I recently saw — you might have guessed — a documentary. Called These Amazing Shadows, it examines the history, purpose, and progress of the American Film Registry. In it, two directors’ comments struck me as particularly appropriate this month.
Barbara Kopple (Harlan County, USA) said the content of documentaries tends to happen only once, which makes them especially precious resources.
Steve James (Hoop Dreams) opined they’re especially effective because we can’t escape them; we cannot remind ourselves it’s only fiction.
While all of our documentaries this month were Canadian in origin, they often look at international, or even global, phenomena. Many illustrate transience, yet affect more than just our home. They open up insular worlds for inspection, or bring the cosmos to our TVs, with modest human stories, grand ideas or sometimes a blend of both. It’s great when our usual entertainment can educate as well, not least for making often-guilty pleasures easier to defend.
My muscles ache. My mind reels. I sit in a house filled with the evidence of my ferocious industry.
The work is just beginning.
I’m juggling so many projects, in fact, I can’t see straight. Unfortunately, my industriousness did not extend to the blog this month. Counting this missive, I managed only five submissions. Boo.
Yes, I am booing myself.
Hacker Renders and I are inching toward our 1000th entry. We’ve truly been brave and fearsome blog soldiers.
Now, as we turn our attention almost completely to a brave new world in the coming months, I give you my favourite, surprise, disappointment, least-liked, and one chosen from my partner in sacrifice, home improvement projects, hurting ourselves somewhat and hopeful new beginnings.
“The crack in the cosmos.”
This is a film about cooch. Cha Cha. Cooter. Pussy. Crack. Beaver. Pee Pee.
Okay, okay. I’ll wash my mouth out with soap …later.
Whatever your preferred terminology (in this film we get to hear a whole bunch of different terms) Petals is a straight-talking, illuminating documentary about lady parts.
More specifically, it is a Canadian documentary about photographer Nick Karras’ quest to document female genitalia in all of its many instantiations. A professional photographer who is shown taking sombre corporate portraits of executives, Karras’ private passion project was cataloguing ‘petals.’
Big ones, little ones, modest and compact ones, flamboyant and floppy ones, dangly ones, pierced ones.
Like exuberant, involved, intricate Georgia O’Keeffe paintings, this film teaches you that there are ‘petals’ of all shapes, sizes and varieties. These photos – the central subject of this entire film – are shown rather sparingly. When they finally hit the screen, they were, to but it mildly, quite eye-opening.
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Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope began in 1980 with him dipping one foot in the Atlantic. It ended with, well, did it ever really end?
The true story recreated in 2005′s Terry is documented in this ESPN special, Into the Wind, directed by Steve Nash and Ezra Holland. Without marketing fluff, much exposure, or hype, it gives us the facts we’re familiar with, and maybe a few more besides.
We hear about the stench of Fox’s pace van, how his brother Darrell’s humour kept him going, and how he ascended from obscurity to celebrity just crossing into Ontario.
“Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up.”
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Those who know me long enough eventually learn about my religion. It’s called science.
That’s not an atheist hipster joke, I genuinely mean it. (Besides I’m an agnostic.) Inasmuch as I don’t believe in most of what people call spirituality, I do believe in science. I need to believe, because I can’t actually prove it.
Surviving Progress comes closer to expressing my belief than anything else I’ve encountered. It suggests we put a kind of faith in what we call “progress”, a vague notion of change, complexity and, often, improvement. In fact, the documentary begins by illustrating our difficulty understanding it.
It then takes a big step back through time, to survey the history of humans, how we reached our current physical form about 50,000 years ago, yet have lived in civilizations for only 5,000. The disparity is made clear. While we’re built for hunting and gathering, and have super fight-or-flight reflexes, we’re not especially good with long-term wisdom.
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Have you ever felt so strongly about something that you are willing to leave your life, home and even your kids to fight for it?
Yeah, me neither.
My Name is Kahentiiosta is a film about a woman with the strength of her convictions. It struck me while watching this National Film Board short that it is people like the film’s subject Kahentiiosta, a young Kahnawake Mohawk woman, who actually change the world.
Not so much people like me.
I mostly play it safe. I like comfort, safety, routine. I like the predictability of knowing what is going to happen next.
“Who I am is, as I’ve said before, an open book with illustrations, but how one interprets those illustrations is very much an ink blot or Rorschach test of someone else’s values.”
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The first – and to date only – Playboy magazine I have ever bought was in January, 1997. I believe I kept the purchase a secret from everyone I knew. I couldn’t tell you who was on the cover, or in the centerfold. I bought it for Raymond Benson’s James Bond story, “Blast from the Past”, a sequel of sorts to Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice.
I suppose it would be politically correct for me to pretend Playboy’s unfamiliar because I have too much respect for ladies to appreciate them solely on the basis of their naked bodies. The truth is, to that young man, it just seemed too damn full of articles.