Thursday, October 4, 2007

Jason goes to Docfest--Day 5

So I mentioned before that nearly every film festival where I take BART includes an incident where I have to run from BART to the theater. I already did it once on BART's fault. On Tuesday I did it again on my fault--or rather my work's fault. I had to leave early to get to the 5 pm show, and even though I warned everyone I had to leave early, they still kept asking me for stuff. Anyway, I sprinted in just at the intro to the first film.



First was the short "Absolute Zero". It's a little bit non-documentary, because it's all re-enactment. But it is possibly the most interesting story I've heard. In about the 1930's a train was travelling through the Australian desert. One of the cars was a refrigerated freezer car. A worker got trapped inside just before the long journey, and froze to death. During his long ordeal, he scrawled his dying thoughts on the walls, clearly documenting him succumbing to hypothermia. Now here's the kicker (spoiler alert, highlight to read): The refrigerator was broken. If he'd been in any other car, he'd have died of the heat, but his car was a comfortable 68F. He died of hypothermia because his brain thought he was dying of hypothermia. Here's an extra kicker--the autopsy report noted frostbite on his fingers and toes.

End spoiler.


That was followed by the feature, "Breaking Ranks", about American soldiers in Iraq who seek flee to Canada and seek asylum. Some would label them cowards but they claim that it's an act of conscience, that they're not opposed to war, just that this war and the atrocities they've seen (including one account of insurgent-head soccer) are unjust. Some volunteered for non-combat duty but were denied. All filed for conscientious objector status and were denied. This film definitely takes their side, and I certainly can't fault it for that. I know it's a sensitive subject, so here's my two cents: I have neither the moral authority nor the physical ability to force anyone to act in a way that is contrary to their conscience. So if their conscience tells them to not fight and flee to Canada instead, I can't stop them. However, their actions still have consequences that they must accept. If that means they can never return to the U.S., or if Canada denies their asylum claim they'll be wanted in the U.S. for desertion and in Canada for illegal immigration status, then they have to be ready for those consequences. And on the third hand, those consequences should be reasonable--but I'm not going to venture into what specifically that means. In any case, whether an individual claim truly is a matter of conscience or cowardice, I would hope that there is a refuge where they can escape, and Canada seems like a good choice.


Well, I don't know a good segue from the politics of war to kinky sex and body modification, but that's how the night went. First with the short "A Tale of Two Bondage Models". The two models are specifically Lorelei Lee and Princess Donna, who were in attendance but I didn't get a good picture of them (I'm sure if you're interested you can google them). I'm not actually into BDSM, but I've seen a number of movies (mostly documentaries) about it, so there was nothing too surprising or shocking to me. I guess I'm jaded. Still, it was pretty cool.

Now the feature really tested how jaded I am. "Flesh and Blood" is the story of Steve Haworth, a professional "body artist" who started out as a piercer and went on to invent 3-d body art. Surgical implants under the skin for various 3-d bumps, stars, patterns, etc. Bases on which he can screw metal spikes, just about anything. He does it all without administering anaesthesia so he doesn't cross the line to practicing medicine without a license. Pretty freaky shit, including some pretty graphic and bizarre genital alterations. Then things get really weird, when he and his friends get into "suspending"--hanging themselves from hooks stuck through their skin. For the most part it sticks to his point of view and shows him in a flattering if unconventional light. But in the last half hour or so cracks start forming in his perfectly bizarre life, and his girlfriend leaves him and his crazy group of friends start growing up and getting normal. All of a sudden the person whom the movie has tried to convince you isn't really that crazy turns out to be...really fuckin' crazy! And kinda self-centered. But still somehow grounded, as he's a single father of 2 children from previous relationships (children he never thought he'd have to take care of). One last thing I want to mention. There's a guy in the movie who was the first person to get implants to have metal spikes sticking out of his head--a kind of metal mohawk. In the end of the movie, he gets them taken out. He's interviewed and claims they got to be too much of a distraction, and he couldn't have a conversation about anything but the spikes. But the whole time he's being interviewed he's wearing an eye patch (and big lobe-stretching earrings, but that's not important). And the whole time I'm thinking, "he got rid of the spikes because they were a distraction to conversation, but he's wearing an eye patch. What's up with the eye patch?" It's never explained, but if I see someone with metal spikes sticking out of his head, I know there's only one real story behind that, and I don't need to hear it. But if I see someone with an eye patch, there's at least a hundred possible stories, and I have to know!

And finally, the last movie of Tuesday was "Sanctuary: Lisa Gerrard". I don't really follow music, so I didn't know who Lisa Gerrard is. Turns out she has an amazing ethereal voice with incredible range, and was in a band called Dead Can Dance. She also feels everything far more sensitively than you anyone else. That's certainly true for me, because I wasn't feeling this, and I kinda dozed off a bit in the middle of this 90 minute infomercial. I did perk up again when it got to her film scoring career because hey, I like movies and she's done scores for some great ones--"Whale Rider", "The Insider", etc. So overall, I don't know if it's a better movie if you're already a fan of hers (I talked to one fan who thought the movie sucked), but if you know nothing about her, this is a pretty rude introduction.

And that was Tuesday at Docfest.
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