Sunday, October 26, 2008

Jason goes to Docfest--Day 8

Just one program last Friday, and then I had to go to Scotchtoberfest (but that's a different story, and one I don't remember that well.  I remember everyone liked the Scotch I brought, I remember blurting out "I never knew I loved 12-year olds before tonight" (pretty sure I was referring to 12 year old scotches).  And I remember arguing with a Filipina lady who was convinced that Jews eat the foreskin after a bris.)

Anyway, let's talk about the movies instead.  This kicked off Melody Gilbert weekend at the festival.  Melody is a talented, accomplished filmmaker, and now Indiefest's only award winner, as she was given the first ever Someone to Watch Award.

The program was a double-bill of her first two independently made documentaries (previously she was a TV journalist), starting with her first, "Married at the Mall".  The Mall refers to the Mall of America, the giant Mall in the suburbs of Minneapolis/St. Paul (Melody is from Minnesota).  You know, the famous mall with the roller coaster inside, etc.?  Well, it's also go the Chapel of Love where you can get married in the mall.  The movie follows around the workers and a half dozen couples as they plan and celebrate their marriage.  The couples range from truck drivers to a Russian bride getting married to a fireman who holds the world land-speed truck record.  There's the soldier getting married right after 9/11 before he ships off on tour (he's Navy, she was in the Air Force, that's how they met).  There was even one odd moment when a chapel director said that the people she sees coming in there were a cross-section of "the real America".  Of course, in our current political climate, in SF, that was met by hisses (we don't boo in SF, we hiss), and I just had to shake my head and say "That's not what she meant!  She's not Sarah Palin!"  Anyway, it was all a lot of fun.

But then "Married in the Mall" was overshadowed by the movie that had introduced me to Melody's work back at Indiefest in 2004, "Whole".  Here's what I wrote about it back then:
Next up there was a documentary about amputee wannabes called "Whole".  That's right, amputee wannabes--people who want to have a limb amputated.  In all cases in the movie, it happened to be legs they wanted amputated (which is the case 90% of the time). And it happened to be men (again, true 90% of the time). Why do the want it? Nobody knows. They can't explain it, other than the feeling that the limb doesn't belong to them.  And it's very specific. One guy who successfully convinced a doctor to amputate his leg after freezing it in dry ice showed how actually the doctor had cut a little too much off in one spot and left a little too much on in another spot (although he didn't try to fix it, it was close enough). Another guy shot his leg off with a shotgun, several people have died trying to do this. They also interviewed some wannabes who hadn't tried anything yet. One who was thinking of doing it, and the only thing
that kept him from it was that his wife said she'd leave him. Another from Holland who ties his leg behind him and walks around on crutches.  Interestingly enough, his wife supports him completely. And that became one of the most interesting things about the movie (the director, Melody Gilbert, talked about this). If your significant other wanted to get an amputation, would you stand by him/her? They also interviewed a psychologist who's trying to get this studied better (as it is, the condition doesn't even have a name), and a doctor from Scotland who performed two voluntary amputations and caused quite a scandal.  Absolutely fascinating.
Yes, still fascinating.  The second time watching it I was also struck by how eloquent, intelligent, and rational the subjects were about their desire and their decisions.

I just want to end this post by saying that people often ask me what the best movie in a festival is.  I usually tell them a few that made a good first impression on me, but I almost always follow it up by saying, "I don't really know yet.  I'll know a couple of weeks after the festival, when I see which ones are still stuck in my head."  "Whole" was the perfect example of this.  I was fairly impressed when I first saw it, but then in the subsequent weeks or months I found that various comments or observations would bring me back to the subject and I'd tell people, "I recently saw this great documentary about these people who want to be amputees!"  I was surprised that years later (now 4 years on and still going) I would still be reminded of it (often for no reason), and have to tell people about it.  Well, since Melody was there selling DVDs, now I can tell people I saw this great documentary and then loan them the DVD.  You can find links to all her films and buy her DVDs at her website,   

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