Saturday, May 7, 2011

Marathon Film Viewing

I bought a pass for the HotDocs documentary film festival in Toronto, and while I haven't maxed it out yet, I'm feeling a little maxed out myself.  Yesterday I went to three screenings and had the good sense to let the fourth one I'd planned on seeing go.  I mean, really - do I need to leave the house at 8:15am and not return until 12:30am?  I think not.
   However, I have seen some really good films.  The best one so far has been The Black Power Mixtape:  1967 - 1975.  Using footage from Swedish television broadcasts, it painted a picture of how the Black Power movement was seen outside the US, and perhaps how Americans didn't get to see it.  For me, it also added fuel to my interest in the 70s as a time of social and political possibility - something I see less of in North America these days but more of in the current struggles in Africa and the Middle East.  Having come out of the hardcore punk scene of the 80s, another time when music spoke to the political and social climate, as well as teaching in universities today, I feel like there's less of that critical mass of agitation, or focus even, in North American youth culture.  Yes, it sounds like "kids these days..."  So sue me.  However, if I ever say "When I was a kid I had to walk twelve miles in the snow with no shoes...," send me a note.

  Another screening I attended was Melissa-Mom and Me, which screened with Poster Girl.  Poster Girl illustrated a young Iraq war veteran's struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  While not necessarily surprising, I did appreciate the fact that it showed how she eventually found a way to work through it, even as the experience indelibly marks her for life.
     What I really liked about Melissa-Mom and Me was that it touched on something that I think most of us do/believe.  There's someone in our past who looms large, for whatever reason, and perhaps we fixate on them a bit.  In our imagination, we play an equally important role in their mind.  However, that's not always, or probably usually, the case.  While this film did demonstrate how it can be one-sided, it also allowed us to understand a bit more about the characters and how that obsession can function.
     The other two screenings I attended were for People I Could Have Been and Maybe Am (shown with Shibuya) and Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then (screened with Tuned In).  I thought that People I Could Have Been was interesting (shot entirely on a mobile phone camera) but didn't necessarily leave me with more than I'd come in with.  Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then definitely took risks, which I enjoy, and reminded me a bit of Guy Maddin, but I also didn't find the piece satisfying.  Maybe I was prejudiced by my own expectations; maybe I felt like it was trying too hard.  Of the two shorts, Shibuya and Tuned In, I preferred Tuned In, which was about a man who records the sounds of the magnetic action in the natural world (my description lacks a bit, I know).
    By the time I'd finished the last screening, I knew I couldn't do more for the day.  I had a ticket to see American Losers, but just couldn't do it.  I think today is a film-free day, but tomorrow I may try to get into El Bulli - Cooking In Progress.
     Pass the popcorn.

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