Sunday, November 18, 2012

Documenting Documentaries

I've really been into documentaries recently - I think I've watched 8 in the last several weeks.  Along with my favourite French film, I'm turning into quite the pretentioso.  Pretentious people also make up their own words.

The World Before Her
This was a film I saw with a friend at the AGH World Film Festival and the trailer seemed pretty interesting.  The actual film was good, but I'm not sure it was a worthy use of one of the last sunny Sunday afternoons of summer.  The story followed two, of I presume several, paths Indian women can take - the beauty pageant contestant or the traditional militant.  Both were presented as different forms of brain washing and each party had very interesting reasons for their choices.  It was saddening to see the state of women's rights and particularly the situation of one woman, who initially was a comical villain-type was was actually someone trying to make the best of her unfortunate situation.  It was thought-provoking and cheerless.

The Cove
I had heard of this documentary long before Hayden Panettierre got a lot of press for getting involved and crying a lot.  (I am refraining from making a blubbering over blubber joke.  Oh look, I just did.)  Like everyone else, I know that dolphins are brilliant and need to be saved from all sorts of manmade evils that befall them.  But this documentary was so intense and distressful that I had to fast forward through some parts and I certainly teared up.

The one thing they mentioned that stood out to me was that the generation and era of activism has passed and there aren't nearly enough people taking on the cause as the warriors of the 60s and 70s start to age.  I certainly take for granted that the causes are being fueled and supported by others and my involvement is so far limited to signing online petitions and donating paltry amounts to charities.  But who is spearheading all these movements?  Who will in the next few decades?  Our generation is certainly more apathetic than those past and yet, my main thought right now is, "Was the use of the word 'spearheading' in poor taste?"

My Kid Could Paint That
This documentary was a welcome break from the heaviness and it was about a story I had heard in the news a few years ago.  A four year old girl's paintings begin selling for tens of thousands of dollars and appearing in prestigious galleries.  The art and media world went nuts.  Then came the backlash and a 60 Minutes piece suggesting that the father was, in fact, responsible for the paintings, at least in part.

It was a really interesting film and if I had been watching it with someone, I would have turned to them afterwards and asked if they thought the father was 'guilty' because I found it to be very subjective.  All the evidence is there but no conclusion was made.  If you see it, let me know and we can swap answers.

This doc is about a doc who raised 9 children with his wife in a 24' trailer as they spent their lives travelling, surfing and staying out of the public school system.  It follows this family into their forties and my thoughts about the father's principles and methods changed throughout the film.  Half whack job with intense methods, half creative parenting with a noble motivation, he was an interesting character.

Ultimately, his children were ill-prepared for the world when they reached adulthood and I found each of them to be slightly strange.  But it was a weird and wild ride watching them go from hippie surf babies to hippie surf adults.

Of course, I had heard of this story, but the documentary was underwhelming.  I found I was more curious about things the film did not answer, such as how they organized their new "home", what sort of leadership formed, how they spent their time.  It seems that I was looking for an episode of Lost.  My mistake.

No Impact Man
This film followed a New York family who tries to have no environmental impact over the course of one year.  No trash, no fuel, no waste etc.  While it seems like a worthy principle behind the lack of toilet paper, electricity and restaurants, I couldn't see myself doing it and it seemed a little joyless.  They identified unexpected benefits and managed to do fairly well, but it was so extreme that it made me appreciate the small things I have in my life that, yes, do produce waste but make me happy.  You know, like cheeseburgers.  My list of eco-activism is currently exhausted at using reusable bags at the grocery store, turning off lights when not in the room, strident recycling and walking if I can.  Yeah, I could stand to step it up a little.

Man On Wire
This movie was shockingly dull.  The tightrope walker is so passionate and enthusiastic about his life's dream, but I think he forgot that this film was meant to be shown to an audience. 

Bill Cunningham New York
I had heard about this geriatric photographer is the iconic blue jacket who bikes around New York City and snaps fashionable and interestingly dressed people for the New York Times.  He's an institution and a very interesting man, but I found myself frustrated at the filmmaker's inability to glean any real information about him as a person.  He's very private and cryptic and seems to live in a storage locker of sorts.  He's adorable and unpretentious - I found myself wanting to learn more about him.

Overall, I think I would recommend:

- My Kid Could Paint That
- The Cove
- The World Before Her
- Bill Cunningham

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