Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Jason goes to Docfest--day 4

Two more shows last Monday, each with a short and a feature:


First up was the short "Aqui Comienzian los Estados Unidos", a look at the lives of Mexicans immigrating (sometimes legally, sometimes not) into the United States. This is, of course, quite a hot-button issue, but this short takes a more human, less overtly political look--and in doing so, falls on the pretty obvious political side.


This short was followed by the eco-political agitprop "The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil". When the Soviet Union fell, that decimated Cuba's economy. In particular, the price of oil skyrockets, making both fuel and petroleum-based fertilizers unaffordable. This is diplomatically referred to as the "special period", but the movie investigates the Cuban people's solutions to the crisis. Specifically smaller, organic and rooftop farming, carpooling (government vehicles are required to pick up anyone who needs a ride if they have room), public transit, alternative fuels, etc. It presents Cuba as a model for the peak oil crisis the rest of the world will eventually face. There are good ideas in this movie, but it's so laughably propaganda that those ideas will probably be lost on all but those who are already convinced. It's sad, but true. Small local farms, public transit, carpooling, alternative energy are all good ideas, but you're not going to convince anyone by saying, "that's how they do it in Cuba!"


Anyway, after that there was another program of Blues fest films, a short and a feature (but oddly, not in that order):


First was the feature (and boy did that screw me up, after 30 minutes I kept expecting it to end) "Sacred Steel". It's a really cool look at the pedal steel guitar, a sort of bench-top electric guitar played with a piece of metal instead of fingers to stop the strings. As a result, musicians get a sort of vocal tone to it. It's traditionally Hawaiian, and is used in worship ceremonies at the House of God church. Only recently have church musicians taken their music out of the church and into concerts (where secular audiences still dance around like they're possessed by the holy spirit). The sound is really cool, and the song about Roosevelt is alone worth the price of admission.


And finally, the short "A Well Spent Life" by local filmmaker Les Blank, who also did "The Blues According to Lightning Hopkins". In fact, those two films make good companion pieces, as this is again about a Texas bluesman (in fact, Texas has actually become the recurring theme of the festival). This time he interviews and profiles Mance Lipscombe. In particular, how his hard life actually made him appreciate what he has more.

And that was Monday at Docfest. I'm catching up slowly, but still have 4 more films to write up.
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