SF Indiefest: Opening Night, The Congress
SF Indiefest kicked off its “Sweet 16” celebration at the beautiful Brava Theater last night with a screening of Ari Folman’s The Congress, a buzzing after party in the theater lobby, and a live music show that had the indie-lovin’ festival-goers on their feet late into the night.
After we shuffled down the aisles and settled into their seats to fill up the theater at the night’s outset, Indiefest founder Jeff Ross took the stage to welcome us and tell us what we can expect of our two-week festival experience this year. The lineup was carefully picked–the festival programmers watched and considered around 1,000 films and plucked 75 prime selections. (That’s dedication, people!) San Francisco’s famous Roxie Theater is the undisputed epicenter of the festival, but Ross noted that for those living in the East Bay, Oakland’s New Parkway Theater will be showing selections from the festival program as well.
Ross’ brief introduction was followed by the opening night screening of The Congress, which proceeded to blow half of the audience’s minds while befuddling the rest (see my thoughts on the film below). It’s a heavily experimental film that could only ever exist in the indie landscape, so it was a fitting choice to set the tone for the rest of the fest. (Check out these five films at the fest to get excited about.)
Following the screening, libations flowed in the lobby while people attempted to reorient themselves with reality. Struck with a case of the munchies, I walked down the street and ate best tacos I’ve ever had (seriously). When I returned to the Brava Theater, the drinks were still flowing (Indiefest doesn’t slouch on the booze!), and the live music portion of the night was in full swing. Hip Hop/EDM band Vokab Kompany and Motown revivalists Gene Washington and The Ironsides sent the crowd home happy and capped off the night in style.
With The Congress, director Ari Folman refused to follow anyone’s roadmap and made the movie he wanted to make, without pretense, or timidness, or restraint. The film centers on Robin Wright, playing herself, as she sells her digital likeness to “Miramount Studios”, with which the they can make any movie they please. The catch is, she must never act again. It’s a strange, beautiful, part live-action, part animated film about the fickleness of reality, the toxicity of media and celebrity, and the ephemerality of life itself. It’s also flawed; the psychedelic animated portion feeling inflated and meandering, and the story can feel more elusive than intriguing at times. But the boldness and ambition of Folman’s vision helps to polish up the film’s rough edges.