Fort Tilden, directed by Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers
The Great Invisible, directed by Margaret Brown
Festival awards are funny things. One wants someone with some qualifications as jurors, but rarely do those juror's tastes align with the buzz I hear from the non-reserved seats.
Nearly everyone I spoke to in lines at SXSW who saw Fort Tilden pretty much hated it, so of course it won the Grand Jury prize in the Narrative Feature category. The Great Invisible, which won the Grand Jury prize in the Documentary Feature category, was sponsored by the Austin Film Society and received production funds from Tribeca, ITVS, The Sundance Institute, and Cinereach. I didn't think it was the best documentary, but I certainly wasn't too surprised it won given its pedigree.
But first, the Narrative Feature winner.
Fort Tilden is an alleged comedy about two millenials trying to get to the beach so that they can (definitely and possibly) hook up with a pair of guys they met at a party the evening before. Co-director Sarah-Violet Bliss prefaced her remarks by conceding she was "technically generation Y," but she admitted many of the incidents in the film were culled from friends. Her partner Charles Rogers said that "our own issues ended up working their way into the film."
What then is a millennial? According to the film, it is someone with no visible means of support who will pay $200 (of her father's money) for a barrel on the street but won't walk out of a store and lose her place in line while someone is stealing her bicycle. A millennial is someone who doggedly pursues sex or drugs, but needs to call her parents for instructions when she can't find a cab. and who leaves stray kittens in trash cans because they are too much trouble to lug around all day. Fort Tilden is the perfect film for those who think they could really get behind HBO's Girls if only the characters were more narcissistic, self-pitying, and lewd.
I wasn't a fan, but then I am a Baby Boomer. Isn't each generation supposed to think the next is bratty and useless? What I don't get about the millenials is the amount of self-loathing that permeates their portraits. Anger I might get. Each generation inherits a world messed up by its predecessors.
But the only thing pampered princess Harper (Bridey Elliot) seems mad at her father for is that he hasn't figured out some way to support her and make her self-sufficient at the same time. Sidekick Allie (Clare McNulty) channels her rage toward a Peace Corps supervisor who has the audacity to keep texting her about the meeting she blew off to go to the beach.
I understand, at least intellectually, that the preemptive snark of characters such as Harper are meant as feeble protection against a world that can be overbearing. But when it is directed so cruelly and so relentlessly on those who try to "get [their] life moving" by putting shoulder to the wheel and pushing, it comes across as pure spite. A prolonged scene where both the girls go topless is meant, I guess, to show how little self-respect they have . . . in case you haven't figured that out already.
About the only award I would give these two is "Characters I Would Most Like to See Get Cat Scratch Fever."