Friday, June 14, 2013

Jason goes to Docfest--Day 7

The Palo Alto days at Docfest are done, so it's back at the Roxie for a week and a half before a final weekend in Santa Cruz. Two more programs last night, starting with a shorts program of Local Docs, taking us through all the stages of life in the Bay Area (or at least through the lens of Bay Area filmmakers):
THE SCENES: As children, we invent games and play. These children, all natural performers, invent a game where they essentially workshop weird, funny scenes all week and perform them during recess on Friday. Lots of fun, and it's great to remember what kids think is funny.
AWARDWINNINGGIR: Made in 4 days as part of the Doc Challenge, we follow our hero into the scary world of dating, especially online dating (the title comes from her screen name, which was cut short because of the character limit.) Interesting, but I'd like to have known how it turned out in the long run. Part of the limitation of the Doc Challenge format. For what it's worth, in the Q&A we learned that no, it didn't lead to a long-term relationship.
BETWEEN LAND AND SEA: Now we look at the life of a married couple (see, we're kinda going through a lifetime with these films.) Specifically, the life of a married couple of innkeepers on tiny East Brother Island, home to a lighthouse and a tiny bed and breakfast with unique views of San Francisco. But this isn't the romantic story of a couple who lived there their whole life and only needed each other and their guests. This is the story of a couple who met when they were working on a boat together, were innkeepers for a year or so, and then finally moved to the mainland and got real jobs.
THE HJEMKOMST: THIRTY YEARS LATER: Well, let's see, we've had childhood, dating, marriage, how about now we do something monumental. And what could be more monumental than building a homemade Viking ship and sailing from Minnesota (via the Great Lakes) to Norway? The original dreamer died of leukemia before his dream became a reality. But his friends, children, and just people who were inspired by the dream made it a reality. And that was thirty years ago. This movie is them looking back on their crazy adventure. It was my favorite one of the bunch, despite not having an obvious San Francisco connection (director J. Christian Jensen is local. That's it.)
THE SUM TOTAL OF OUR MEMORY: And finally, we look near the end of life, as we meet couples who are dealing with the onset of Alzheimer's with a surprising amount of grace and humor. Beautiful shot, and does a great job of evoking the "holes" in a swiss-cheese memory.

And then the second show of the night was MY WAY TO OLYMPIA. In the opening scene, director Niko von Glasow is talking to boccia champion Greg Polychronidis from Greece, and mentions straight-up that he thinks sports "suck." That's a shame, because Niko will be meeting and following the lives of many more athletes in their unique Olympic quests: Table tennis player Aida Husic Dahlen from Norway, archer Matt Stutzman from the USA, swimmer Christiane Reppe from Germany, and an entire volleyball team from Rwanda. Niko approaches it all with charm, grace, and a disarming sense of humor.... Oh, wait, that last joke doesn't work unless you know that Niko is a paraplegic, a Thalidomide child with stubby flipper arms. And all the athletes are paraplegics of some sort, and their Olympic Dream is for the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. Greg is paralyzed from the neck down and has helpers set up and position the ramp for his boccia throws (he nudges the ball down the ramp using a fixture attached to his head.) Aida has one arm, but could tear me apart at table tennis. Matt is short-armed, like Niko, and holds his bow in his feet. Christiane has only one leg, but is beautiful and buff as hell. A one-legged woman who could kick my ass. And that Rwandan team--they play sitting volleyball, scooting around using only their arms (the net is shorter, of course). The stories are inspiring, and the cinematography is breath-taking. Particularly the super-slow-motion shots of the most critical points of competition. Greg landing his ball just right. Or Christiane diving into the water. Or Aida...actually, most of her climactic match is shown through the reaction of her parents, which is an interesting choice that works greatly to capture not just what she's feeling, but what the people who care about her are feeling. But still, the glue of it all is Niko and his charm and humor. He talks candidly with his athlete friends about some of the same struggles, and how it's hard for him to get a job as a director. And he does warm up to sport, even playing a little forbidden boccia on the site of the original Olympics, in Olympia, Greece (before they're shooed away by a security guard.) Really a fantastic film, possibly my favorite of the festival so far (I have a feeling I've said that about too many movies already. But this time I really, really mean it!)

Total Running Time: 157 minutes
My Total Minutes: 330,492

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