Defined by Merriam-Webster as, "The attainment of prominence, respectability, recognition, or maturity," "coming-of-age" is widely considered a point in every young person's life when they walk the precarious edge between being a child and being an adult member of their community. This edge might be magnified by any number of given plot turns – be it a forced exile, an unexpected abandonment, or the opportunity to fight for something of great importance; in the feature directorial debuts, La Sirga by William Vega, They'll Come Back by Marcelo Lordello and Tall As The Baobab Tree by Jeremy Teicher, the coming-of-age narrative is central, poignant and profound. Vega, Lordello and Teicher not only tend to their subjects with compassion and intimacy, they also experiment with the artform, making strong and inventive choices in sound design, cinematography and narrative format. These powerful representations of the coming-of-age experience are set amidst different cultural contexts, yet all focus intently on the heroine, allowing specific cultural norms to be digested seamlessly while providing a rich and intriguing backdrop for each protagonist. All three films explore, in different ways, a sense of muted grief and desperation that meditates on the potential emotional reverb of lost innocence.
All director interviews and film screenings were facilitated with the aid of the San Francisco International Film Festival 2013.

 

Stemming from a road trip director AJ Rojas took that spanned over a dozen states, the music video for Portugal. The Man's "Modern Jesus" is purposely treated to alternate between hi-def and lo-fi, as is paralleling the fascination which can be found in middle America's often gritty underbelly. A cast of memorable characters appear to leave indelible marks upon one's brain in "Modern Jesus": a grandpa dancing in a farm-like setting; bloody youth wrestling one another atop barbed wire; overweight and wheelchair-bound individuals repping the same taser-owning crew; the list goes on. This fascinating sociological portrait seems to serve as a reminder real life is often more interesting than fiction -- and that embarking on a creative journey without a plan can often lead to brilliantly unraveling realities. In the featured interview, Portugal. The Man's bassist and back-up vocalist Zach Carothers speaks to his love for music videos, on working with friends, and on occasionally skirting record label rules to follow your own creative impulses.
"I have wanted to work with AG since our friend, Michael Ragen, introduced me to his work with Earl Sweatshirt a few years ago. He has an eye for the things that happen below surface, in bedrooms, in the streets and in our schools and captures it without prejudice. AG has a vision and it doesn't matter if you think the video could use more of John running because, in the end, he knows what he wants and always makes the right decision. A true artist." - John Gourley, Vocalist of Portugal. The Man

 

Michael Noer is a gritty realist, concerned with the unstoppable inertia of the city. Crossing back and forth between documentary and fiction, Noer sees no line between the constructed plots of his films and the real-life social fissures in Danish society. His depictions of the malfunctioning systems that entrap youth into a life of crime and poverty are starkly grounded in reality, which makes the characters in his films all the more believable and tragic.

 

Due the unfortunate fact that we are merely human and Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) is just beginning its three-week film rampage, we've sifted through the Festival's gigantic catalog to come up with the best films of the bunch -- or so we suspect. SIFF is annually guaranteed to have a mixture of some of the best and worst films that one can see -- and these film recommendations come from the minds of three REDEFINE writers with good intentions. Yet at best, these selections are our most educated hypotheses, determined from a mixture of film industry knowledge and intuitions based on trailers. Below, we've grouped our selections for 2013 by world region. Stay tuned in the weeks to come, as we offer updates throughout the festival's progression, with general thumbs up and thumbs down summaries of the films we will painfully and enjoyably slog and float through, as well as one-off full-length reviews. Happy SIFFing!

I am a Man with a St Tropez Tan Just A Ghost Hangman Ho Records In a world where much of the music we come into contact with is homogenized corporate mulch that lacks any discernible human input, those artists who offers us personal and intimate truths are to be cherished. I am a Man with a St Tropez Tan is one such artist. Offering compositions that are uncompromising and mined from his own personal experience, the EP Just a Ghost is both sinister and powerful. The work of Rick Senley, it is the product of a varied past and a fascinating history. Film actor, journalist, award winning photographer, teacher and novelist, Senley is someone of many talents who has traveled widely. Unfortunately this trajectory was brutally interrupted when, injured in an accident, he was left unable to walk -- a tragedy that was further compounded by the death of a loved one. Housebound and struggling to cope with his loss, he developed what he describes as a "growing fondness for booze and chemicals". It was whilst suffering beneath this relentless rain of terrible setbacks that Rick discovered he liked making electronic music, and it is from this interest -- and its interaction with those successes and setbacks in his life -- that Just a Ghost comes. As his website says: "I Am A Man With A St Tropez Tan is Rick Senley and sounds", and in a way, is a perfect description of this intimate set of recordings.

 

Many people in the United States will say that post-rock has played itself out -- but to just go ahead and label things as straight up post-rock is really the more played out aspect of the criticism, for what exactly makes post-rock? Generally speaking, it's instrumental music prone to rising crescendos and plummeting musical valleys. The methodology of how various bands get there is often the same, but often times, despite a similar approach, you'll get wildly different results. Athens, Georgia-based Maserati and Boston, Massachusetts-based Caspian each passed through Seattle on different tickets, separated by a few days. The two bands, both instrumental and both hanging out with the post-rock cloud looming over their heads, are prime examples of how varied the genre can sound. It isn't quite played out yet, and these two bands prove it.

 

Upon first seeing the trailer for Botanica, I thought: here it is, a performance that might actually make use of the exciting psychedelic potentials that movement has to offer! Botanica breathes like a nature painting come to life, rooted in hypercolored projected imagery and manipulation of the human body through the use of unusual costumes and props. But powerful as it is when captured via still images, Botanica is a mixed bag when displayed as movement art; it delivers brilliantly in some regards but falls short in others.
Botanica by MOMIX is currently showing in Portland through March 2nd, 2013. * PURCHASE TICKETS *

 

The Portland International Film Festival (PIFF) is upon us again, and we have whittled down their list of 100+ international shorts and full-length films to summarize the most interesting, socially-conscious, and boundary-pushing of the bunch. This year's festival runs from February 7th through the 23rd, beginning with an Opening Night celebration featuring Blancanieves, a silent Spanish reworking of Snow White. Purchase tickets and find out more. Our festival preview begins below with this year's top five picks, followed by the rest in alphabetical order.

Beyond The Hills Directed by Cristian Mungiu (Romania) Based on the novels of Tatiana Niculescu Bran, which are real-life documents of demonic possession, Beyond The Hills is a bleak and stark religious drama set an Orthodox monastery in Moldovia. Though Alina (Cirstina Flutur) heads to the monastery to convince her friend Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) to leave and return to Germany, Alina finds herself sucked more and more into the environment and its callings. Flutur and Stratan both shared the Best Actress Prize at Cannes Film Festival for these performances.          Sat, Feb 9, 2013 at 8:30 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)          Wed, Feb 13, 2013 at 7:30 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 4)
Hannah Arendt Directed by Margarethe von Trotta (Germany) Based on the life of German philosopher and writer Hannah Arendt, Hannah Arendt chronicles her writings for The New Yorker on the 1961 war crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann. Eichmann covered a scenario that was not black and white but veiled in greys, causing great conflict and protest amongst an American public and the publication's editing staff. Hannah Arendt is a drama about journalism, and the social duty of reporting as one sees as truthful, rather than as it is idealized or pressured to be.          Sat, Feb 16, 2013 at 8:45 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)          Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 5:15 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 4)
Laurence Anyways Directed by Xavier Dolan (Canada) Despite being happy and in love, high school teacher Laurence finally reveals to his girlfriend Fred his long-standing desire to become a woman. Fred agrees to support him on his quest, though once the transformations begin, social complications begin to pressure, ostracize, and place fear into the hearts of the couple. Through it all, Laurence Anyways is a tale of love and the ability to weather storms for it.          Sat, Feb 16, 2013 at 8 PM (Cinema 21)          Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 7 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 10)
Leviathan Directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel (United States) Leviathan presents experimental filmmaking at its finest or its worst, depending on your opinion of macro-view, immersive documentary art. The New York Film Festival describes Leviathan as "a hallucinatory sensory experience quite unlike any other", and the trailer is seems to assert this with views of commercial fishing, as presented with only abstract sounds and imagery.          Sat, Feb 9, 2013 at 3:15 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)          Wed, Feb 13, 2013 at 6 PM (Cinemagic)
Lore Directed by Cate Shortland (Australia) After World War II and the death of Adolf Hitler, five young children are left to fend for themselves when their Nazi SS parents are captured. In an attempt to reach their grandparents in Hamburg, they traverse 500 miles of changing landscapes, meeting unfortunate families along the way and finding a savior in a young Jewish man whose kindness goes against all of their programmed teachings.          Sun, Feb 10, 2013 at 7:30 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)          Mon, Feb 11, 2013 at 5:45 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 10)

 

Now in its tenth year, Seattle's Decibel Festival has grown from a tiny electronic celebration to a world-renowned music festival without sacrificing attention to detail along the way. From fabric wristbands to the notable lack of corporate sponsors -- save for ones that directly affect the electronic music scene in some way -- Decibel has retained a number of the charming qualities which usually become lost to larger festivals. Its continued stress on the audio-visual merging of music and motion art continue to push the festival forward as well, as Seattle's best venues were sometimes upgraded with video equipment and makeshift spaces were sometimes transformed into festival-worthy ones. Decibel's continued Optical series is the festival's low-key element, which focuses on mixed media programming that combines ambient, modern classical and experimental sound art with live video, films and installations. This review highlights some of Optical 2012's best moments, in our eyes, with reviews of performances by Robert Henke, Biosphere, and The Sight Below. SEE FULL SHOW REVIEW

Robert Henke

Optical 1: Ghosts In The Shadows -- September 26th, 2012 @ The Triple Door, Seattle, WA Written by VIVIAN HUA With the pounding of chaotic weather against manmade walls, Robert Henke introduced the crowd at The Triple Door to six channels of surround sound. The stage itself stood dark and empty, with the maestro nowhere to be seen. Rain in one ear morphed into train tracks rattling by; howling winds in the other transformed into vehicles and airplanes soaring past. Henke's sounds were so convincing of reality and so unseeming that the audience at The Triple Door carried on with conversation well into the opening minutes of the performance. But as the light rain increased into a torrential downpour, it gave way to machine-like sputtering and alien crackling, and those who hadn't been paying attention finally began to do so. SHOW REVIEW CONTINUED BELOW

 

During the 1960s, a flood of immigration brought thousands of Turks from their homeland to Germany, with promises of well-paying career opportunities. Without cultural context, one might find such a German and Turkish association to be bizarre -- but when given historical context, which the heartwarming and humorous Almanya -- Willkommen in Deutschland provides, one begins to understand the fascinating culture surrounding that population, which has now spent decades in a foreign country. Almanya documents the story of a Turkish family, headed by a grandpa who has seen his children grow to father more children in Germany. Each member of the large family seems to hold a different opinion about his or her Turkish-German upbringing and personal degree of assimilation -- so when grandpa declares over dinner that he has purchased a home in Turkey and would like to take a family trip for everyone to see it, he is met with much resistance. Even his wife of many years is surprised and disappointed by the news. To this, he sternly questions, "Have I ever asked anything of you?" and the family falls silent, only to eventually acquiesce to grandpa's will. From there, the film flies through timelines and decades, recapping the family's immigration from Turkey to Germany with all of the pomp and romanticism that all who dream of a new opportunities no doubt have. But while the film humorously spotlights the excitement of grandpa's past, it also expresses, on the behalf of both the grandparents and their Turkish-born children, a sense of nostalgia for a motherland that lies as a gateway between Europe and Asia. SEE FULL FILM REVIEW AND TRAILER