Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jason goes to Docfest--Day 4

I caught three more films at Docfest last Sunday, starting with the dickumentary* THE FINAL MEMBER. Sigurdur Hjartarson runs the Icelandic Phallological Museum, the only museum in the world dedicated to the collection and display of penises (or "penes" if you prefer) from all different types of mammals. It's been a 30+ year devotion of his (as a teacher in Iceland, part of his philosophy is based on the idea that you should talk about whatever people don't want to talk about.) The movie introduces us to the museum, to Sigurdur, and tells his story somewhat. But the real narrative thrust (sorry for that one) is his quest to complete his collection with the final missing specimen--homo sapiens. And who knew, if you advertised that you wanted to display a human penis in your museum, you get a couple of colorful character. On one side is a famed Icelandic adventurer Pall Arason, now in his 90's, who promises to donate his penis upon his death. There is a little catch, though. According to an Icelandic folk tale, a wife was granted a divorce upon proving her husband's penis was not at least 5 inches long (when erect.) So Sigurdur decides that he will only accept a penis of "legal length," i.e., at least 5 inches. No problem for Pall, except...you know how really old people tend to shrink. I've never thought about it before, but they shrink everywhere. So Pall is afraid that he might shrink to under 5 inches before he passes away (either that or he was exaggerating his size before and now he's having second thoughts.) In any case, Pall has competition from America, in the form of Tom and his penis Elmo (named before the Sesame Street character.) Tom wants Elmo to be a worldwide celebrity (he even has a website, obviously NSFW.) And is even willing to donate Elmo before he dies just to ensure Elmo's fame. I don't want to give too much away, but Tom/Elmo at first are kinda eccentric, then they seem batshit crazy, and finally they turn out to be kind of interesting. There are actually more reasons than just fame that Tom is willing to separate with Elmo.

This is a movie that really should be seen with an audience. The reactions--giggling, gasping, wincing, etc.--are a big part (sorry, no pun intended) of the fun.

So, after we've taken an in-depth look at the penis, let's explore for a moment what we put in our mouth. Yup, a short and a feature about food.

First up was the short MURDER MOUTH. A young Australian lady decides to explore food and her Greek heritage by saying she will not eat anything she is not able to kill. Broccoli is easy. Fish, less so. Chicken, even less. And lamb...well that was really tough. But now she has earned her right to eat meat. And after a lamb dinner where her family and friends are teasing her for being so squeamish, she gets to turn the tables and show them the footage of her killing their dinner. It's definitely playful, but with a pretty powerful statement about our relationship with our food.

Then the feature, EATING ALABAMA. Director Andrew Grace and his wife Rashmi move back to Alabama, a state and culture he's always had a sort of conflicted relationship with. For many generations--up until his grandfather--his ancestors were farmers. Even when his grandfather left the farm he still had memories of communal meals with food from local farmers, that was just the simpler, slower pace of life back then. So Andrew and Rashmi try to return to that life, by vowing for one year to not eat anything that was grown outside of Alabama. Suddenly crops become seasonal, meat is locally raised and butchered (or hunted, although spoiler alert: he never actually bags a deer.) Their front yard becomes a garden (which he describes as a very "punk rock" kind of move.) And they explore their relationships with their food. It's an interesting experiment, and something definitely comes out of it. Not exactly what he was looking for (family farming has long given way to agribusiness, to the point where you can't really make a living with a small family farm) but something more than just a movie (he does create a community and does get to enjoy a community meal of seasonal, locally grown foods.) It's pretty interesting because the "locavore" movement has already caught on somewhat among urban communities (especially San Francisco and New York,) and time will tell if that's a real movement or some hippie/hipster fad. But it seems a more natural fit in rural areas, and yet in some ways its harder there.

And finally, I ended my day at Docfest with BALLROOM DANCER, an intimate look at professional competitive dancer Slavik Kryklyvyy (don't make me pronounce that, or even spell it again.) A decade ago he was world champion. Now he's trying to make a comeback with a new partner, Anna. And at first they're falling a little short--coming in third, etc. But that's okay, they're just getting to know their motions and with the familiarity will come success. Or maybe not. Maybe his perfectionism, his inflexibility (mentally and emotionally, physically he's perfectly flexible), and his cruelty will drive a wedge between them and things will get worse and worse until it all falls apart. What's interesting is how little of the movie is told in words. Yeah, there are some words from coaches that shed light, but really you can tell everything from their looks and their movement. It's simultaneously a story about the love of dance and about how obsession can destroy that love. One of the most beautiful moments was just a little girl dancing in the studio. No technique, no skill, just a love of movement that you know had to be the way every dancer started. And then compare it to Slavik who is all technique and skill but you  have to question at times whether any of that love of movement is left, or if it has all been drained by a desire to win.

So that was my Docfest last Sunday.

Total Running Time: 238
My Total Minutes: 303,573

*You don't even want to know how long I debated whether to call it this or a "cockumentary."

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