Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Jason goes to Docfest--The End!

Finally, three days after closing night (and an extra week and a half later to write this,) it's really, really over. Four more movies a week ago Sunday in Santa Cruz. I'm so far behind on this blog, I apologize if my reviews will become very brief.

First up was GUT RENOVATION, Su Friedrich's personal take on the gentrification of the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn. She had lived there with her artist friends for decades, but now developers are coming in, declaring the neighborhood derelict, kicking the artists out, and building fancy condos and boring chain stores. At least, that's the premise, and while Friedrich gives a unique insider perspective that's closer to home movie than polished cinema, it's unlikely to convince anyone who isn't already convinced the developers are evil. An interesting perspective, but for a more polished, professional, and damning portrait (including political shenanigans) of developers destroying Brooklyn, check out BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN (from last year's Docfest.)

The next show started with the short THE KIDS OF 5114. The number 5114 refers to a donor number--sperm donor, to be precise. A bunch of half-siblings find each other on Facebook, and the reunion is funny and interesting.

That led into the feature, PERFECT STRANGERS, which was also about strangers meeting on line and medical procedures. But this time, it's kidney transplants. Ellie wants to give away her kidney. It's rare, but it does happen that people want to donate one of their spare organs to...whoever needs it. Most live organ donations are to family members, but she's willing to give it to anyone. And her first choice is Kathy, a woman on dialysis who might not have long to live without a transplant. The compatibility tests come back and...they're not a match. But they both stay in touch, they both (without giving too many spoilers away) complete their journey, and they were both there at the Q&A afterwards (I guess that's a bigger spoiler.) A fascinating and admirable story. I, for one, am more than happy to donate all my organs to medicine, science, ...cuisine (okay, not really,) or whatever after I die. Until then, call me selfish but I want to keep all the organs I'm using.

Next up was the shorts program Bold Docs. Think of "Bold" as "Experimental" or even "Artsy":
SKINNINGGROOVE: The title refers to a small English fishing village. Interesting people, mostly cut off from the outside world, and distrusting of strangers. But one photographer--Chris Killip--gained their trust and documented the town for years. This short film, starring Chris, showcases several of his unpublished photographs.
EVERY SPEED: Views of people getting around in different ways--with and without disabilities. Lots of scenes of wheelchairs.
ANIMATION HOTLINE: A very funny look at the results when an artist puts up a phone number where you can call him and leave a voicemail message that he will then animate. See them all (and find the voicemail number) here.
BUFFALO MUST DIE: Difficult to watch, but as a carnivore I felt I must. This movie shows ritual buffalo slaughters in Tana Toraja, Indonesia. Granted, I'm not from Indonesia and I don't eat (much) buffalo (that I know of) but still I feel like watching animals get butchered should be part of the carnivore experience.
UTC: A "found footage" look at Japan, through the lenses of many webcams.
NILE PERCH: Fisherman on Lake Victoria, Africa. Traditional life meets modernization and globalization, in meditative black-and-white 16 mm film.

And finally, speaking of fishing, I ended the night--and the festival--with THE LAST OCEAN. The Ross Sea in Antarctica is the closest thing on Earth that we have to a pristine marine environment. Basically the last place that humans haven't fucked up...yet. And the stunning cinematography used here really showcases its beauty. But the fishing boats are moving in, and the scientists and environmentalists are trying to fight back. And what could they possibly be fishing there? Well, it's the Antarctic Toothfish (a real ugly sucker!) And why would they fish that? Because they sell it as Chilean Sea Bass. So, long story short, our heroes are trying to get this fishing banned (or at least severely reduced through tougher regulations.) And in the meantime, don't buy/order Chilean Sea Bass unless you're sure it's sourced from waters other than the Ross Sea.

And that is all I wrote on Docfest 2013.

Total Running Time: 331 minutes
My Total Minutes: 332,754

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