There is no denying that the director of Viktoria, Maya Vitkova, is a cinematic artist. Her visual style reminds me of Terrance Malick. Colors (especially red) represent strong elements of the film. The framing makes you feel like you are walking through an art gallery. I am pretty sure it was made with real film, as evidenced by the natural scratches projected on the screen. My favorite part of the film, though, was how at least 50 percent of it was communicated without dialogue. I think the sound could have been turned off and I still would have understood the story.
Rich Hill - I would use the word "portrait" to describe this film instead of "documentary." The filmmaker takes the viewer into the small town of Rich Hill, Missouri to follow the lives of three boys over the course of a year. This has potential to be a very boring documentary, but I felt so nostalgic and appreciative for the window into these young lives that I could have kept watching Rich Hill for another two hours. The boys opened up to the audience and I really cared about them by the time the credits rolled. I think it would be amazing for the filmmakers to follow these boys into adulthood and extend their project into a lifelong portrait. After sitting on the fence between this film and The Overnighters, I have decided that I agree with the jury and Rich Hill is my favorite documentary.
Whiplash - I was disappointed with the selection of narrative films I had seen at the festival until I watched Whiplash, in which a student is willing to sacrifice everything to become the best drummer. His foul-mouthed and borderline-abusive instructor is played by J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man, Juno), who did a fantastic job at being detestable. At the end of the day, though, all the credit goes to the young director Damien Chazelle, who makes the drums come alive through camera angles and ultra-precise edits that match the music.
As a young filmmaker, it inspires me to think that Damien won best short at Sundance last year. He didn't miss a beat (pun intended) in turning it into a feature film and won Grand Jury Dramatic Prize this year. His story makes me want to dust off my video camera and get rollin'.
Thank you all so much for coming along with me on this adventure!
My final verdict
Favorite dramatic film - Whiplash
Favorite documentary - Rich Hill