Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Saturday, July 9, 2005

09:23:45 pm , 425 words, 1189 views     Categories: Movie, Live-action

Docs

Found this recent article on Kiarostami. I'm much looking forward to seeing Five. Hopefully my doing so will happen at a festival rather than on my computer monitor, so that I can properly experience it in the twilight environment he recommends. I have a committed friend who is a great admirer of the early films of his career such as Mossafer, because of the humane light they shed on his own people, but who doesn't understand the increasingly rarefied place he seems to be going lately with his newfound love, DV. I love both. I wish I could have attended that retrospective of his work, as I'm only familiar with his films. Japan has released a DVD box of his work including titles unavailable here that I've long been tempted to get.

Recent docs I've seen that greatly impressed me include Darwin's Nightmare and Born into Brothels. I had a problem with the filmmaker of the former seeming to be out of his depth at many times in the filming, posing flustered and ill-considered questions that often had the unintended consequence of shifting the focus onto the filmmaker himself, with the subject turning a quizzical eye on the man with the camera. But as was no doubt intended, any such quibbles seem irrelevant in the face of the devastating images he managed to bring back of entire villages forced to eat fried fish-heads scavenged from carcasses thrown in the dumpster after being stripped of the profitable Nile Perch fillets destined for European plates.

Tonight I turned on the TV to be surprised by a documentary about the making of Robert Flaherty's Nanook of the North, which greatly increased my admiration for the man and his achievement. It was interesting to hear of the flood of merchandise that appeared on the scene immediately after the film's release due to its immense popularity. I doubt many documentary filmmakers bother to dream of that sort of thing now.

Despite its ominous title, Born into Brothels seems in fact to be the kind of film that could have that sort of impact on people. It was one of the most consummately crafted and watchable docs I've seen in a long time. The contrast with Darwin's Nightmare offers a good picture of the possibilities of the medium, as the styles could not be further apart, the one hobbled togehter and raw, the other hermetically constructed. The title seems somewhat ingenious, the way it plays on our expectations, only to upturn them with an unexpectedly moving and upbeat story of hope.

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5 comments

Jericho
Jericho [Visitor]

Speaking of Darwin, The March of the Penguins was one recent doc that made the evolutionary story telling of a particular fowl an interesting focal point for a movie. Aside from the stunning beauty of the Antarctic and the immposibility of filming in such an unforgiving climate, there is a anthropomorphic quality the narration style gives to the penguins that makes the movie… quirky. With many nature shows there always is a tendency to add sounds and music that dramatize the magnification of the subject under camera, but it seems incocievable to watch a nature show without expecting those devices despite their… quirkiness. Apparently the original French version directed by Luc Jaquet infused more of a fanciful love story twist when documenting the upbringing of chicks under the sweet tender loving care of the emperor penguin couples. These kinds of dandy things make me put my hands to my face and cringe my organs in embarrasment for some reason, maybe because I rather not have such humanistic qualities such as the imposed murmuring voice onto penguins, but rather see the animals in their raw. But what was on screen easily overcame me. Just imagining the cameras and the crew and their life support in the middle of a white no mans land, delving into the lives of magnificent looking tuxedo birds was enough to make me calm into a state of repose.

07/10/05 @ 16:32
Josh
Josh [Visitor]

Since March of the Penguins was brought up, I feel required to link to this utterly fascinating article about how it was received by children -> http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/12/movies/MoviesFeatures/12morg.html

Has Darwin’s Nightmare gotten picked up for distribution yet? I checked their site and it doesn’t seem so, and I haven’t heard of any showings ’round my parts, but it sounds really super-fascinating and I’d love to see it.

07/11/05 @ 00:03
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

I saw it a few weeks back in an indie theater here in Vancouver, so yes, it is being distributed. It’s a must-see. Tremendously depressing but brilliant and eye-opening, interweaving a lot of interesting approaches to a whole hellish world I never even knew existed. It comes close to the gut-wrenching power of the most horrific documentary I’ve yet seen, Hiroshi Shinomiya’s God’s Children, about the massive garbage dump on the outskirts of Manila that houses several thousand families. The latter walks the fine line of being nearly unbearable to watch, bordering on voyeurism, but the way it utterly discards any of the artifices of the genre to present the images completely straight is powerful and laudable. I’m fascinated by the willpower that would have been required to shoot such material. I believe this is a follow-up to an earlier film, which I would like to track down one day. I doubt anyone else has followed up that story. I’ve always wished more people could see that film. It’s incredibly saddening to think that practically nobody has seen it. It’s what documentaries are there to do - to document the unimaginable. I was lucky to catch it when I did, as it was only screened once at the Unicef film festival in Quebec two years ago, and I haven’t heard of it being shown anywhere else since. A web site used to exist, but it seems to have disappeared. (info)

The March of the Penguins sounds fascinating. I love the way you describe that feeling of being torn between two reactions. I’m reminded of the allegorical intro to Gosenzosama Banbanzai, which tells exactly this story… I’ll be looking for it. Unfortunately I will not pay four dollars to read a single New York Times Article, much as I’d like to read it.

07/11/05 @ 01:08
Philip
Philip [Visitor]

quite so, ben, especially if you can read its two whole paragraphs (!) for free here
link

(link via emol.org)

07/11/05 @ 06:24
Josh
Josh [Visitor]

Damn, sorry about that…I just did “copy link location” from the place I found it, and I had gotten the whole article for free back then (which is those two paragraphs - it’s short).

07/11/05 @ 08:20