Here a Doc, There a Doc…
Here’s a paradox: When I’m at my busiest, having the most fun, doing the most things it would be exciting to write about, I don’ t have time to write. Yeah, life is tough sometimes. A lot of the time.
In any case – we spent a long weekend at AFIDocs, a documentary film festival here in town. We first “discovered” AFIDocs two years ago, when it was called Silverdocs, and it had been going on for many years before that. The festival has undergone many changes in the last two years, and we sort of miss the halcyon days of the first time we attended, but it’s still a pretty amazing way to spend time. This year, we saw ten movies in three days. Some were “small” films that aren’t likely to see wide distribution; others have already been picked up for national distribution.
The overarching theme for us this year turned out to be Personal Responsibility — responsibility to recognize injustice and to act upon it. (We didn’t plan our movie choices that way; it just happened.) Movies that fit into that theme included:
- 1971 — about a group of protesters who broke into the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, intending to steal draft records but ultimately stealing documents that disclosed the existence of the FBI’s domestic counterintelligence program
- Freedom Summer — about the summer of 1964 and the volunteers who went to Mississippi to register voters, teach students in summer “Freedom Schools”, and create the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party that tried to be seated as the legitimate Miss. delegation at the national Democratic convention
- The Hand That Feeds — about a group of low-wage workers who organized a union at a New York fast food restaurant
- The Internet’s Own Boy — about Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist who committed suicide rather than face trial for downloading unlawful copies of journal articles through MIT’s computers
We also saw several movies that were portraits of people:
- Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me — about the musician and his family and their decision to organize a final musical tour as he became increasingly incapacitated with Alzheimer’s
- Life Itself — about Roger Ebert and his life as a journalist and film critic
- Slingshot — about Dean Kamen and his quest to build and distribute a machine that will bring clean water to under-resourced regions of the world
And then there were a few “random” movies:
- Misconception — about population control efforts, including mandatory family size limitation, lobbying efforts at the UN to fight all efforts to distribute health care to women, and Ghanaian orphans and abandoned children
- The Search for General Tso — ostensibly about the origin of the dish General Tso’s Chicken, but mostly about Chinese immigration into the United States and the nature of cultural assimilation
- When the Garden was Eden — about the championship New York Knicks teams of the late 60’s and early 70’s
My favorites ended up being Slingshot — Dean Kamen seems like a child-loving Willie Wonka, who creates gadgets instead of candy — and The Search for General Tso. None of the movies was terrible (although the horribly uncomfortable seats in one of the auditoriums made some of the movies seem too long…)
All in all, a great way to spend a weekend. And if you can see Slingshot, do.