First up was the inspiring short, THE LAST MILE. An innovative tech incubator...inside San Quentin prison. Let that sink in for a minute.... Now realize that inmates in San Quentin have no access to computers, much less the Internet. And yet, it appears to be pretty successful.
That was the lead-in to NATURAL LIFE, an exploration of children who have been sentenced to prison for life. And I mean exploration in the loosest sense of the word--like exploring with no sense of where you started or where you're going. I know the juvenile justice system is fucked up. And I understand that this movie is kind of handicapped in that it couldn't bring cameras into the prison. So phone calls were recorded and some scenes were reenacted in an abandoned prison. But it's still edited with no sense of context, which makes it a frustrating and frankly boring viewing experience. I used the opportunity to take a little nap. My friend next to me told me afterwards that I had the right idea.
Then it was time for the crowd-pleaser of the festival (so far,) HARRY AND SNOWMAN. Harry deLeyer is a Dutch immigrant and WWII survivor. He's also a horseman who got a job in the U.S. teaching riding at a private school. Needing a well-behaved, calm horse for his students he went to an auction, got there late (due to a flat tire) and ended up buying (for $80) an old plow horse that was nearly on the truck to the glue factory. That horse he named Snowman, and the $80 champion became the most famous show horse in the late 50s and 60s. It's an endearing story, and Harry and Snowman captured the attention not just of the horsey world but of the common folk who loved a blue-collar champion. And he kept at it as long as he could, beating much younger riders as "the galloping grandpa." But the movie is really about his friendship with Snowman, a horse he calls his best friend. Even when his wife made an ultimatum (after their daughter was injured in a fall) that he get rid of the horses, he divorced rather than give up Snowman. And now I feel like I've given too much away. But who cares, you can know all that and still enjoy the joy of Harry playing with his best friend.
Then a less upbeat film, PERVERT PARK. Leave it to Sweden and Denmark to make a film about another fucked-up aspect of the American justice system. In this case, the sex offender registry. It's hard for a paroled sex offender to even find a place to live, much less make a living. So Florida Justice Transitions was created--a trailer park far enough away from schools, playgrounds, etc. that sex offenders could legally live there. Although the locals call it the titular Pervert Park and label all the residents baby-rapists. The film takes an intimate, personal approach instead of being a polemic, showing the lives, struggles, and backstories of the residents and letting their lives rail against the injustice of the justice system. Unflinching and often uncomfortable (on both sides--both for what these people did and for how they're treated now) this is a well made and important film. And dare I say it's also pretty entertaining, if you can say that about a documentary about sex offenders living in a trailer park.
I'll leave it to your own imagination if there's a theme developing in the festival, but the next show started with the short TERMS OF INTIMACY. A brief look at professional cuddling. No nudity, no sex, just lying down and cuddling.
And then we went to Denmark for SKIN AND BONES. It's the story of three friends with muscular dystrophy that keeps them confined to wheelchairs. They like to joke, drink, party, go to strip clubs... And it used to be that Danish social services would provide them with prostitutes and helpers for their other needs. But they've stopped doing that. So it's time for them to take a road trip to Berlin, where that service is still provided, before their balls get so big they explode. It's a surprisingly funny and touching (pun intended) story that reminds you that even if someone's body doesn't fully function, their hormones sure do.
And finally, I ended the night with a little burlesque, with US, NAKED: TRIXIE AND MONKEY. An acrobatic comedy burlesque couple act, with Trixie Little and the Evil Hate Monkey. But this isn't just about a funny, sexy, acrobatic act. It's a long form doc (I love long form docs!) over seven years telling their story from being a small, struggling act to become stars. They start out in Baltimore where they seem pretty popular, but they know their acrobatics are not up to snuff. So a planned few months in Vermont attending circus school turns into 2 years. Meanwhile they're touring (both together and apart,) they're working on various acts, they're fighting, they're worrying about whether they can actually make a living at this. That's the heart of the movie, the struggle of creative people to make a living with their creative pursuits, and that's what makes it truly interesting. Although Trixie's tits are nice, too. And if you're into it, Monkey's banana (kinda shown...)
And that was the end of the big first weekend of Docfest.
Total Running Time: 394
My Total Minutes: 399,706