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Posts Tagged ‘NYT Op-Doc’

  1. NY Times Op-Doc | Rural Poverty in America’s Heartland

    February 4, 2014 by

    I included the description in the title of this post because I think it’s really beautifully said. Although it’s called Sarah’s Uncertain Path, the description is; “Profiling a pregnant teenager in Missouri, this short documentary provides a window into rural poverty in America’s heartland.” Short, sweet, enticing, heartbreaking, and to the point in one sentence. A great example of how to entice people to view your work in only a few words – something we are all working on.

    This piece in particular has been getting a lot of social media conversation, so I wanted to see what the buzz was all about. Also, I use the word heartbreaking because I definitely cried during this piece. It’s so beautifully composed, with intimate close-up shots of the families and beautiful lighting streaming through the panels of the old barn and the rural landscapes, not to mention the lovely use of sunset light at the end. What struck me most of all was the unspoken message of hope despite all odds. These sweet children with few possessions were making the most of their situation by playing the broken down piano, twirling each other around on a makeshift swing, lost in childhood and blissfully unaware of how set back they’ll be by so many of their peers living in bigger homes, with more money, and therefore more opportunities.

    The documentary really peeks after we’ve met this family, been shown around and let in to the little corners of their lives, and we hear Sarah talking about her dreams for the future. Simple dreams, to have her own house and car, maybe go to college, maybe have a pool. Why is that so hard for someone like Sarah, or any of us, to achieve? As the character of this piece, Sarah paints an emotionally powerful picture of the “American Dream” that is slipping further from reality for all of us, as a pregnant 15-year-old in a broken down house in Missouri, still filled with endearing hope that her dream is just out of reach.

  2. Triangulation in “Running on Fumes in North Dakota”

    January 30, 2014 by

    Every since I saw the localore project Black Gold Boom I have been pretty interested in the stories coming out of North Dakota about people working in the oil fields there. This piece was especially exciting because I find the experiences of women in this environment particularly telling about how “wild” the area is as it navigates the transition from small town to oil boom town.

    The visuals and her interview help situate the viewer. She expains that she has nothing, while we see a landscape that is barren. It was supposed the land of promise, but nothing about swirling snow or roads clogged with tractor trailers looks promising. The emptiness means that there is room to build something, but what are we building? Unfortunately for Jonnie, this new frontier is occupied by anxiety and loneliness, which is what a lot of people experience, but because she is a woman she experiences it in a different way. In a land full of men, there are no girlfriends and the men only want sex. Her little dog is her only companion.

    What I appreciated a lot about this piece was the way it confirmed the reporting. Though Jonnie is our only character, we still get a triangulation of sorts through the tv reports and radio announcers confirming/backing up/supporting our character’s experiences. Her anxieties are confirmed because other women have gone missing as noted through the new reports.

    Another interesting technique is the use of titling to move the narrative along, and also hold some of the reveals. In one instance we learn that her employer moved her into a trailer. After a beat the next line says that it didn’t have running water. While this feels like cheating sometimes, it seems like it can still be used effectively when you need to move quickly. 

  3. 56 Ways of Saying I Don’t Remember

    January 16, 2014 by

    I hope it doesn’t feel like cheating if I begin to take almost everything I post these days from the NYT Op-Doc series. There is some seriously amazing stuff on there and it really keeps falling in line with everything else I have been watching and enjoying. Take this video for instance. I recently watched a feature film by this filmmaker, Alain Berliner. It is called “First Cousin Once Removed.” It is aaaammmmaaaazzzing! I really wanted to share it with everyone, but unfortunately it is on HBO and there is no way to share their stuff. So, when I stumbled upon this very short and very altered version of the film that hints at what the longer piece is about I was very excited to share it.

    In “56 Ways of Saying I Don’t Remember” we really get to know the character as someone who is defined by not remembering. It is through the repetition that we come to know the inability to remember is an everyday feeling for him. So, while it is repetitious I never felt that it was unnecessary because this repetition is part of his character. He is becoming more and more overcome by Alzheimer’s. True, there is more story that is elaborated on in the feature length film, and he is able to say more than that he doesn’t remember, but the feeling of what it might be like to have Alzheimer’s, or at least the feeling of what it is like to talk to someone with Alzheimer’s, is distilled in this short through the repetition of different moments where he states that he can’t remember something. I thought it was a powerful and risky choice. There might be people who will say you are making your character look silly, or that you are taking advantage of him, but I also think it is possibly a very true and accurate portrayal as well. And if you are wondering, the filmmaker and his cousin talked about making this film before he was severely affected by his Alzheimer’s, and his cousin gave him permission to film him.


  4. More 12 O’Clock Boys!

    January 10, 2014 by

    I posted the trailer for this movie last term, but it looks like the filmmaker made a short short version for Op-docs. I wanted to share it for a couple of reasons. One is that it delves more into the mentorship that happens through these gangs. As one of the older guys in the video notes, he gets excited to see the young guys giving it a go and training now because he knows when they get older they will be accomplished riders. Also, it kinda answers some questions we had on Thursday about why people might participate in these dangerous sports. As one of the characters in the piece notes, they are free when they are riding their bikes, and they can leave behind all the stresses that come with their living situation.

    This version of the piece also gives a more complex picture through the different points of view of people living in Baltimore and coming in contact with the 12 O’Clock Boys. You hear the (racist) former police commissioner calling for action against them, the adults in the community questioning their involvement, the older gang members who support the sport and the young kids that get involved, and the younger kids who are excited about being involved because of how it feels and what it means to them. The piece also starts with someone talking negatively about the 12 O’Clock boys and ends with a veteran gang member and newer, younger member talking about what a positive activity it is for them when their aren’t too many positive things in their lives. So, there is a nice resolution or counterpoint within the piece.

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