Thursday, June 7, 2018

Jason his to Docfest--Day 5

I of course missed days 2 through 4 with the silent film extravaganza, but now I'm at Docfest full time until the end. Here's last Monday

I started with COBBY: THE OTHER SIDE OF CUTE. Director Donna McRae makes herself a very personal character in this story, as it starts with her memories of being a lonely single child in Adelaide, Australia, and watching a funny black-and-white chimp show every day after school. Cobby's Hobbies, and it's silly theme song, was her constant friend, and has come back into her memory decades later. She interviews friends who also grew up in Adelaide, and there's a recurring theme of the show being very popular among lonely single children. So she sets off trying to find more about the show, and about its star. Well, although she comes across as hopelessly naive, the movie unsurprisingly exposes a lot of the dark side of animal performers--starting from the moment as babies when their parents are killed and they're raised in captivity. She interviews people who worked on the show, zookeepers, and animal rights activists. Everyone seems to have stories about animals that suffered at the hands of humans. In fact, most of the cute animal entertainers ended up as laboratory animals, suffering even more inhumane treatment. Cobby, however, avoided that. In fact, he's living in the San Francisco Zoo to this day, one of the oldest chimpanzees in captivity. Sure, he doesn't have his freedom--and he wouldn't be able to survive in the wild--but he has the most comfortable captivity possible.
Cobby during his show business days. 
Cobby enjoying his retirement. He seems much happier now. Image courtesy of

And then next up was SICKIES MAKING FILMS. Coming from the Silent Film Festival, this was kind of a cool way to transition from old films to today's films. It's an abbreviated history of the films, focusing on the issue of censorship--exclusively censorship in America, and focusing on the last censorship board that existed in Maryland. Of course, that board, led by Mary Avara, was John Waters' infamous nemesis, and one he gleefully mocked in his movies. He's also highly featured in this film, where he's a little more mature and nuanced, and actually speaks with pity for the board. But I was more interested in the earlier history, where there are tidbits about early censorship (actually, going back to Roman times where the "censor" was the one running the census, who determined if individuals were decent enough to be considered Citizens.) Police were initially given powers to enforce local community standards (leading to some films, in some places, being censored for for mocking the police.) Then rulings that censors could only go after obscenity, not political or plot content (you wonder why sexual content get stricter ratings than violence--this is part of it.) Then talkies, and the added complication of censoring words, not just images. Then, of course, the Hays code, eventually replaced with the MPAA rating system. But still, a few censorship boards--especially Maryland's--stuck around way past their point of usefulness (a separate debate of whether they were ever useful is...interesting.) Anyway, it was a fun film, and a great way to bring my mind from the movies of 100 years ago up to today.
Censors censoring. Fuck 'em
Total Running Time: 169 minutes
My Total Minutes: 482,275

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