aGLIFF Daily Dispatch #3: Trails, Rules, Long Hauls and Travelers

Submitted by Jenn Brown on September 11, 2009 - 1:00pm

Thursday night's festival choices were difficult but I opted for a pair of serious docs, followed by two travel docs.

The next two films were the polar opposite, and a perfect way to end the evening. Both filmmakers were present, as pictured above. Austin-based filmmaker Liz Welch Tirrell's The Long Haul is very likely to be the audience favorite, with everyone laughing so hard that the movie got three rounds of applause during the credits. Martha and Lavonne have been together 19 years, and know each other's every quirk. When they move from New Jersey to California, they decide to take the long way. But it's never so simple. The mere act of packing was so funny, I laughed until my face hurt.  Martha and Lavonne could be any couple, but they're just the right kind of feisty, making even the stressful moments entertaining. 

There's even a brief stop in Austin during the trip, and the couple can be seen near the Capitol, but unfortunately nothing more locally. Hopefully they got some good Texas barbecue, like they planned. Even the credits were fun; "Danke Schoen" will never be the same. It was the first time this fest that I didn't have to start the audience clapping when the credits started. (It's a festival etiquette thing: applaud the effort of the filmmakers, especially when they're in the audience.)

Whereas Martha and Lavonne intentionally took a trip, Marco Orsini was The Reluctant Traveler after his partner booked a trip to Ethiopia then backed out due to illness, forcing Marco to take his place as host for the trip. Used to more glamorous destinations, Marco clearly isn't thrilled with the idea, and isn't prepared for the hardships of camping in Ethopia.

Orsini's snarky comments and unashamedly "duck out of water" behavior makes for some very entertaining moments, from a boy's aggressively enthusiastic serenade to a completely inappropriate, hysterically funny, and surprisingly serendipitious response to an armed man in their camp. 

It's not all snark and comedy; despite all the mishaps that occur, there's a transformation, particularly when the group happens upon a religious festival. During the Q&A, Orsini talked in detail about some of the history of Ethiopia, especially the orthodox Christian history.  He also mentioned he has been back several times, and even helped establish a school.

After the film, Orisini said he was considering options for a travel series. If that happens, watch out, Anthony Bourdain, you have serious competition. 

Friday's aGLIFF offerings are one film and one film only, Antique. The film was originally submitted for Fantastic Fest -- it is based on manga, after all.  Instead, it's aGLIFF's Centerpiece Film. The trailer looks very intriguing. 

aGLIFF runs through Sunday, September 13. For up-to-date information, follow the fest on Twitter.