Thursday, October 20, 2011

Jason goes to Docfest--Day 6

Two more movies last night.

First a short and feature pairing of semi-humorous political activism/police state movies. First the short, THE LOVE POLICE: SOCIAL CONTROLS, about two guys, Charlie and Danny, who call themselves the Love Police and use comedy and bullhorns to expose and ridicule the law. Anywhere from holding a sign saying, "Everything is okay" to getting into arguments over the exact boundaries of public space on the sidewalk (over here is public, but one meter over here is private and you can't film). Or anywhere from celebrating the 1,000th death in Iraq "for freedom" to hugging police officers (protip: no one they've hugged has ever arrested them).

That was the lead in to the feature, THE AFTER PARTY (aka THE LAST PARTY 3). Funny in a very different way, and much scarier, it uses the story of director Michael Schiller at the 2004 Republican convention in New York as a jumping off point to examine police spying and mass arrests of protesters. He was working as a cinematographer for a get-out-the-youth-vote (not necessarily partisan) documentary starring Andre 3000 Benjamin. And he was swept up in a mass arrest of marchers. His videotape actually proved that the cops were inconsistent with their orders, saying the march could go on despite lacking a permit, so long as it didn't get out of hand (and by the footage, it seemed it only got out of hand when the police started wrapping huge groups up in nets. As a matter of fact, everyone on that tape who was arrested subsequently had their cases dropped by the D.A. But still, he spent 48 hours in custody, and that pretty much sucks. In the ensuing lawsuit he filed for false arrest, he learned that the NYPD had secret surveillance data on him and other protesters, but to date the exact nature of that surveillance has not been made public. So he made this movie telling not just his story but exploring the use of police surveillance across the country. It made me both laugh and shit my pants in terror.

And then I thought more about it afterwards, because while I'm pretty law-abiding and not quite an activist I've given to some organizations and haven't really made my politics secret. So am I on a list somewhere? Am I a surveillance target? Well, if I am they haven't acted on it (yet). And while surveillance is easy (as a spy store owner explains), as a scientist I know how easy it can be to obtain a ton of data that you simply can never sift through. And I have a feeling that's what our law enforcement agencies are faced with. Not just more data than they need or should have, but more data than they can ever use. If I recall correctly (which is a big if), one of the statistics in the movie is that some 200,000 Americans are on lists for increased scrutiny. That sounds like a lot, but really that's less than 0.1% of us. Certainly there's something law abiding (and relatively benign) that the rest of us (assuming I'm not one of the 0.1%) can do to get on watch lists. If enough of us do that, the job of spying on us all will become overwhelming. That's right, we can whelm them more than they can stand to be whelmed! So does anyone have a good idea? This movie might have made me paranoid, but I'm pretty sure I'm on a watch list now just for suggesting this.

So let's bring it down a bit and center our chakras (or whatever) with YOGAWOMAN. As the name suggests, it's about yoga and women. I never knew that originally yoga was a male-only pursuit and women were forbidden. They were even considered unclean and obstacles on the path to yogic enlightenment. I'm not at all suggesting that's right, but to me it was far and away the most fascinating part of the film. And that's how the movie opened. So if you'll pardon me an overly masculine metaphor, it kinda shot its load in the first few minutes (hey, it happens to all of us). What's left after that is still somewhat interesting. Various looks through the history of yoga, how in the U.S. it came to be dominated by women (85% of students, if not teachers), and the various health benefits. It's well structured and edited (something I can't say for many documentaries this year) and entertaining even though it's something of a 90 minute advertisement for yoga. Now for me, personally, I'm not that interested in yoga and I'm still not tempted to try it. I've got a feeling in my balls that I just wasn't the target audience.

Total Running Time: 162
My Total Minutes: 251,708

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