After the Film Fest Sun Sets

The Sixth Annual New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival came to a close last night. It is coined as the intersection of art + social justice. This year, organizers dubbed the festival’s front name “Patois” as a means of embodying the various languages and perspectives and meeting of those cultures throughout the 10 day event.

It once again introduced me to films (and people) I would otherwise never have seen (until the DVD release) in this rather ghost town for film known as New Orleans. Of course, I missed several films that ended up winning awards and I’ll be catching up with at a later date: William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe, St. Joe (to be a doc feature: “Land of Opportunity”), Robot + Girl (by a friend of mine!), Some Place Like Home: the fight against gentrification in downtown Brooklyn (dir. by Families United for Racial and Economic Equality – FUREE)

I managed to see:

Homeless Power (short doc)
Katrina: man made disaster (feature doc)
Medicine for Melancholy (narrative feature)
Under the Bombs (narrative feature)
Made in L.A. (doc feature)
A Day in Palestine (narrative animated short)
Crips & Bloods: made in America (doc feature)
Hunger (narrative feature)

Exodus (narrative feature) presented some challenges as a viewer – a flat cliched script and meaningless direction – which is why I walked out, a first, after 30 minutes. The only potential going for it were the sets, which had the feel and ambition of “Children of Men,” but knowingly had to work with a severely smaller budget. I’m wondering how much of a coincidence it was that one of the actors was the pregnant woman from “Children of Men.”

Corazon del Tiempo (Heart of Time, narrative feature)
Nerakhoon (The Betrayal, doc feature)
The House that Herman Built (doc short, will be a feature)

Justice for All (doc feature) builds a compelling argument for the complete overhaul of the juvenile “justice” criminal system in the United States by meticulously detailing six or seven egregious cases in different states. For instance, one seventeen year old was sentenced to life in prison without parole in Texas for marijuana possession because a judge retained complete power over the sentencing. He was pardoned by the governor after a long campaign to win his release. However, the system took 16 years of his life. The filmmakers even visit the U.K. to see the rehabilitation programs available to youth as a method of introducing new ideas into our system. I liked the film as a historian likes primary documents–for new facts and stories that make a convincing case for change. The filmmakers inserted themselves too much for me, especially in the editorializing and occasional unprofessional phrases in the narration. But it would be worthy to watch for an educational purpose or in an educational setting.

Cajun New Wave (doc short) is a brief insight into the traditions of Cajun music as talked about by its rising generation of twenty-something musicians. Often hand-held and with sound and visual hiccups, this film might be better as a printed translation of the interviews conducted and released with a CD of the varying worthy musicians such as Pine Leaf Boys, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Beth Patterson, Amanda Shaw, etc.

Crips & Bloods, Hunger, Nerakhoon and Under the Bombs were my top picks from what I saw.

further comments to come…

UPDATE: Here is the lovely ROBOT+GIRL short by Erin Wilson that won the Audience Choice Award.

Published in: on April 6, 2009 at 6:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

Prior to a full on Into the Wild film/book review…

Though I am thinking/writing/observing on the subject of Christopher McCandless, the main (but not only) character of Jon Krakauer’s superbly written “Into the Wild,” I am just going to post my response to a film review by Kyle Smith of the New York Post. It is largely in reference to a brief paragraph on Timothy Treadwell, a man who spent thirteen summers alone with brown/grizzly bears on the Alaskan coast before he was attacked and eaten by a bear. The reason the bear attacked is still unknown. I recently finished two books on Treadwell, so I was compelled to share.

First, Kyle Smith’s comments about Treadwell:
Both the cruel beauty of the film[Into the Wild] and this quality of its main character[McCandless] call to mind Werner Herzog’s similar, and similarly brilliant, documentary “Grizzly Man,” about Timothy Treadwell, a nature lover who lived among the bears in Alaska and treated them as big fluffy pets, until they ate him. Treadwell claimed, not very convincingly, to have a girlfriend (a woman he brought along who also died but whom he almost entirely ignored in his many video diaries). He too seemed uninterested in sex, or any other kind of human interaction.

My comment:

I appreciate the mccandless observations, but i’ve just finished reading “The Grizzly Maze” and “Among Grizzlies,” two books on Timothy Treadwell, and wanted to append some info short-changed in Herzog’s documentary.

His relationship with bears was much more complicated than “big fluffy pets” despite how some of Herzog’s video footage plays side of Treadwell up. Treadwell certainly behaved in his own eccentric way to pass the time, but he also had a unique talent to discern bear behavior and intentions, often forced into split-second decisions (whether respectful retreats, holding ground or bluffing an attack) when a bear got to close to him or began to charge. His knack held up for thirteen summers, but all along it was a risky business to convince himself that he too was bear, as he often remarked on video and wrote in his memoir “Among Grizzlies.” More than anything else, McCandless and Treadwell shared an independent spirit and over confidence grown from previous successes. However, sometimes it is also terrible luck–running into a desperate, potentially mentally-ill bear or (spoiler alert!) eating seeds previously unknown to be poisonous.

Treadwell actually had several girlfriends over the years and never seemed to have an aversion to sex, self-described and collaborated in interviews with friends.

From what I gather, he had selective problems with humans depending on whether they were sympathetic to his mission and trips to Alaska every summer or not. His best friend in Alaska, Joel Bennett the filmmaker, was amazed that a person who enjoyed attention and social interaction would go into the bush for months at a time thirteen years in a row like Treadwell.

Published in: on November 27, 2007 at 10:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,