SilverDocs 2010 Day 1

On day 1, I saw three intense and provocative films:

SECRETS OF THE TRIBE is a new classic. So well-aimed and well-executed. I have had Jose Padilha’s films recommended to me, but this is the first one I have seen. I will definitely be checking out his other work.

WAR DON DON is the first in the “Building Peace Strand.” It is a heavy-duty film, and the panel was extraordinary – the main subjects just continuing to battle the war-crimes case. Sky, the festival director introduced the film and also the building peace series which will all have top-notch panels – this is really unique stuff and I think it will be a highlight of the festival for me. I also got to watch this and discuss with one out our international documentary fellows from Kenya and Uganda, which gave me a whole different perspective on this film.

PRESUMED GUILTY was probably the least sophisticated of the films I saw, but the most emotionally compelling. I spent most of the film on the edge of my seat just wanting with all my heart for things to work out for this beautiful kid in the worst of circumstances. I am one who can do without the activist call to action (let the audience make their own conclusions, I say), but still a great film.

I saw THE KIDS GROW UP at FullFrame, but it was great to be around another screening night with Doug, his family and the D-worders. It occurred to me how much in contrast Doug’s film stands to all three that I saw yesterday. Specifically, the root metaphor of all three of those films is a fight between traditional adversaries (a trial, a war, an academic battle . . ), and it is in an adversarial way that each film engages with its audience – a sort of intellectual sparing that is a current trend in documentary.

It is the idea that audiences are distrustful by nature and rather than snow them, a smart filmmaker engages in a mental duel of reveals and you-decide moments designed to provoke consideration and anxiety. This is effective. I like these docs, and aspire to do this in my own work.

Doug’s film is fundamentally different. It is not a fight; It’s a big hug.

All three of the films I saw seem to have the underlying message: the world is fucked up (which surely it is). Doug’s film seems to be saying: if we are brave, and we care for each other, we can make it ok (which is important to remember, in light of the first point).

On to day 2!

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