Did somebody post this before? Because I can’t believe I’m the first one here to stumble upon it. I suppose it’s only been up on Vimeo for a few days, but anyway… I love this piece. Not only did the directors interview people in a position we’ve never seen done before, but they found a moment where people were inherently willing to put their guard down. There’s something about the existential connection between our inner monologues and our physical beings that makes any kind of motion cause your mind to drift. There’s been times in my life when I’ve been a runner, and the cerebral clarification part of the process was always my biggest reason for doing it.
There’s an awesome article with these fellas at The Guardian that shows the cool bike trailer they created to film the interviews, but also talks about how willing the majority of the people were to start speaking. I think some of the comfort level not only arises from this mindset that people are in mid-run, but also the quick realization that these directors were doing everything they can to not get in the way. I’m finding in my own work that sometimes creating that comfort zone with your interviewee is the biggest part of the process. While filming Grateful Dead bowling, I’ve been having a surprisingly difficult time getting folks to loosen up around me. I think a good degree of the uneasiness comes from the stereo typical angle of mockery that is often used in news pieces in regard to the Deadhead community. However as tomorrow will now be the 3rd week (three and a half) I’ve spent at the lanes, as well as the 2nd time filming, I feel as though I’ve now built up a long enough track record for myself with these folks that they’re finally ready to be themselves in front of the camera. There’s nothing worse than a stiff hippie for some bad interview footage – take my word for it.
Back to The Runners though, this video reminds me of Taxi Cab Confessions. The stories all seem to have that fairly direct and quick path to deep insight, caused by a near instantaneous degree of acceptance.
I’ve found myself recommending this documentary to many of my peers, especially the ladies. Clocking in at 90 minutes in length, it’s available on Netflix and discusses the disparaging representation of women in the mainstream media, including news, TV, movies, advertisements, and more. I’ve been talking to many people lately about how few movies and shows feature females in lead roles, and I’ve noticed that when people stop and think about it, they’re usually a little shocked upon realizing how complacent we’ve all become with assuming that’s the norm. The documentarian behind this piece, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, interviews a range of women and men throughout the documentary including actors and actresses, newscasters, activists, high school students and many professors among others. Throughout the documentary statistics pop up showing women’s involvement in various aspects of the media industry as well as politics, and many really make you stop and think.
What I found useful about this documentary besides the great voices making the film a worthy watch is the campaign behind it that has taken on a life of its own. Miss Representation has a Twitter account helping to launch their new campaign and app Not Buying It: “Let the media know: sexism won’t sell. Use #NotBuyingIt on Twitter to challenge the misrepresentation of women and girls.” I chose this as my example this week to show how documentary can go beyond challenging people to think about bigger concepts differently and actually propel action through the use of social media tools as well as app development. An interesting multimedia component that can help a project live on with a purpose. GO GIRLS!
This week we began thinking about our personal projects, and I intend to continue working on the piece that started with idea to develop a section of North Portland into a Trader Joes. While I don’t know if I will stick with the sole focus of other local businesses who are affected, or expand it to a discussion of North Portland gentrification more generally, I know I will be working around the issue. As part of my research, I came across a film made in 1967 about the Albina neighborhood. It won a regional Emmy in 1967, and I share it in terms of the style of documentary it was. You’ll notice from the beginning to at least minute three, that it has a very strong style of narration that seeks to lay out “the facts.” I think this is a distinct style of filmmaking, and I appreciate it as an example of the times. The narration starts by defining ghetto, and then seeking to explain how they are created. I think the attempt at answering the question is a noble one, and a good example of narrative filmmaking. In the piece I will make, I don’t intend on using this style, but can imagine some remix elements that may incorporate it.
The chance to see a new Frederick Wiseman documentary is coming soon, so I wanted to post the trailer for the film. At 83, he is one of the masters of direct cinema who is still alive and producing new work. This is around the 80th film he has made as well so they guy has been busy. He is also probably one of the only filmmakers that can get 4 hour long documentary films released.
The trailer appears fairly straightforward: What makes Berkeley an important and lasting institution and how can they continue it as public funds are divested from public institutions? Fredrick Wiseman being the filmmaker that he is will have captured many everyday situations that will reveal the answers to these questions. I look forward to seeing if they are less straightforward. It’s a film about an institution, and so far we only hear from the loftier figures. These people appear or come across as presidents and administrators. An institution is made up of many levels though. What will the interactions between students and between teachers reveal about the organization and how will their perspectives and interactions compliment or complicate the vision of the administrators?
Wiseman has always said that he makes films about institutions. Its the interactions between people at different levels of a hierarchical organization that drive the drama in his films.
Since we didn’t have a feature documentary to watch this week, and because I finally watched this film today, I thought I would share The Black Power Mixtape (1967-1975). It is actually a nice film to add to the mix of the documentaries we have already seen because it has a bit of a new angle that we haven’t quite seen yet. While fitting in somewhere with the Fog of War and When We Were Kings because it relies on current day interviews and archival footage, this film brings a new dimension in the way that it employs those assets. It takes a film or a series of TV news segments and repurposes them. This might always be the case with archival footage, but in the Black Power Mixtape it feels like something new. Maybe it is due to the perspective of the film.
The interesting part about the movie is that the original perspective of the footage that is used is from the Swedish TV reporters, but in it’s current form it feels that the perspective is given back to those who were either filmed in the 1960’s and 1970’s, or were directly affected by the movements that were happening throughout those decades. Viewers are given the original intent by the Swedish TV reporters with the added layer of the interviews with the participants and current black leaders who give their perspective about what was going on, and how they felt about the interview and the movements that were happening. The original film was from an outsider, both racially and nationally. In the new version, the insiders get to see this outsider perspective and make comments about it. These new interviews speak directly to the footage and not just in general which gives the film a certain intimacy rather than leaving it in some broad realm of History. It is possible that this intimacy was achieved in the original film segments though, and that the interviews aren’t what create this. I am still trying to figure out exactly how the interviews and the archival footage work together. I thought of it one way, but then read a review that made me question it. In the review A.O. Scott said, “Their words sometimes deepen the viewer’s appreciation of what is on screen, though at other times the nuances and contradictions of the past outstrip the didacticism of the commentary. But the fact that the speakers’ faces are never seen produces a feeling of estrangement that is crucial to the film’s effectiveness. You become acutely aware of gaps and discontinuities: between slogans and realities, between political ideals and stubborn social problems, between then and now.” I guess I felt like the estrangement that he mentioned was accurate, and yet I still felt a closeness.
The Garden of Eden is a documentary about a recreational spring in Israel. It is one of the largest and most famous. The documentary explores the backgrounds and motivations of a diverse group of people that are drawn to spend time in the same place. Though they come together because of a shared interest in the spring, their histories reveal a separation that remains. One review of the films notes, “Casual racism flows all over the place – people give it and people take it – everyone seems on the same page that it’s bad, but no one seems to know what to do to change it.”
The documentary will explore different characters’ lives. The captivating part of the trailer is the juxtaposition of the inner thoughts and confessions of the characters, which are by turns unsettling and heartbreaking, but are calmed for them (and for the viewer) by spending time at the spring. The synopsis of the film says this about a few different characters in the film: “Yaacov, whose wife left him and who has since been living a sad and lonely existence; Athir, who is planning to move to Canada because life in Israel does not enable him to reach his full potential; Yael, who was forced to wed at the age of 13 and suffered many years of physical and mental abuse; Itzhak, who has yet to recover from the death of his brother in war and seeks a refuge from the mourning in the cool waters. These are but some of the captivating and touching individuals which the camera encounters.” Still, it seems like the spring itself will become the central character that is developed through all of the different people that occupy the space.
The documentary profiles an area of the world that is filled with religious tension and “casual racism,” but it ultimately lets those issues fall away so that the universal issues everyone faces can come to the surface.
The trailer from 12 O’Clock Boys uses the wildness of kids, teens, and adults riding dirt bikes down city streets to create an atmosphere of danger and mayhem, but you can tell that the bravado of pulling off the 12 O’Clock stunt isn’t where the movie stops. It uses this as a starting point and a thread throughout the movie to explore the choices a kid in this part of Baltimore might make. It’s not an easy part of town to grow up in. Within the story of the dirt bike gang is the story of young boys who use this group as a means of rebellion and belonging to something. They appear to be taking on an image of masculinity that requires them to grow up quickly. What does this mean for Pug, the boy who will be our guide through this culture? What does it mean for the people who living with and around these boy? The filmmaker said the gang actually has a degree of mentorship within it where the older bikers mentor the younger ones.
I listened to an interview with the filmmaker and he talked about the different and divided ways people are viewing the trailer. Does it glorify this rambunctious group of kids who are breaking the law, disrupting traffic, and putting themselves in danger? Does it highlight a sport and a subculture that should be celebrated because of its rebellious nature? He spent 3 three filming with the bike gang, and even though the trailer is short, you can tell that he really developed a relationship with the group. Though Pug may be young and posturing, there is an honesty to his character. This is a tough city and difficult neighborhood, so you need to posture in some way, and you might need something like a bike gang to get by. The filmmaker actually said it was easier to get close to them and present their point of view than it was to talk to the cops and the city about their perspective on the group’s activities, which is something he wanted to do and tries to do in the film.