After another screening (I'll write about that one soon) we went to a fabulous dinner with Mary Margaret (a.k.a. Haikugirl) and then went on to a get together with some of the other International Documentary Challenge finalists. (Great group of folks -- and it really seems like this will be an excellent screening, so I'm looking forward to it. In a Zen-like way.)
Later, we continued on with our old New School pal Erin (a.k.a. Rackle), now living in Toronto.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
On Friday, I saw "Mr. Edison's Ear" and "The Man Who Crossed the Sahara."
Mr. Edison's Ear was fascinating, like a talented teenager: it showed promise in many directions, but could not decide what it wanted to do. Starting with the notion that Edison's loss of hearing at the age of 12 profoundly changed the development of audio recording, the film makes the strange choice to end with a long recording of Rachmaninoff played over footage of the electrocution of an elephant. To me, a documentary that makes a claim to have historical insight needs more mastery of its subject.
I found The Man Who Crossed the Sahara remarkable, and recommend it highly, but I was left with many questions that detract from the main themes of the movie. I love films that leave room for interpretation, but the beginning and ending of the movie -- seemingly tacked on around a great central story -- left me confused.
On Friday morning, we followed tradition and went to the Golden Griddle for breakfast. Same section of the restaurant, same waitress as last year.
Haikugirl met us to give us some local tips and to set up a great dinner in town later that evening.
The first screening we attended this year included the short "$4 Haircut" -- which is exactly what it sounds like -- and the feature "S&M: Short and Male."
$4 Haircut, set to a soundtrack of tuba music, is a fun profile of a man who frequents a bargain barbershop. It's funny, but it's only the third-best barbershop documentary I've seen this year. It didn't entirely live up to the raging ovation heard from the director's friends , but it's an unpretentious, fun film and I did laugh out loud more than once.
S&M: Short and Male is a well-put-together film that's too all-over-the-place to succeed completely.
I love the premise -- that males below average height are discriminated against both overtly and unconsciously -- and enjoyed the process of meeting an initial batch of characters with exactly that problem. From there, though, the film attempts to look at world-wide issues, including a teen who struggles through painful surgery to gain height, and the legal fight over job height requirements in China. While each part is fascinating, it feels less like we've expanded the story than that we've tried to cover every possible aspect of the issue. By the time we return to resolve the story of our initial group of height-challenged guys, the movie feels 15 minutes too long.
And I have one other gripe: the main story that gets resolved is only a story because the director has withheld information from us. While that's interesting, it doesn't feel as if we've followed along with someone to the end of the story, and that we've just seen an essay rather than a journey.
On Thursday, Dana, Laura and I took a cab to the airport and then flew to Toronto. I'm normally stressed when I travel, but I've decided to take a Zen approach to the trip and the International Doc Challenge and the whole festival. Win, lose, whatever. At least I'll get to see the city again.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Shooting materials for a podcast-style video this week. I think sometimes it's easy to consider some types of work "serious" and some "for pay" -- but I find I learn from every project I do. Tomorrow, weather permitting, there will be some shooting out in the sun on a nice spring day. Should be fun.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Saturday, April 12, 2008
I had forgotten that last year's trip to Hot Docs, as great as it was, included the kind of tension that happens when awards are on the line. While I realize awards for art are, in a way, really silly, it was still a very interesting experience to stand in front of the full-house audience when team names were called, and to find out what the judges thought of our film.
Well, there will be added tension this year. This email came in yesterday, from the International Doc Challenge organizer:
Hello Doc Challenge Filmmakers,
The American Documentary | P.O.V Award for the International Documentary Challenge has been determined and is going to one of the 14 finalists. We will announce this winner with all of the other winners at Hot Docs on April 26!
Friday, April 04, 2008
According to Doug Whyte, the Doc Challenge Producer:
The International Documentary Challenge is partnering with P.O.V., PBS' premiere showcase for independent, non-fiction film. P.O.V. will be awarding the "P.O.V. Prize" to a Doc Challenge film. This film will be prominently showcased on their website and receive a $1,000 award.Well, that's very cool.
Currently P.O.V is looking at the top 25 rated films from the 1st round of judging to determine the winner. The winning film will screen at Hot Docs, where the prize will be awarded. If the P.O.V. Prize goes to a non-finalist, we will announce it next Monday so the filmmakers can attend the festival if they want to. If it goes to a finalist, we will just announce the winner at Hot Docs.