Category Archives: Katy
Totally Local at the “OUR CITY FILM FESTIVAL” Feb 12-13
Local docs are always fun – it’s fun to live somewhere that people make movies about. Makes you feel kind famous to see places you know in film. Plus later when you meet the filmmakers you can have a real conversation about your city – and it’s not all awkward. I heart that. Local docs = awesome.
And this weekend you can see some at the Our City Film Festival. We got a sneak preview – and we’re stoked. Our City Film Festival is a fund-raiser for Yachad – a local organization that helps to rebuild and repair DC communities. So, you can come watch movies and support your community. Lovin’ your work!
So here’s your guide to the Film Festival for doc fans.
Local Grammy Award winning Hip Hop Artist Christylez Bacon performs.
Drink specials = Doc & a Drink will be there!
11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Docs in Progress Screenings
Docs in Progress is a local group that teaches individuals the skills they need to tell their own stories. (They taught me how to edit with Final Cut Pro – for the record). These films will be “in progress” looking for some feedback – so you’ve got a chance to help some people craft their films and get involved in the community.
1:15 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. – is the Doc Block – “Our Docs”
Totally local filmmakers making films about
With local filmmakers including
“Community Harvest” – made by a pair of dudes from “Meridian Hill Pictures” ( how local can you get?) about a community garden in Columbia Heights. Longer post on them later. Photo above.
“Touch, Pause, Engage” – about the first African American high school rugby team – in NE Washington. Director Jonni Masella.
“The Washington Redskins: Winning Years” by Walter Gottlieb.
Walter is one of those names I’ve know I’ve heard somewhere but just can’t quite place. He’s an active WIFV contributor, a filmmaker with decades of local experience. Very excited to see his work.
Then there’s a super awesome Closing Party
At 7:30 – 9:00 pm. With the ladies from the show “DC Cupcakes” (man, I can’t stop hearing about this show lately.) which I unfortunately, I have a condo board meeting and will miss – but if you can go – you can get CUPCAKES!
So that’s what we’ll be doing next weekend!
-5 out of 5 cheers
FILMMAKER: Frederick Wiseman
REVIEWED BY: Kathleen B. Jones
I’ve been on the road non-stop since August. Finally got home this weekend and first thing I wanted to do was go see a doc in a movie theater. I dragged my fella to go see Frederick Wisemen’s new film “Boxing Gym.” I felt sorry that I made him sit through it with me.
“Boxing Gym” takes place at a boxing gym – shocking right? – it’s a gym in Austin, Texas with a diverse clientele ranging from children to the elderly, women and men, all races, who love to come into the gym and box. The audience gets to be very familiar with the rhythm of the gym, the sound of punches, the increased skill of the characters. That’s neat. For an hour.
Frederick Wisemen is a known master documentary filmmaker. Recently, he was the honoree at Silverdocs, the DC area’s biggest documentary film festival. I know all that, but I have actually seen very few of his films. They are not available on Netflix, they are only seen in the occasional library, once in awhile on PBS, and in theaters. His style is pure cinema verite, i.e. filming what happens with no narration, no music, no additional lighting or sound effects. It’s considered to be the most “true to life” style of filmmaking.
After an hour of no storyline, no sound but boxing and chatting, and no music, you get wicked bored. I love the idea of pure cinema verite. But in practice it’s just not much cooler than actually living.
I watch documentaries to experience a new life. These characters in “The Boxing Gym” are just normal people – you know, people who like to work out, but that’s it. Again, it’s neat for a bit. It’s good to have a minute where you are present in a scene and really look at what happens in life around you. But after an hour of someone else’s perfectly normal life passing by on a screen you start thinking, “Um, I could be outside experiencing my perfectly normal life instead of sitting here in this chair watching some guy jump rope.”
Nothing much happening. Nothing’s at stake, nothing’s really changing. And frankly, being stuck in a tiny gym for two hours – it’s actually kind of claustrophobic. It’s not unlike watching someone type on a computer for about two hours straight. There’s a rhythm to the typing, and a beauty to some of the angles, but do you really want to watch it for two hours? And pay $11 for the privilege?
But I will give credit to the film because I did go home and try out some of the boxing moves I watched in the film – and I realized that it is pretty fun. Boxing would be cool. I might try it sometime. Maybe I did get a little something out of it. So 1) you are person who likes boxing or are curious about it – you should watch this film or 2) you are a student of documentary film who wants to learn more about cinema verite – you should watch this film. But if you are 3) a person who believes that if they spend $11 on something you should get some entertainment on that value – yeah, skip it.
–Two out of five cheers
–Kathleen B. Jones (Katy J)
FILM: Deep Water
FILMMAKER: Louise Osmond & Jerry Rothwell
REVIEWED BY: Kathleen B. Jones
I am on a bit of a nautical kick lately. Recently watched Deep Water. This 2006 film follows the story of a yacht race round the world. I should preface with rather a sad failure of a yacht race round the world. In 1969, in a twisted race of torture that humans sometimes like to create for the themselves, a race was created for who could conduct a solo circumnavigation of the globe – without ever stopping. So, to be clear, you are talking about months at sea alone with nothing but ocean. I like to be alone sometimes, but this is intense personal solitude.
There are nine people crazy enough to enter, and most of them fail. Some are dead. And one crazy fool named Donald Crowhurst enters with almost no sea experience and completely mortgages himself to the hilt in order to do it, leaving himself and his young family destitute if he fails.
The film is fascinating, because with no tools other than 60′s archival footage, a few interviews from people still alive four decades after this insanity, and some actors reading journals, the film creates a sense of extreme tension and drama. And I found myself chewing through nails unable to sleep. I don’t want to give it away, but it’s a true adventure film. At the same time a testament to the greatest of human acheivement and the depths of human foolishness. One of the best archival films I’ve ever seen.
Four out of five cheers.
REVIEWER: Kathleen B. Jones
So, I finally got around to watching 180 Degrees South, which I’d been told I had to watch by like everyone I knew. Basic storyline, in the 60s & 70s this group of dirtbag climbing, surfing, outdoor adventure hippy dudes drove their VW van to Patagonia and nearly lost their shit at how cool it was. They made some pretty cool home movies of the experience. Then this other guy in the old 2000′s decides that looked pretty cool he wanted to try it too and to keep the journey difficult (read: good for moviemaking) he decided to go as a crewmember on a boat. Boat gets stuck in all kinds of weird spots, including a little stop on Easter Island where he just “happens” to pick up an equally hippie chick surfer Easter Island native that plays a really expensive guitar at “impromptu” campfires. So he gets to Patagonia, meets up with his adventure buddies (who decided to “authentically” drive/fly/get there in some other means than one that would be good for moviemaking).
His buddies just happen to be one of the world’s best surfers and one of the world’s best climbers. Adventure awaits! They meet up with those original dirtbag kids from the 70s, who are now officially old dudes – and who are ALSO the heads of North Face and Patagonia and who have a non-profit to save Patagonia.
Even though this moive ends up in Patagonia, it takes forever to get there, and it’s all wandery and wavy and sometiems really obvious in attempts to creatue situations that would create good footage.
All that being said…This film is seriously the most inspirational get your butt off the couch and explore the wide world and holy shit and I want to do that and I think I’m going to just become a climber and flip burgers for a living so I can climb more movie that you’ve ever ever ever seen. It’s so F*in cool. The footage is phenomenal, and the physical prowess of the dudes on the screen makes you really feel like you’ve been wasting your life on a computer. So cool.
–4 out of 5 cheers.
So I was really stoked when “Between the Folds” came out last year, I tried to see it twice, and both times the screenings were totally full. It’s the story of origami as art. And how scientists are interested in how origami works.
I was personally interested because I actually like origami, a holdover from a childhood in Japan. Really the only thing I ever fold is paper cranes, and I only do it when I’m feeling sick, because I really believed in that story “1,000 paper cranes” when I was a kid. But, nevertheless, I still like to think I know something about origami.
Also, I was interested because, hello, I’m a science groupie, and every scientist I talk to is totally stoked on origami, so I thought it would be awesome. I love that intersection between art and science.
But I was pretty let down. This just was not awesome at all. It was a bunch of semi-boring interviews, and precious-sounding narration that made origami look less cool than it actually is.
I couldn’t put my finger on it for a while. The interviews sounded like there were interesting soundbites. I still think origami is cool. Why isn’t this documentary awesome?
Maybe it’s that part of artists that take themselves too seriously. Like one guy made weird gnomes as his expression of art, and the interview made him seem like he just had no sense of humor whatsoever – like these artists were just overearnest all the time. It’s strange, their earnestness about their art made them seem – flat. One-noted. And the structure of the film, so modular. Not awesome.
I actually got bored.
I’m giving it a three. I still learned something, and the camerawork and lighting was nice if not overly creative. I just had really ridiculously high expectations.
—3 out of 5 Cheers
FILMMAKER: Jeffrey Blitz
REVIEWER: Katy Jones
I’ve started doing this new thing where we I get a coupon for Borders I go and buy a doc on DVD for my parents so they can get some sense of what it is I’m hoping to do for a living.
First up – Spellbound. This Jeffrey Blitz movie is one I actually saw in the theatre when it was released in theaters in 2002. It’s about middle school kids competing in the National Spelling Bee, and if you’ve never seen it, you should. It’s not going to change your life, but it will make you appreciate it more.
Why would someone make a movie about a spelling bee? Well, for the same reason that I love sports documentaries even though I don’t really watch sports – when there’s something at stake, a competition that people care about – it brings what’s awesome about human nature. And the characters in this movie are so well cast. Remember how awkward and ungainly you were at 13? Yeah, well, so are they – and everything is a really BIG DEAL. And they care a lot. And they work so hard, and they just can’t win – not all of them.
The look of the movie is a little jarring, I forgot how far cameras had come in the short space of time since this movie was made. The camera work is generally very journalistic style, like it’s being shot for Dateline. But that’s fine. That allows you to see all the amazing faces, tears, braces, giggles, and oversized backpacks that this movie has to offer.
I really enjoyed Jeff Blitz’s talent for observation and casting. He’s got two new movies – one about the American Lottery called Lucky. Lucky is on HBO right NOW – go watch if you have HBO and tell me how it is! And next up is a movie about DC Comics, which should be nerdy and awesome too.
The HBO website has a good interview with Jeffrey Blitz about casting for the “Lucky” film
The website for “Lucky” is super fun – you have to “win” $50 by clicking on falling money before you can get in. Although once you do, it doesn’t have much to offer.
Did a little where are they now follow up on the kids featured in the doc.
Ashley White, probably my favorite character as she is a DC native – has graduated from Howard University despite numerous odds against her. Go her! She had an ABC News piece about her and what’s happened since. And the Washington Post did a nice write up.
Angela Arenivar has her own blog, she’s hoping to be a writer.
Five out of Five Cheers.
I know what you are thinking – WHERE have those girls been? We haven’t been posting, we’ve been strangely silent. Well, I’ll tell you what – we’ve been BUSY!!
We’re both on new jobs – Becky’s moved out of the country for hers, Katy’s traveling often for hers. But even though our free time is ever-dwindling, we love doing the blog and we’d like to keep it up! So we’ve had some brainstorming sessions on ideas on how to continue and make all of these changes result in an even more awesome blog. holla!
One way is – post shorter! Just get it up there already!
Another option is to get in some really awesome guest bloggers to join the team!
And we’ve decided to start skyping our weekly meetings – which may find their way into a post or two…you never know!
So look forward to some fun changes while we evolve – and thanks so much for continuing to read!
Hello readers, I have an apology to make.
I have mentioned in several blogs how generally off-putting I find first person narration in a documentary, particularly when the narrator is the filmmaker. I believe that I was in error. Particularly after watching the vastly compelling Dear Zachary, which is narrated in first person, I feel that I must grovel a bit and apologize to first person narration.
Lately, I have been forced to admit that several of the films I most loved since starting this blog involve first person narration. I enjoyed Kurt and Courtney, which was entirely narrated by filmmaker Nick Broomfield. Bigger, Stronger, Faster gets you to care about steroids due to the personal story of the filmmaker. And while Living Downstream wasn’t narrated by the filmmaker, it was narrated by the author on whom the film was based – and I loved it.
But the most poignant and touching use of first person narration is definitely Dear Zachary. I don’t think I can properly explain to those who have not seen this movie how effective it is. The personal voice of the filmmaker lets you experience the unfolding of tragedy along with him, and leads you to care about the characters in such a personal way that at the end of the film you feel as if it has happened to you. It was an extremely effective way to frame the story, and I don’t think a third person narrator would have done the same job.
So I feel that I need to make an apology to first person narration. I am sorry that I doubted your usefulness. I was being an idiot. Early in my documentary career I was exposed to films that used you poorly and that wasn’t your fault.
My eyes have been opened. You are a useful dramatic and structural tool in a documentary filmmaking arsenal. I look forward to seeing you used by talented filmmakers in the years to come.
–Kathleen (Katy J.)