It would be surprising to see a grouping of films labeled “period pieces” and not have one based in World War II. This film focuses on a small family of four as they deal with a major change in their lives: a group of Nazi soldiers annexing their home and using it for their own gains. This Polish family has to deal with the tension of living in a war-torn time, as well as the stress of having these soldiers in their everyday lives. It's a powerful story and one that can be heartbreaking to watch.
The Massacre at Black Divide
The first piece in this block of films was a doozy. Pegged as a “sci-fi western,” Steve Makowski's project is a thrilling short that focuses on two men as they each try to gain their own form of redemption. It's tense, engrossing, and features great performances by the two actors in the film, Jeff Rosick and Morgan West. This genre and time period has been pretty popular at this year's festival, but this was a great use of western themes and time periods.
Hope Dies Last
This film focuses on the very real events set at Auschwitz, during the second world war, giving the attention to just two men, prisoner Józef Paczynski and Auschwitz camp commander Rudolf Höss. Paczynski had the unfortunate circumstance of being Höss' personal barber for over four years during this time, an event that caused immense panic for the young prisoner, a feeling which resonates with its audience.
The Nation Holds Its Breath
One of the standouts of this year's festival, Kev Cahill's story of the game of the century for Irish soccer is one that shouldn't be missed. Set in the 1990s when Ireland had their first opportunities to advance farther into the World Cup than they ever had before, a young couple is divided between watching the history of their country and being a part of a new history for their family as the couple experiences the birth of their first child. It's funny, heartwarming, and full of charm as the touching tale of a family and a country intertwine.
Jim Powers' quiet, but impactful, piece focuses on a desolate winter town and a small cabin that does not seem to have things going well for it. As a man awakens to a series of terrible events, it seems that not only is he involved, but things may not be what they seem during this encounter. It's a slow, but interesting, ride and one that is hard to describe in just words.
Woman with an Editing Bench
This period piece was inspired by the brave woman who was also known for editing the famous Man with a Movie Camera in 192, and puts a focus on her fight against Stalin's repressive regime during his crackdown on filmmaking during this time period. Her husband, a filmmaker in his own right, teams with her to create in a world that does not wish them to, and this film takes that story and crafts it in a visually stunning way.
The Blue Jet
Another story about an oppressive regime, this film takes place during the peace movement of the 1970s in Taiwan. While the Taiwanese government was cracking down on anything anti-war, a young disc jockey ruled the airwaves, playing every song he was told not to. His following grows until his fans become a part of his story, helping keep him on the air as he preaches his message to the masses and keeps the hope of peace alive.