Wide World of Cinema, From OC Film Fiesta to Your Living Room

Flavor of Life. Photo courtesy Sun Temple Media

OC Film Fiesta 2018 started last weekend with solid movies from last year and around the globe, including Christopher Glenn Cannon’s horror flick The House That the Devil Built (USA), Humberto Hinojosa Ozcariz’s award-winning road picture Camino a Marte (Road to Mars) (Mexico) and a free outdoor screening of Jang Hoon’s A Taxi Driver (South Korea). Media Arts Santa Ana’s ninth-annual event maintains a strong world-cinema vibe as it enters its final weekend.

Friday brings a free showing under Buena Park skies of Macario, a 1960 Mexican classic about a poor, hungry peasant who meets three apparitions on Día de los Muertos. By the end, the poor soul will be on his way to riches—and under suspicion.

Saturday’s lineup inside the same Orange cineplex includes: The Good the Bad the Weird (11 a.m.), Jee-woon Kim’s 2008 western about two outlaws and a bounty hunter being pursued in 1940s Manchuria; Equal Means Equal (2 p.m.), Kamala Lopez’s 2016 documentary about how the U.S. Constitution holds down women; Flavor of Life (4 p.m.), with special guest Pepe Serna, who stars in Rajesh Golla’s dramedy as a Mexican-American chef trying to save his restaurant; El Incidente (The Incident) (6 p.m.), Isaac Ezban’s 2014 Mexican sci-fi thriller with two parallel stories about people trapped in illogical endless spaces; and Roma (8 p.m.), Alfonso Cuarón’s new drama that follows a year in the life of a middle-class Mexico City family in the early 1970s.

OC Film Fiesta actually scored a coup getting a sneak preview showing of Roma, which is not due in mainstream theaters or on Netflix until December. Produced by Participant Media and Cuarón’s own Esperanto Filmoj, Roma honors women from the director’s childhood who shaped his world. The Oscar-winning director of 2014’s Gravity shot the film in luminous black and white, which should help audiences place the intimate, gut-wrenching story in the past.

Media Arts Santa Ana’s cinextravaganza ends in its home city Sunday with: Challah Rising In the Desert (1:30 p.m.), Isaac Artenstein’s new documentary celebrating the history and people of New Mexico’s Jewish community (paging Marc Maron); The Best of Philip K. Dick Festival (3:15 p.m.), short films based on the stories of the late sci-fi/dystopian legend and longtime Orange County resident; This Taco Truck Kills Fascists (7:30 p.m.), with special guest Jose Torres Tama, the performance artist featured in director Rodrigo Dorfman’s new documentary making its West Coast premiere.

Under the Tree. Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures

A scan of the OC Film Fiesta 2018 lineup produced no movies from Iceland, where a lack of sustained sunlight must have contributed to a certain black comedy being as black as black can be. Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson’s Under the Tree begins with cringe-worthy comedy as Agnes (Lára Jóhanna Jónsdóttir) catches her husband, Atli (Steinþór Hróar Steinþórsson), jacking off to porn in their Reykjavik flat. The identity of the couple Atli watches go at it on his computer prompts Agnes to throw him out and eventually launch a fierce custody battle over their young daughter.

Atli winds up at the nearby home of his parents, who are embroiled in a war of their own. His mother, Inga (Edda Björgvinsdóttir), and father, Baldvin
(Sigurður Sigurjónsson), are literally throwing shade on their next-door neighbors. A backyard tree in desperate need of trimming casts such a large shadow that it ruins the sunbathing sessions of Eybjorg (Selma Björnsdóttir), who complains to her husband, Konrad (Þorsteinn Bachmann), to do something about it.

Konrad tries to politely reason with Inga and Baldvin, but she has lingering animosity over her neighbor having divorced his wife and married the younger Eybjorg, who, besides tanning, is into fitness. Inga also deals with early dementia, which, along with her bitterness over Eybjorg and mourning for a second son, contributes to a minor spat over a tree escalating into a disturbing tit-for-tat that ends tragically (and for viewers, graphically).

Sigurðsson, working off a script he co-wrote with Huldar Breiðfjörð, lets the events unfold slowly, at the speed of life. That lulls the viewer into a state in which the surprise twists and turns pack mighty wallops. It brings to mind the comedic elements in the first two acts of Hitchcock movies, which the master totally abandoned in the third act.

OC Film Fiesta 2019, I believe we have found your Icelandic entry.

OC Film Fiesta at the Source OC, first-floor Step Plaza, 6940 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, (714) 521-8858; www.thesourceoc.com. Fri., 7 p.m. Free; AMC Orange 30 at the Outlets, 20 City Blvd. W., Orange, (714) 769-4288; www.ocfilmfiesta.org. Sat., beginning at 11 a.m. $3-$10; Santa Ana High School, 520 W. Walnut St., Santa Ana. Sun., beginning at 1:30 p.m. Free-$10; festival passes, $75 or two for $125.

Under the Tree is available now on Digital HD from Magnolia Home Entertainment.

Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.

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