Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jason goes to Docfest--Day 4

Monday night, Docfest teamed up with the United Nations Association Film Festival for a night of shows. Their festival is currently playing through Sunday at Stanford, and of course I'll miss it because I'll still be at Docfest, but I'd encourage my South Bay/peninsula readers to check it out, and let me know how it is.

As for the movies last night, they were kind of a mixed bag. The night started with "Belonging", an ardent screed about pollution and the necessity for humanity to find a proper balance with the world (i.e., to realize that we belong to the world, it doesn't belong to us). Look, I'm sympathetic, I agree, and some of the scenes were well shot (although I'm puzzled why the French Canadians weren't subtitled). But the science was just so simplistic, it will be insulting to anyone who has seen "An Inconvenient Truth" or passed a junior high science class. I was going along just slightly unimpressed--why not acknowledge opposing viewpoints, especially so that you can explain why they're wrong? Then it actually stated that the major source of energy in the galaxy is the sun, and I laughed out loud and completely tuned out. Please, filmmakers, go back and learn the difference between "galaxy" and "solar system". You might not think it's important, but it's important to your credibility. I generally try not to let stuff like this bug me so much, but this time you just fucking lost me.

In contrast, "San Francisco: Still Wild at Heart" was an entertaining, insteresting, and smart film. It's a charming, beautiful, and respectful look at wildlife in San Francisco. In particular, it's about the coyotes who are returning to San Francisco. And particularly in particular, it's about a coyote who moved into Bernal Hill. For those who don't know SF geography, Bernal Hill is a small, isolated spot of green surrounded by city, so it's pretty freakin' remarkable for any wild creature to make a trek from who-knows-where (actually, genetic testing showed that it came from Marin County--over the Golden Gate Bridge!) into the park. People are interviewed who sighted the coyote, wildlife experts track the coyotes and try to educate people about not leaving trash (or cats) out and other advice about how to deal with coyotes. Other animals are mentioned and shown (like the parrots of telegraph hill, stars of the film "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill). But the star are the coyotes. And coyotes are cool. That is all.

And the final movie of the night was "Megalopolis", the epic marathon of one day in giant cities all over the world--New York, LA, Shenzhen (China), Tokyo, Cairo, Karachi (Pakistan), Sao Paulo (Brazil), and I think (but don't remember) others. It jumps around with little narration beyond the words of famous sci-fi writers like Phillip K. Dick and William Gibson, then lets the people (mostly poor people) and their lives speak for themselves. This could have been a grand epic poem if A) it wasn't so long, B) I wasn't so tired, and C) I wasn't under time pressure to catch the last BART home. As it was, I was just exhausted by how looooong it was. And then I looked it up on IMDb, and learned this was actually an edited down version from the 300 minute, 6-episode TV mini-series. It's probably more digestible broken down into hour-long chunks.

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