences of the powerful bond that land and culture can inflict on a person, making one feel at home, displaced, or simply in limbo.
Other times, one doesn’t belong to the spirit of the times in which one lives. Such is the case in Terence Davies’s A QUIET PASSION, on the life of outstanding poet Emily Dickinson. Oppressed by family expectations and societal norms of her period, Dickinson took refuge in her writing, getting her sense of belonging from filling the blank page—a sentiment deftly emoted by Cynthia Nixon’s embodiment of Dickinson.
One may even feel like not belonging to reality itself, instead preferring imagination. That’s what children often do, and it’s the main plot-line of Micah Barber’s INTO THE WHO KNOWS! Split between fantasy and the real world, 10-year-old Thomas and Felix the Fox embark on an epic adventure in an attempt to find both “The Totem” and a sense of belonging.
The past can also make one a misfit and outcast, as is the case in Sarah Adina Smith’s BUSTER’S MAL HEART, in which Rami Malek (of Mr. Robot’s fame) plays Buster, a quasi-hermit in a remote community trying to get away from his memories. Those haunting memories displace Buster’s present, as well as the audience’s perception of the story itself as events unfold.
Finally, one can be alienated by other people, by those who are closest to them as well as by those who are simply in close vicinity. In Dan Sickles’s and Antonio Santini’s documentary, DINA, a middle-aged man and woman each struggle to find their place in an evolving relationship, questioning the meaning of romance and intimacy.
Eliza Hittman’s BEACH RATS shows how Frankie, a misfit at home and in his circles of friends and acquaintances, drifts farther and farther away from any sort of truly belonging while his conflicting feelings and relationships push him closer to disaster.
Similarly,KATIE SAYS GOODBYE follows its heroine’s brutal journey from innocence to experience. Katie’s goals are greater than the small town where she was born but does not belong, she’s saving up to get out of New Mexico and start a new life in San Francisco. Katie’s disarming honesty and compulsive gratitude make her both endearing and an easy target. But by the film’s end we take consolation in her tenacity and her youth—no matter how many times life may knock her down, this girl is going places.
Ultimately, the stories of outcasts and misfits serve to remind all of us how hard it is to feel at home anywhere, and how easy it is to get lost in this bewildering world.
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.