Driving into Leroy Zerlang’s boatyard in Fairhaven, CA on the spit that encloses Humboldt Bay, you could easily ignore the unremarkable, plywood-clad, open-ended building off on the south side of the yard. In fact, when I drove in yesterday, I did ignore it, proceeding toward the small, more inviting office where Justin, one of the yard hands, was working. When I inquired about the subject of my visit, he pointed me to the plywood shed and invited me to go take a look.
I went out there on that hazy winter day partly to put to rest a silly notion about starting another documentary film. I don’t have time or money or, more importantly, the energy or focus to embark on another multi-year project while several other projects—two films and my house top the list—already put more demands on my time than I can fulfill. I was going to see if maybe I could do some shooting for fun, something to put on my own website or on the Vets For Peace site as promotional footage for them. Besides, this was coming to seem more like a PBS historical doc than the edgy, cinema-verite style subjects that I’m more drawn to and comfortable with.
Documentia: a state of mental disorientation caused by long term exposure to documentary films. Lack of sleep and consumption of alcohol or other drugs may trigger the onset.
It most commonly presents at documentary film festivals in attendees who have some form of all-access pass, allowing them to go from one screening to another without respite. Sufferers may experience short term memory loss, often unable to remember, for example, the title of the documentary they just watched. Or what day it is. Or that list of important work-related emails and phone calls they were supposed to make while at the festival.
This has by far been the best Sundance Film Festival yet, out of eight…or was it seven. I keep losing count, since after a while they all blend into one generalized experience. Perhaps I should have spent more time hanging out, meeting new people, networking, pitching my film and so on, but instead I went to my volunteer shifts and then went to films, seeing something like two dozen total, mostly docs. I think I gave out a total of six business cards, if that shows you anything about my priorities this year. It’s just where I was at.
Yarrow Theater Operations Team B, Sundance 2012. Okay, everyone make a silly face. I'm the bald one, far left.
In THE AMBASSADOR, director Mads Brugger exposes the corruption of government officials in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Liberia, along with the diplomatic-credentials-for-sale business. The most important revelation, however is the ease with which the restrictions on the export of “blood diamonds” can be circumvented. Read More
An excellent film that won the World Documentary Jury Prize.
Below are the tweets I sent out about the film, most during or immediately after the Q&A.
THE LAW IN THESE PARTS shows the invisible people who laid the enabling legal foundations of Israel’s occupation. #hollow #Sundance
THE LAW IN THESE PARTS is the best doc so far at #Sundance. It changes–or should change–the entire Israel/Palestine conversation.
Dir. of THE LAW IN THESE PARTS sees “something in audience’s eyes that says, ‘I wish I hadn’t seen this. I wish I hadn’t come.'” #Sundance
THE LAW IN THESE PARTS brilliantly conceived, it incorporates the filmmaking process as visual meta-commentary on the topic. #Sundance
The film has been reviewed extensively online. Here’s an interesting review from the Jerusalem Post. From the article:
The Law in These Parts, a documentary film made by Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, was subject to criticism in Israel for its perceived negative portrayal of the country.
Critics who are worried about Israel’s reputation would do better to criticize Israel’s discriminatory and unjust laws and practices than criticize filmmakers who expose them. I have yet to read a critique of the film that claims any dishonesty on the part of the filmmakers. read more
In 5 BROKEN CAMERAS, destroyed video cameras mark time across two parallel narratives: the struggle of the village of Bil’in against Israeli land theft and the birthdays of the filmmaker’s son.
Emad, the filmmaker, gets his first camera when his son is born, the same day Israeli bulldozers begin flattening the villagers’ lands for new Jewish settlements and the euphemistically-named separation wall. Emad begins documenting both.
He continues to record his son’s birthdays along with the villagers’ sustained nonviolent resistance to the illegal land theft and, in the process, has five cameras either smashed or shot out of his hands by Israeli soldiers. Emad learns quickly what war journalists know, that the cameras will not protect him—except for once when a bullet lodges in a camera instead of hitting him, destroying it, but saving his life.
(The asterisk is part of the title, if you were wondering.)
This is a fun, David vs. Goliath story. Or in this case, almost a meta-story, since it is the story of the filmmaker fighting for his rights to show and distribute his previous film BANANAS!*, which is itself a David vs. Goliath story—namely of Latin American banana plantation workers and their attorney against the global fruit behemoth Dole. read more bananas
(I have another review of this film, with extensive commentary, below.)
On January 25th, 2011, as thousands marched below their window near Tahrir Square, the filmmakers picked up their small cameras and started shooting from their balcony. They had no specific purpose except to document what was happening. As they said during the Q&A after the screening, it was “an accidental film,” one they had not specifically set out to make. Joining the throngs below, they kept filming as police and paramilitary thugs beat and gassed them, shooting and killing others nearby. Read other 1/2