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Wednesday, November 6,2013

Measuring up

Class warfare, Dutch drama and penis sizes (hee hee) at the East Lansing Film Festival

by Allan I. Ross
For 16 years, East Lansing Film Festival founder Susan Woods has introduced mid-Michigan audiences to films that are mind-bendingly philosophical, heartbreakingly beautiful and infuriatingly confrontational. This year’s festival — opening tonight — includes “Inequality for All,” an engrossing documentary about Secretary of Labor-turned-Berkeley Professor Robert Reich’s dissection on the erosion of the middle class (it’s not as boring as it sounds, honest); “The Hunt,” a Danish art film starring the electrifying Mads Mikkelsen (TV’s “Hannibal,” “Casino Royale”) as a lonely teacher; and “Tendency to Jam,” an experimental 5-minute short that uses stop-motion animation to critique music technology.

And then there’s “Unhung Hero,” a tongue-in-cheek documentary about one man’s journey to answer the timeless question: “Is my small penis holding me back in life?” “My favorite documentaries educate and ignite conversations that really have made me rethink certain issues,” said the film’s star, Patrick Moote, by email. Moote, a Los Angeles-based actor/comedian, spent a year trying out a variety of male enhancements for the film after being rebuffed by his girlfriend for, um, coming up short. Titillating for sure, but not your typical film festival fare.

“The movie has a fairly universal appeal,” Moote said. “The overall message is really about embracing your insecurities. I think thatīs an issue that people from all different walks of life can respond to.”

“Hands down, it’s the funniest doc I’ve ever seen,” Woods said. “It stands up with all of the other films in the festival. It got a standing ovation at the Traverse City Film Festival. It was unbelievable being in that audience, and I thought it would play well (in East Lansing) too.”

Moote and director Brian Spitz will appear Saturday for a filmmakers round table discussion in Wells Hall to discuss making “Unhung.” Also on hand will be MSU grad Jacob Kornbluth, who directed “Inequality” as well as Justin Leach, a professional CG animator who’s worked on the “Ice Age” movies and the “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” TV series. The trip will be a homecoming of sorts for Leach: His father, Tom Leach, owns Video to Go in Frandor Shopping Center.

“I’m excited to bring Justin back,” Woods said. “It’s the true ‘local boy does good in the film industry’ story. We’re very lucky to have him speaking.”

Woods said she also feels lucky for this year’s other big get: procuring the new Studio C! theater in Okemos as a venue.

“It’s a game-changer,” she said. “Between their big chairs, the convenient parking and (Studio C!’s built-in restaurant), I think we’re really going to see an uptick in attendance.”

Woods said that there are fewer movies this year by de sign.

“We found that some of the earlier films on Sunday weren’t playing to as many people, so we concentrated our scheduling,” she said. “We found that a bigger schedule doesn’t necessarily mean better.”

So apparently size doesn’t matter after all. Go figure.

Through Thursday, Nov. 14 Wells Hall showings: $8/$6 students and seniors; Studio C! showings: $12/$8 seniors/$7 students ($8 upcharge for premium seating); opening night feature “Inequality for All,” including director talkback: $15. Festival passes also available, $35-$160. For the full ELFF schedule, including venue information, go to lansingcitypulse.com.

Related article

"Unhung Hero": a review

by MARK NIXON

This film asks a question that’s nagged men forever: “Does size matter?” It doesn’t provide the definitive answer, but actor-comedian Patrick Moote’s quixotic journey to enhance his penis’ size is worth the ride.

Once you stop giggling over the premise, you join Moote for what may be titled Male Enhancement 101. Who knew that, on average, Korean men had the smallest penises (but huge phallic statuary)? Or that male enhancement is a $5 billion global industry?

The film captures several bizarre, cringe-worthy enhancement techniques. In China, they use weights. It hurts just to write that.

Somewhat unsatisfactorily, Moote concludes with a resigned shrug. It’s about being comfortable in your own skin, so to speak.

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