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Cinequest Documentary Shorts 2010

February 18, 2013

The Documentaries are usually my favorite group of shorts at Cinequest.  There were only five films in the program this year and I did love three of them, but I really hated two of them.

It started off with PERFECT WORLD, which set me off right away.  Several students in an alternative school in England are asked about their version of a perfect world, and so the entire film is shots of them saying “In a perfect world…” or “A perfect world would be…”  The students themselves have some disabilities such as learning problems and ADHD, so this would seem to be a great idea and it is, but it’s been DONE BEFORE.  And better.  It’s not an original idea, and in this case, there were no inspiring, charming, thought provoking or insightful answers from the children.  I found it to be tedious and frustratingly boring.

NOTES ON THE OTHER I loved, and many others in the audience did as well.  It switches between the story of Ernest Hemingway seeing an injured man on the street in Pamplona, to the story of the injured man and his still living son, and then to a group of men in Key West, Florida, who meet every year to choose the new authentic Hemingway “look-alike”.  I enjoyed hearing bits about Hemingway’s life, but what struck me the most was the film about the son who still lives in Pamplona and runs the family business.  Every year during the running of the bulls he shuts up the business, opens a hole in the door, and sits behind it photographing the race.  The film documents him sitting behind that hole with his camera, and when the bulls and men begin running past the viewer is instantly put into the middle of this exciting event.  I have never felt so close to the running of the bulls before, and it was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

clandCLANDESTINE is a narrative about the filmmaker’s father who is a shortwave hobbyist, but intertwined with a documentary about the encrypted messages used by spies, and the history of what happened to some of these spies.  It’s a 30 minute film and I found it to be fascinating and well told.  I like when documentaries teach us something, and this doc was quite interesting.

UNDERTOW EYES was a strain for me to get through.  It is about a couple named Vera and Gabriel who are around 80 years old now, and they narrate the life they have lived together since meeting when Vera was age 15.  It is a beautiful film with colorful images of Vera and Gabriel now, mixed with photos and film of their lives since they were children.  The problem here is there is no real conflict in this story.  A few parts were interesting, but for the most part I wish some conflict had been introduced to make the story more fascinating than that of any of our own parents or grandparents.  Vera and Gabriel met, got married, had many children, not a lot of money, and now they are old and happy together.  The End.

HOW GREEN WAS OUR VALLEY is the story of a small village in Iran whose tenants are warned that an incoming flood from the new hydroelectric dam is about to destroy their village.  The villagers refuse to leave because they do not believe their saint, whose bones are buried in a temple in the village, will let harm come to them.  Of course this saint has no control over civilization’s progress in this case and they are indeed flooded.  They are now faced with finding a new home, but more importantly, moving the bones of their saint.  It is heartbreaking to watch and was a powerful ending to the entire shorts program.

Those films which are linked here have trailers where you can view at least a part of the films. Unfortunately I could not locate them all.

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