Posts tagged with “documentary”
Stephin Merritt, and a little less so his band The Magnetic Fields, is one of those polarizing figures. You either love him or hate him (or a third category: never heard of him). He’s an unbelievably talented and prolific song writer, cranking out albums with The Magnetic Fields in addition to three other bands and at least two side projects at all times, including a 2009 staging of a not-for-kids musical based on the Neil Gaiman book Coraline (strangely not associated with the movie version of that book that came out the same year). His music and lyrics generally strike a lovely tone of sadly funny–unique, sweet without being sticky, and surreal but totally recognizable. My favorites of his songs live in the same part of my brain as the very best of Wes Anderson’s movies, if you get me. (It’s okay if you don’t; that doesn’t make much sense.) He tours with his band but is very open about pretty much hating playing live, due in equal parts to an ear condition that makes applause and loud music literally painful to him and to his generally prickly personality. I’ve seen him live a few times and have found him in turns to be dryly hilarious, self-deprecating, extremely entertaining, really boring, and rude to and dismissive of an audience that clearly loves him. I find him fasinating, and the documentary about him and the band that’s been floating around festivals since June ought to be really great. Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields hasn’t graced my city yet, but I’m keeping an eye out for it (maybe it will show up this year at STIFF?) and will report back as soon as possible. In the meantime, please enjoy these enticing clips.
THE COVE (2009/DVD) Don’t miss this thrilling and horrific adventure (and 2010 Best Documentary Feature Oscar winner) about a hero for compassionate humans everywhere, TV’s “Flipper” dolphin trainer turned free-the-dolphins activist Richard “Ric” O’Barry, and his noble ongoing quest to expose and ultimately stop government-sanctioned dolphin drive hunting at the titular blood-soaked cove in a Taiji, Japan, national park where 23,000+ dolphins are brutally slaughtered annually.
What drives O’Barry is guilt—feeling responsible for the Dolphinarium craze spawned by his work on “Flipper,” he’s spent the last thirty years working incessantly to free dolphins from captivity. What first disturbed him as a trainer was when he noticed that, when “Flipper” aired and O’Barry pulled his TV out to the dock to let the dolphins watch their work, the dolphins seemed to recognize themselves onscreen, squeaking and making a happy ruckus when they saw/heard themselves, leading the trainer to one conclusion: these creatures are far more intelligent and self aware than he’d previously thought. But what finally turned him into an activist was when one of his “Flipper” dolphins, Cathy, “commited suicide in [his] arms,” just closing her blowhole and choosing to not reopen it. O’Barry decided then that dolphins simply aren’t meant to be confined in pens—out on the open sea it’s common for a dolphin to travel 40 or more miles within a few hours. The close confinement, in conjunction with the crowd noise and loudspeakers of most modern dolphin pools, was simply too much stress for these creatures to bear. A changed man, O’Barry was arrested for attempting to free a dolphin from a sea pen near the island of Bimini later that week. Read more »
THE QUEEN AND I (2009/HBO) Engaging documentary by Sweden-based Iranian filmmaker (and exiled revolutionary) Nahid Persson Sarvestani detailing her efforts to make a film about (and eventually, developing a relationship with) Royal Queen Farah, the exiled widow of the deposed Shah of Iran. Now based in Paris and living the life of a celebrity to a degree—fans stop her continuously on the street for photos and autographs—the uber-classy RQF is understandably reluctant when approached by the earnest filmmaker about making a movie delving into her tumultuous past. It says something of her character that, even after Sarvestani confesses that she was a part of the very revolutionary force that deposed the Shah in 1979, the RQF not only permits the filmmaker access to her private life (albeit gradually), but she also lets her personal barriers fall, allowing their polite and reserved interviews to mature into an unlikely friendship. Read more »