Sharp Tools

Sharp tools is a documentary about UAE artist Hassan Sharif currently showing at the Dubai International Film Festival. Catch the first screening today, Friday December 08 @6:30pm or the second screening on Sun December 10 @3:30pm.

It’s the best opening of a movie that I have seen in a long time. The film is intriguing and informative. This is my favorite combination. The director is Nujoom Alghanem. She is Emirate and a poet in her own right. She’s won several big awards in past years related to the festival.

#diff17

For more information check out : https://dubaifilmfest.com

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Dubai International Film Festival #diff2017

I’m excited to be a part of the Dubai International Film Festival this year. I’ve got a couple of jam packed days. I only wish that it wasn’t coinciding with finals for my students.

Off to an excellent start … I had to get here really early because of traffic. If you are interested in more info on schedule and events : https://dubaifilmfest.com/en/schedule.html

Lest We Forget

I can’t give enough positive feedback for the show “Lest We Forget”. It’s the brainchild of Dr. Michele Bambling.

Lest We Forget is a major grassroots arts and heritage initiative that aims to archive, preserve and share vernacular photographs and oral histories of the UAE through its website, workshops and exhibitions. Newly launched under the auspices of the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, Lest We Forget is a community-based initiative that welcomes public participation.

This is the best ethnographic exhibition that I have seen in a very long time.  The show has since closed but, I am hoping that it opens up in another location.  I will support the researchers and artists who are in this exhibition in any way possible.  The event was extended once and that is the only reason that I was able to attend in the first place.  I walked out inspired and with one of the handmade books about the project (pictured above).

There are still ways to support the project and participate.

  1. Visit the website and share your stories (if you are Emirati) http://lestweforget.ae/en/aboutUs.php

2.  Watch the “how the exhibition was made” video online: https://vimeo.com/155669681

3. Visit Warehouse 421 in Abu Dhabi and see what is happening in the art scene! https://www.warehouse421.ae/en/visit/

Local docs at “Our City Film Festival” Feb 13

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.

Saturday night, February 12 – opening party at RFD’s.

Local Grammy Award winning Hip Hop Artist Christylez Bacon performs.

Drink specials = Doc & a Drink will be there!

Sunday, February 13 – A full day of films at the Goethe Institut at 812 7th Street, NW, Washington, DC

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!

You?

5 out of 5 cheers

–Katy Jones

The New Theater in Town. West End Cinema.

If you haven’t heard – there’s a new theater in my town.  And it ain’t no traditional multiplex.  It’s an art cinema – do you know what that means?  IT SHOWS DOCUMENTARIES!!!! In addition to other indie art films, this theater has a quite impressive line-up of documentaries, and it’s only its first month in existence.

Conveniently located at 23rd and M Street NW, Washington, DC – West End Cinema promises to help enrich the local art film scene.  We went out to see a film there last weekend and I loved it.  A nice, intimate feeling – fancy beers on tap, friendly service, and oh yeah, documentaries on screen.  Sweet.

I still love E Street Cinema, and it remains to be seen if the market can hold two art movie houses in one town, but I have faith.  We are DC.  We like our entertainment smart.  We like our local businesses healthy.  We are one of the largest documentary film communities in the country.  I can’t wait to see more movies!

–Rock it.

–Five out of five cheers

–Kathleen Jones (Katy J.)

FILM REVIEW: The Boxing Gym – punch it.

FILM: Boxing Gym

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)

Boston Globe review of “Boxing Gym”

The Washington City Paper review

IFC Conversation with Wiseman

FILM REVIEW: Dogtown and Z-Boys

FILM: Dogtown and Z-Boys

FILMMAKER: Stacy Peralta

REVIEWER: Kathleen B. Jones

I am revisiting some of my favorite docs while I’m on the road.  (All praise Netflix Instant!).  Most recently I rewatched every 90s teen punk skateboarder wannabe favorite Dogtown and Z-Boys.  I remember this doc as being super awesome when I first saw it (it was realeased in 2001) but wasn’t sure I wasn’t viewing it through the lens of a 20-something media student who totally like thought boys who skateboarded and listened to Black Flag were like totally hot.  Tastes haven’t changed.  Movie is awesome, still like dude who listens to Black Flag.

Dogtown and Z-Boys is the story of a skater gang from California who defined 70s skateboard culture.   The fact that the filmmaker, Stacy Peralta, was one of the Z-Boys, could have made it suck (there’s a rule about being too close to what your filming), but instead it makes it awesome.  The other members of the team talk to him like a person, like, “you remember how Johnny was” and it makes you the audience feel like you’re a part of the experience.  Like you totally know these guys, even though they would totally never actually talk to you.

Peralta himself appears as one of the interviewed characters, as he should since he was a part of that experience, but he doesn’t narrate. Sean Penn does the narration as an omniscient 3rd person narrator.  So you get to feel how much Peralta is personally involved in the story, and cared about making a great film about an experience he was part of, but it’s not like just wanted to talk about himself.

Now, these were a violent bunch of kids who broke into people’s homes and damaged property and ran from the cops and had a total subculture to themselves.  As adults, they don’t lie about it, or hide from it.  The interview with Jay Adams whose life after the crew broke up descended into drugs and jail is a really powerful experience.

It’s a great film, with an authentic voice, great story, thoughtful filmmaker, fantastic historical footage and kind of inspiring subtext.  Kids follow their passion and achieve greatness, with some consequences attached.  They are a totally multi-cultural crew, and they had a chick on their team.  I dug it so much I think I’m actually going to buy it and it will be one of the few docs I keep around to watch over and over again and analyze.   I’m giving it one less than five stars because there were a couple interviews I couldn’t figure out – like why Henry Rollins was in it.

I found the Z-Boys story and Peralta as a filmmaker intriguing. I’m also really interested in seeing what Peralta did next, which was make a film about the Crips and Bloods.  I’m interested in seeing how his life story as part of a gang helps to inform his choices as a filmmaker.  So hopefully I’ll watch that next week.

Four out of five stars.

Katy B. Jones

Deep Water – Deeper, and Deeper he went

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.

–Katy Jones

180 Degrees South – An *%@! Cool Journey to Nowhere in Particular


FILM REVIEW: 180 Degrees South


FILMMAKER: Chris Malloy

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.

Katy J.

Between the Folds — there’s room for improvement

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

—Katy J.