On Tara Illenberger's "High Tide"

by Richard Bolisay

▶︎ High Tide seems to be the only film from the lineup that shows the least struggle in submitting to the festival’s thematic requirement. The story is rooted in the place, not made to exist for it, and the direction, though faulty at times, feels just adequate if one considers it to be a children’s tale. In fact, one could even say that the best audience for it is kids — its protagonists are a group of friends, two girls and one boy, whose journey provides the film its conflicts and climax.

On one hand, this indicates that it is meant to be understood plainly on a surface level, that it doesn’t prioritize refinement for the sake of complexity or style. It does not shy away from doing maudlin flashbacks, or extending its jokes, or violating narrative continuities, as long as what is being presented onscreen is easily comprehensible. One can argue that this is abridging or simplifying what is otherwise an intricate subject matter, but creating an art specific to young ones is vastly underrated and admirable. The key aspect of the film is how the three children take on life’s challenges (a mother in hospital, the memory of a dead father, getting out of an island safely) and overcome them.

On the other, it means that the film is very much reachable, and what it lacks in sophistication it exceeds in charm and candidness. Although its smallness hinders what could have been a stronger narrative and statement, it also allows it to share distinct nuances that its limitation offers (particularly the effects of climate change on people in remote communities and the importance of educating them on it). For a festival driven by advocacy, High Tide fits in nicely because it knows how to use environmental concerns not as mere accessories to its story but as an important part of its world, and such attitude is something that many of the other entries do not have. ***

Richard Bolisay is a film critic. This was previously published on his site Lilok Pelikula, as part of "Dispatches from ToFarm Film Festival (Part 2), July 20 2017.