Sunday, October 25, 2009

Jason goes to Docfest--Day 8

Two more movies, starting with one of the best of the festival, MINE.

MINE is the story animal lovers, and particularly of pets and owners separated during Hurricane Katrina. Director Geralyn Rae Pezanoski keeps the story very personal, focusing on a handful of evacuees returning home and looking for their animals (she is an animal lover herself, and makes it easy to sympathize). During Katrina, many people had to evacuate without their animals--some were ordered so by the National Guard, some had no room in their vehicles (20 people in 2 cars, no room for a dog), and they all thought they'd be back in a day or two. Well, of course it didn't turn out that way, and many pets suffered. Oddly enough, in the first days after the storm, residents weren't allowed back in but if you slapped an "animal rescue" sign on your van, you could go right past the National Guard checkpoints. So animals were rescued, many in awful shape, and to make room for all the rescuees many were shipped all over the country to shelters where (if the shelter cared about the original owner) they were fostered out or (if the shelter didn't count on the original owner coming back) they were adopted out. As I said, many of the rescued animals were in awful shape, and so it became easy for the shelters to assume all New Orleans residents were awful, neglectful pet owners and didn't deserve their animals back (I remember a lot of awful things being said about the evacuees, seems they got the shaft over and over again in this ordeal). Anyway, this is the point where the movie really comes in. Residents returning home, living in FEMA trailers, and looking for their lost pets. It's sort of a heartbreaking story on both sides, since many of these animals were adopted out to loving families who take great care of them and don't want to give them up (hence the title). But when you see the dogs returned to their original owners, and you see them perk up and jump up and down (Bandit, probably the cutest, jumps up and starts wagging his tail blocks away from home as soon as he recognizes the neighborhood) it's clear whose doggy they are. Well done, very emotional film.

And then I saw OCTOBER COUNTRY, a year (from Halloween to Halloween) in the life of the Mosher family--a walking catalog of PTSD. The Mosher family has a few more ghosts than the average American family--war, teen pregnancy, child abuse, etc. The film simply gives them a voice, lets them talk about their problems, their past, their future in an honest and haunting manner. The cinematography is beautiful, and provides the right counterpoint to their stories. And the stories, though painful and sometimes shocking, are very real and it's important to give them voice. This is the sober counterpoint to THE WILD AND WONDERFUL WHITES OF WEST VIRGINIA.
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