Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jason goes to Docfest--Day 4

Get ready for this refrain all week--two more movies last night.

First up, and absolutely gorgeous look at South African artists in THE CREATORS. On a personal note, I was in South Africa last year for the World Cup, and had an amazing time there. And although I didn't spend much time in the poor areas, the economic disparities (and yes, they go along race lines) are immediately obvious and unavoidable. But I was very impressed by the spirit and outright cheerfulness of everyone there, and these artists, despite living in sometimes horrendous circumstances, still embody that. We've got Faith47, a mother and graffiti artist who uses the ANC Freedom Charter (once considered evidence of terrorism under Apartheid) in her murals. We've got her son, who is a talented comic artist in his own right and uses the violence he sees around him to influence his drawings. We've got Ongx, a young Afro-pop/blues singer who won (of all things) a gospel contest that came with a recording contract. When the contract never panned out (he recorded, but no album was released), he joined with his friend Wara to for Warongx, playing on the streets and in trains (in a wild train performance they end up getting so caught up in the music they miss their stop). We've got Mthetho (my personal favorite), with a scar across his face and the voice of an angel, he sings opera like Pavarotti. Okay, I don't know opera, and apparently he needs years of training and refinement, but I think he sounds freakin' awesome. And judging by the applause in the audience, I wasn't the only one. We've got Blag Pearl, a poet and performer whose brother was a hip hop artist murdered in gang warfare. We've got Emile, the b-boy, MC, and positive activist who takes his message to the schools and put together Africa's first b-boy competition that sent a team to the world competition in Germany (and has freakin' awesome hair. Mine is growing back!) And finally we have Sweat.x, a bizarre bi-racial duo of singers/performance artists who are probably the funniest of the bunch. And put it all together you have a movie that doesn't shy away from the painful past or present, but also looks with hope and energy at a brighter future. Destruction is passe, creation is the order of the day.

Oh yeah, and I love the quote that opened the movie, although I forgot who it was attributed to (and might have the words slightly wrong): If you want to know about hell, ask an artist. If you can't find and artist, you're already there.

Oh, and buy the DVD. 75% of the proceeds go directly to the artists.


Then the second film, which made a really interesting double bill with THE CREATORS, was SCRAPPER. Also about people on the margins of society, but a totally opposite tone from the first. While THE CREATORS was hopeful and bright, SCRAPPER is downright scary--and it's in America. In the foothills of Chocolate Mountain, just east of the Salton Sea in California there is a U.S. military bombing range. And around that range is a community of meth-addicted crazy people to scavenge for scrap metal to sell for a living. Let me say this again, just so you're clear--people run around live bombing ranges, risking getting blown up by unexploded ordnance, to make a living selling scrap metal. Or maybe they don't do it for a living, they do it for the adrenaline rush. I don't know, I just know that they're crazy, I would never want to meet them in real life, but it was a total thrill and treat to meet them on screen. Wow! I don't think this is a movie I can even describe. I can't do it justice, it just has to be experienced. And according to the filmmakers who were there (including Adam Edwards, the narrator whose voice I can't get out of my head) they filmed just a tiny fraction of the crazy stuff they witnessed (e.g., no meth was actually shown, only a law enforcement officer talking about how all the scrappers are on meth).

Total Running Time: 170 minutes
My Total Minutes: 251,361
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