With 21 films spread throughout 21 days, local film enthusiasts had a lot to say following the Dietrich Theater’s annual Winter Fest.
On Friday afternoon, one day after the festival concluded, a group gathered at the Dietrich to discuss everything about the films, from their themes and social commentary to their characters and cinematography.
Some only saw a handful of the films while others saw nearly all of them, but each person had his personal opinions about this year’s lineup.
Gary VanVranken enjoyed ‘The Guilty’ and ‘Free Solo,’ but wasn’t a fan of ‘Mary, Queen of Scots.’ Sarah Sidorek was looking forward to ‘The Book Shop,’ but it didn’t hold up. She did, however, enjoy ‘Becoming Astrid.’
Sandy Austin said there were “so many good ones,” especially ‘Beautiful Boy’ and ‘Boy Erased.’
And so on. None of the nine festival-goers shared all of the same likes and dislikes, but those who saw ‘Green Book’ all agreed that it was a hit.
‘Green Book’ tells the story of Don Shirley, a black pianist on tour in the American south during the 1960s. He hires Tony Lip, an Italian-American bouncer to be his driver and protect him, as the south was extremely unsafe for African-Americans in the Jim Crow era.
The film recently won the Academy Award for Best Picture, but also stirred up some controversy, which came up in the discussion at the Dietrich.
The film was also based on a true story, and the family of the late Shirley criticized its accuracy.
“Really, I took it that they were helping each other,” she said in response to the criticism.
Hildy Morgan agreed, but said she could understand why others might feel that way given the history of how race is approached in film.
Esther Harmatz said an interview she saw on television about ‘Green Book’ struck her, where one guest took the standpoint that Lip should not be viewed as a savior, and the other guest said to “lighten up” because the film is really about friendship.
“It wasn’t made to make a point, except for the blatant racism that existed at that time, and how these two men got through it,” she said.
“I think it was a story about friendship and friends saving each other,” Morgan said. “That’s what friends do.”
Another film many in the group enjoyed was ‘Beautiful Boy,’ which follows a family coping with drug addiction, recovery and relapse over many years.
Morgan said what struck her about the film is the toll addiction took on the family, especially the father, who exhibited a lot of strength. This was especially so when he had to turn his son away when he wanted to recover at home instead of in a rehabilitation facility.
“It’s just so sad because you know that millions of families go through that,” she said. “I think it was the most beautiful film about addiction ever done.”
For Harmatz, this scene made her think about how gut-wrenching it must have been for the father, as well as the strength it took and the guilt that likely followed even though he was making the right choice.
The film also prompted discussion about addiction, such as how Nic’s disease made him lose his judgment when he got his girlfriend involved with drugs and how people can get hooked on drugs or alcohol so easily.
Dietrich Executive Director Erica Rogler said she loved how the film was “beautifully shot” and incorporated flashbacks into the plot.
After one of the film’s showings, people under 21 met for a discussion at the Dietrich about addiction. Rogler said sitting in the theater and knowing that important discussion would occur afterward made her consider the impact of the film more.
Some other standouts for the group included ‘The Wife’ and ‘Colette,’ which share similar a theme of female writers being overshadowed by their husbands.
‘Boy Erased,’ which follows a young man who is forced to attend a conversion therapy program for his homosexuality or else be ostracized from his family, was also a poignant film.
“I thought it was heartbreaking because the parents are believing God doesn’t love someone who is gay,” Austin said. “I don’t think you can use religion in that way, to hate people.”
These film buffs are already looking forward to the Dietrich’s spring festival, which is scheduled to begin on Friday, April 12. The Dietrich will hold a preview day on Thursday, March 28 at 1 and 6 p.m.