People with interest in nature, or cognitive science, Tippi Hedren, and fans of the Planet Earth series.
A nature documentary should fascinate the audience, as well as inspire amazement and appreciation of the natural world. A Murder Of Crows does this, and stands out among the numerous animal documentaries at this year’s festival.
The film introduces us to one of the most common genus of birds -Corvus- through the eyes of the scientists that are studying the crow’s brain. These birds are far more adaptive and intelligent than most of us ever thought. With complex information-sharing and social learning systems, the crow has caught the attention of the scientific community and even the US Department of Defense.
Director, Susan Fleming lays out the documentary in a way that keeps the audience totally engaged. The film is well shot and the narration of Nora Young is beautiful. The only distracting elements are the few close up shots of crow, superimposed over another background, and a small hand-full of cheesy lines in the narration.
Notes: This film will screen again today, Saturday, Feb. 13, 1:45 p.m. at Metro 4
A documentary about the involvement of the Mormon Church in the campaign for California’s Proposition 8.
Who should see this film: People interested in GLBT issues, civil rights, constitutional law, religious studies, campaign finance law, and understanding Mormon beliefs. Fans of The Mormon Murders and Under the Banner of Heaven
Review: Before seeing this documentary, most of my knowledge about Mormon beliefs came from the HBO series Big Love, which is entertaining - but probably not the most reliable source. 8 presents a fair and appropriately dispassionate explanation of why the Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the LDS) opposes same-sex marriage. The documentary educates the public on the doctrine of the LDS and how they see homosexuality being a threat to the Mormon architecture of heaven.
Director Reed Cowan presents us with documents and letters that illustrate the LDS involvement in opposing equal marriage rights as far back as 1992 when the issue was first brought up in Hawaii. Reed also maps the strategy the church used to mobilize their agenda without the public realizing that they were the driving force behind it.
The most interesting and hard-hitting moments of the film were the interviews with actual Mormons conflicted - or downright angry - about the tactics used by the LDS in the campaign. The strategy included asking these Mormons to knowingly disseminate misinformation, and intimidating church members into giving money by implying their soul was at risk if they didn't. I got the sense that not all Mormons agreed that this was a battle worth compromising the integrity of the church.
Reed also interweaves a more human element into the film. We follow a gay couple married, after the state Supreme Court in California ruled that same-sex couples the right to wed, based on the equal protection argument. We witness their anxiety as prop. 8 threatened their marriage. The film also chronicles the struggles of Mormon homosexuals, including teen abandonment, and a startling suicide rate.
Wisely, Reed is careful to never outright criticize Mormons or the LDS. Instead, he allows the church's members, clergy, politicians, and their actions to speak for themselves. The second half of the film grants a lot of time to Mormons speaking on the subjects of homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and abuse of gay Mormons. Notable Utah Senator Chris Buttars is given more screen time than was needed for him to make an ass of himself.
I am sure that making this film involved a lot of difficult editing choices, and it would benefit from a few more. The first half of the film is great, towards the end however, I began to notice how long this documentary was.
I saw the copy of this documentary that was at the press office, and labeled “Rough Cut”. It is possible that the final cut for the big screen will be shorter and better edited, but regardless, you should not let the length stop you from seeing it.
8: The Mormon Proposition is a last minute a nominee for this years Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice Award for Documentary Film.
This film will screen:
Thursday, Feb. 11, 9:30 p.m. at Victoria Hall Theatre
Friday , Feb 12, 11 a.m. at the Lobero
Saturday, Feb. 13 7:30 p.m. at the Lobero
Tags: c2sbiff, GLBT issues, civil rights, constitutional law, religious studies, campaign finance law, Mormon, LDS, The Mormon Murders, Under the Banner of Heaven
A humorous look at aging in the twenty-first century.
Who should see this film:
Anyone interested in health and wellness or biotechnology, and people who are concerned about aging and senility or just want to see a funny documentary.
As more and more Baby Boomers are becoming members of AARP, interest in longevity and anti-aging science has peaked in this country. I should not have been surprised that I was one of maybe four people under fifty at this afternoons packed screening of How To Live Forever.
Middle aged filmmaker Mark Wexler - realizing that he is not getting any younger - embarks on a funny and informative enquiry on how to go about living forever. For Wexler, like most people, it is not death that is frightening but getting old and becoming infirm, senile or both. This documentary gives us a broad scope of the options available to help us combat aging.
Some tips for longevity seem common sense. Jack Lalanne makes an appearance to tell us to exercise, and of course drink fresh carrot juice. Suzanne Somers recommends hormone therapy. There is also cryogenic freezing, laugh yoga, health clubs for your brain, countless diets and Japanese companion robots.
Wexler also asks some notable geriatrics there secrets including: a 94 year old practicing heart surgeon, a 95 year old elderly porn star, and a 101 year old marathon runner who drinks only beer.
By the end you come to realize that all this obsession about aging is only going to cause unhealthful anxiety. But if humor really is the best medicine you’ll get a good dose before the end credits.
Tags: c2sbiff, health and wellness, biotechnology, aging, senility, funny documentary
A documentary about Native American concepts of gender and the murder of a sixteen-year-old Navajo boy.
Who should see this film:
Any one interested in social anthropology, GLBT issues, Native American culture and history, and human sexuality.
Beautifully shot and composed, Two Spirits tells the tragic story of a life lost to a hate crime, interlaced with a cultural history lesson.
Fred Martinez was a transgendered Navajo boy. In the Navajo tradition he was a Nádleehí or someone who possesses two spirits. As we learn the details of Fred’s life and death, the film takes us through traditional Native American ideas about gender and sexuality. The binary genders of man and woman are but two of the four genders recognized by the Navajo. Two Spirits also chronicles the systematic destruction of Native American culture by the colonial United States and the replacement of indigenous values with those of Christianity. The evangelized culture that resulted lost the concept of plural gender (along with countless other traditional ideas).
The films, director Lydia Nibley interviews Queer Native Americans from around the continent about their experiences growing up, and into their sexuality. Contrary to the mainstream western culture, it was the most traditional members of the community that encouraged and nurtured them.
Two Spirits is an important documentary illustrating that hate crimes have more victims than the person attacked, and gives faces to the family, friends, and communities affected by it. My one criticism is that the film does not distinguish between homosexual and transgendered. I got the sense that this may be because Martinez did not like to be labeled, and the Navajo idea of gender is more fluid than ours. Many people in the GLBT community would argue that it's important for the public to understand that homosexuality and transgender are different; each with their own specific issues-in addition to their common concerns.
Two Spirits is a nominee for this years Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice Award for Documentary Film. There is also an educational outreach effort connected to this film through the Fred Martinez Project.
Tags: c2sbiff, GLBT, transgende, Native American culture, human sexuality, Navajo two spirits, NÃ¡dleehÃ, Fred Martinez
A beautiful and stark look at the human rights atrocities of North Korea
Who should see this film:
Anyone with interest in human rights, social justice, Asian history, political science or propaganda.
Inspired by Kang Choel Hwan’s autobiography of The Aquariums of Pyongyang, director N.C. Heikin created a visually pleasing but stark documentary of the lives of North Korean defectors. Throughout the film Heikin juxtaposes the horrific stories of living in - and escaping from - the oppressive state, with the beautiful Kim Il Sung era propaganda posters, North Korean film/TV and performances, as well as western modern dance. The use of North Korea’s own media provides a striking contrast between what the state disseminates and reality.
Each refugee describes coming to terms with that discrepancy and how he or she decided to escape. Some inspired to flee by such things as western music, or the Count of Montè Cristo, illustrate that the largest threat to the dictatorship is education about the outside world. Others left out of necessity, only to find hardship in China before making it to Seoul, Mongolia or other countries that wouldn’t repatriate them. The documentary includes actual footage of an underground group attempting to smuggle North Koreans out of China.
It is hard for us in the free world to imagine a place where a 'god king' rules and children think it is normal to grow up laboring in prison camps. Kimjongilia brings this tragedy to light in a beautiful and captivating way.
Kimjongilia is a nominee for this years Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice Award for Documentary Film. You can also learn more about the North Korean situation and ways to help from Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) at their website.
Tags: c2sbiff, North Korea, Social Justice Award, Documentary Film, human rights, social justice, Asian history, political science or propaganda, Kim Jon Il