Friday, January 8, 2021

Film Maudit 2.0 Festival returns for 12 days of free online screenings, including Ivo van Aart's timely, dark, comic thriller, THE COLUMNIST

Free movie screening are nothing to sneeze at, particularly in these pandemic times, so the upcoming 12 days of (we hope) fun and frolic via the legendary Los Angeles performance space and gallery, Highways, as it presents the Film Maudit 2.0 Festival (the original Film Maudit Fest premiered in 2019) should be worthwhile. Showcasing/ celebrating new outré, unusual and startling films, the festival, running from January 12 - 24,  features over 125 works of cinema from 25 countries, including films rarely, if ever, seen in festivals: works addressing -- according to the press release TrustMovies recently received -- "socio-political issues and taboo subject matter that challenges conventional artistic assumptions and sexual mores." Sounds like exactly your cup of Crysanthemum Tea, right? 
Film Maudit 2.0
will offer virtual, online screenings of 18 feature films, 21 shorts programs, specially commissioned programs, and a new film score performed by artists who reflect the diversity of Los Angeles. Inspired by French avant-garde filmmaker and writer Jean Cocteau, who created the original Festival du Film Maudit (literally “cursed films”) in 1949 to celebrate overlooked, shocking and experimental films, the festival is funded in part by the California Arts Council, L.A. County Department of Cultural Affairs and the City of Santa Monica Cultural Affairs CAP Program.  

The single film on the program I've been able to watch -- THE COLUMNIST, from The Netherlands and directed by Ivo van Aart (shown above) from a screenplay by Dan Windhorst -- proves a relatively smart, dark, comic thriller dealing with online trolling and bullying and the not-so-nice results for those trolls who bully.

This 84-minute movie may be short on character development and even on character itself (most of the people we meet here are pretty close to one-note clichés -- if even that (some are seen so briefly that that their only role is near-faceless victim). What saves the film is its timely theme, fast pacing and the momentum that the writer and director keep building. 

Katja Herbers (at right and below) excels as the not terribly bright title character who seems to best know how to tread a popular, safe middle-of-the road path but who, as a somewhat noted woman, manages to easily rile up a lot of online males.

The tale told involves her high-school-age, free-speech-loving daughter and the columnist's oddball-but-hot-looking new boyfriend, who turns out to be the most "together" man in the movie. When the online nastiness grows heavier and seemingly more life-threatening, our "heroine" manages to move from surprised and put-upon victim to a serial murderer in no time flat.

This is in no way believable but it's all handled so fast and furiously that it is never less than fun. And while The Columnist deals with an increasingly dire worldwide problem, its "take" on trolling and shaming proves so extreme that the darkly comic elements outweigh all else. Which is fine, so far as it goes. Ms Herbers is impressive in the lead role, and the supporting cast nails each mostly obvious role (only that boyfriend -- Bram van der Kelen -- brings some welcome mystery and surprise to his).

You can access the complete program for Film Maudit 2.0 here . And remember, whatever you choose to see, thanks to Highway and the co-sponsors, as of January 12 through the 24, it'll be free!

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