The 14th annual Lighthouse International Film Festival is just around the corner, kicking off June 2 and running through June 5.
It will screen all kinds of films during its run, including opening night and yet-unannounced closing features, landmark films and surf films, as well as panel discussions, networking events and parties. . Yet, the highlight of almost every film festival is its competitive categories of which LIFF has plenty – dramatic features, shorts, episodes, high school films and, of course, documentaries.
LIFF has announced the eight representatives of the latter who will compete for top honors at this year’s festival. They are certainly international. Admittedly, four are American entries. But the others come from the UK, Canada, Austria and Israel. And they cover a very wide variety of topics.
Here they are in alphabetical order:
“Eternal Spring,” directed by Jason Loftus, is an 85-minute Canadian film that chronicles an incident in China in March 2002. Members of a banned spiritual group, Falun Gong, hacked into a state television signal to counter the government’s rhetoric about their practices. Loftus combines current imagery with 3D animation created by exiled Chinese comic artist Daxiong, who now lives in New York, to retrace the event on its 20th anniversary.
The film’s publicist said it “brings to life a story of unprecedented defiance, harrowing accounts of persecution, and an uplifting story of determination to defend political and religious freedoms, whatever the cost” . However, it will be interesting to see if the Falun Gong media organization, The old timeswill be mentioned given that he has promoted conspiracy theories, anti-vaccine misinformation, and far-right political groups in Europe and the United States
“Exposure”, an 88-minute American film directed by Holly Morris, follows the adventures of a Muslim chaplain, a French biologist, a Qatari princess and eight other women from the Arab and Western world as they attempt to ski through the melting ice of the Arctic Ocean to reach the North Pole. Led by veteran polar explorer Felicity Aston, they deal with frostbite, polar bear threats, sexism and self-doubt in an intimate story of resilience, survival and global citizenship.
“Finite: The Climate of Change,” is the UK entry, making its US premiere. Director Rich Felgate’s 98-minute documentary follows worried German citizens as they step forward to save an ancient forest from the spread of one of Europe’s biggest coal mines. They form an unlikely alliance with a frustrated community in rural North East England where residents are forced into action to protect their own homes from a new mine.
Another film is making its American debut at LIFF, this one from Austria. Director Philipp Fussenegger’s 80-minute “I am the Tigress” is an observation-style documentary that aims to visually capture the internal and external journey of Tischa “The Tigress” Thomas during the final year of her bodybuilding career. The film shows her going from one stage to the next as a dominatrix, bodybuilder, grandma, and girlfriend! As the ad copy says, “Tigress prowls extremes.”
American director Austin Spiers captured, of all things, the very brief annual bloom of a special purple tree in his two-hour “Jacaranada,” which at first glance doesn’t seem like very interesting material. But here’s the thing – Spiers also featured three different people’s experiences in the summer of 2020 and the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. In other words, the director captured two “flowers”, one beautiful, the other horrible, at once. Now there is a juxtaposition.
“Luminous” is a 95-minute American film directed by Sam Smartt. It premiered on the East Coast at LIFF and had been in production since 2014. Why so long? Because it took astronomer Larry Molnar and his team of students five years to test an unprecedented prediction after they stumbled upon a strange star. Hmm, have you ever heard of Molnar or his hypothesis? And could most laymen understand Molnar’s quest? It’s hard to explain the deep weeds of astronomy and if Smartt was able to do that, it might make observing interesting. It helps that Molnar’s prediction was unbelievable, in that he said the star would explode, meaning his theory would die out with either a boom or a collapse.
Russia is still in the news today thanks to Vladimir Putin’s efforts to recreate the USSR. “Oleg”, directed by Nadia Tass, is therefore timely, even if it is about events that took place in 1985. The 97-minute documentary tells the life story of Oleg Vidov, one of most famous movie stars of the Soviet Union. Despite his fame, he was unwilling to live under the oppressive totalitarian Soviet state and in 1985 he planned a daring escape to freedom in the west. It’s likely most viewers wouldn’t be interested in the story of an actor they probably don’t know, although after his defection he starred in films with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mickey Rourke and Kevin Costner . But, as they say, timing is everything.
“On The Edge”, directed by Israeli filmmaker Rina Papish, is by far the shortest of the documentaries in the competition, at just 54 minutes. This is the extraordinary story of Avner Zehori, who was a champion skydiver and base jumper until, at the age of 28, he crash-landed while jumping from a bridge in California and was paralyzed. “Through touching encounters and rare photographs, the discrepancy between his life before and after the accident is revealed,” says the film’s press officer.
Variety, your name is the Lighthouse International Film Festival.