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Joe Reid's TFF Diary, Day 6: Getting Presidential, 'Oxyana' & 'Byzantium'

Thoughts on "Bridegroom," "Byzantium," and "Oxyana."

Wasn't it just yesterday that I was talking about how my most memorable moment of the Festival so far was seeing Elaine Stritch speak after the showing of her documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me? Not one day later, I was in the very same screening room, waiting for an appearance by former President Bill Clinton. I had heard that President Clinton might be on hand to introduce the premiere screening of Bridegroom, the documentary directed by his good friend Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. So I made sure to grab a seat up front and on the aisle. You know, so would be right there waiting to shake the hand of the only politician I ever wrote a letter to. Of course, just my luck, the President entered via the other aisle. No meaningful handshake for me.

The film that followed, Bridegroom, was a devastating document of lost love and a family broken by loss and homophobia. President Clinton's words from before the film ring particularly true afterwards:

"America needs to see the consequences of a world in which gay people who love each other are accepted, and one in which they are not accepted, both in the same movie."

Other highlights of another day at the festival:

Director Neil Jordan saw his biggest mainstream success in 1994 with Interview with the Vampire, and now, almost 20 years later (!), he's back with another dreamily conveyed vampire tale that blends the historical with the contemporary. As a kind of mirror version of Interview's Lestat and Louis, Byzantium offers two women, a mother-daughter pair played by Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan. Arterton makes her living and keeps them safe by turning tricks up and down the English coastline. Ronan feeds off of the nearly dying -- almost like an angel of mercy -- and simply longs to be able to tell her and her mom's story. There was a moment in the beginning where it seemed like we were going to get a vampire version of Mermaids, which I only just now realized would be the greatest movie. Anyway, mother and daughter vamp are on the run from their past -- and from a shadowy brotherhood of vampires -- and things are complicated when Ronan's character meets a mortal boy played by the captivatingly awkward Caleb Landry Jones. I was fairly captivated by the whole film, in fact. It's a heady blend of gauzy romance and grimy practicality. Arterton has a fire in her that's quite watchable, and Ronan's otherworldly eyes are a wonder.

Oxyana, Sean Dunne's documentary is a story about oxycontin abuse, yes. But it's more specifically a portrait of small-town devastation. In reality, this could be about any town ruined by disaster. But the fact that the disaster is self-inflicted lends a layer of poignancy to the interviews with locals. This is their community, and it's gone and turned into a place they no longer trust. It's powerful to watch people wrestle with that. Definitely one of the most bracing docs I've seen so far.


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