Saturday, April 08, 2017

Full Frame 2017: Day Two

Day two of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival held at the Carolina Theatre and the Marriot Convention Center in Durham, N.C., was a lot livelier than the first day as the weekend crowds starting pouring in. This was also due to the capper of the second day of the fest - the North Carolina premiere of Amir Bar-Levs epic four hour Grateful Dead band biodoc, LONG STRANGE TRIP. But first let me get to some other worthy docs I saw on Friday.

(Dir. Olympia Stone, 2016)

This fascinating 20 minute film, part of the New Docs Program, concerns outsider artist Richard McMahan, who makes miniature versions of some of the world’s great paintings. Hailing from Jacksonville, Florida, McMahan is the creator and curator of the Mini-Museum, a traveling and online exhibit of thousands of his hand made replicas including intricate recreations of Egyptian tombs, 20 years in the making. McMahan’s work is incredibly impressive, and he's a likable, if extremely eccentric character (he wears period costumes at his installations) so the doc is a short but sweet treat.

Next up, I saw another film in the New Docs Program, Garret Atlakson’s MOMMY’S LAND, which was making its World Premiere at this year’s Full Frame.

The film tackles the protest that was formed by a group of women who were dislocated when the corrupt government of Cambodia forcibly evicted them from their homes in 2006 and 2007 to make way for new developments funded by World Bank.

The former residents, mostly young mothers, of the Boeung Kak Lake (BKL) area in Phnom, Penh, whose houses were flooded and destroyed by property developers filling the lake with sand, rally behind a fellow resident, an elderly grandmother they call “Mommy,” in often violent demonstrations. Watching this unfold in brutal confrontations with Military Police, while uncaring ruling party members stand uncaringly on the sidelines, is heart breaking. Mommy’s perserverance is inspiring, and filmmaker Atlakson’s eye never shies away from the excruciatingly uncomfortable imagery of bloody assaults that were made on these women fighting for the land titles owed to them. It can be a bit grueling, but the timeliness of Mommy and her people’s struggle makes for a powerfully emotional 68 minute viewing. 

(Dir. Nicole Triche, 2016)

Miss Doris, a woman in her late 70s who runs a 50-year-old roller skating rink above a post office in Topsail Island, N.C., is the subject of this charming 20-minute short. Miss Doris takes us through her operation, her family’s history, and displays her own skating skills for us as well. Another inspirational tale of an old unstoppable lady, albeit under severely different circumstances than MOMMY'S LAND, Triche’s film celebrates Miss Doris and her beloved community venue, which looks like, with no plans for retirement, she will keep rolling as long as she can.

BALLOONFEST (Dir. Nathan Truesdell, 2017) This is a six minute curiousity, mostly made up of archival TV news reports, about the United Way of Cleveland, Ohio, attempt in 1986 to break a world record by releasing over a million balloons in the air. However, a high pressure system approached, causing many of the balloons to end up in Lake Erie making a search for two missing fishermen difficult. Despite the event not being recognized by the Guiness Book of World Records, the initial release of the balloons, with swirling clouds of color engulfing the skyline is quite a site to be seen. 

LONG STRANGE TRIP (Dir. Amir Bar-Lev, 2017) Ive had my ups and downs with the Grateful Dead. I loved them in the late 80s to mid 90s, seeing them close to a dozen times, but came to loathe them later in that decade. Ive come back around these days, but still wouldnt consider myself a Deadhead. Ive loved the work of Amir Bar-Lev (MY KID COULD PAINT THAT, THE TILLMAN STORY), so I was pysched to see his take on the iconic San Francisco bands legacy (Martin Scorsese being one of the film's executive producers added to that as well).

This new four hour, career-spanning documentary (thankfully containing an intermission), features a wealth of archival footage, both vintage and current interviews from band members, and a intoxicating exploration into the Deads philosophy and vision. That philosophy can simply be stilled down into having fun as the late lead guitarist/singer Jerry Garcia puts it, and that vision can be seen as to just keep on truckin,' but there's a lot of ins and outs and what haves you involved, as the Dude would say.

From the 1965 Acid Tests, to a hilarious late ‘60s appearance on the Playboy After Dark TV show where they dosed the coffee pot, to their famous 1972 European tour to their performance in Egypt in 1978 to their surprise success in the ‘80s with their first top 40 single (“Touch of Grey”) and beyond, Bar-Lev’s pacing never falters, and the music never stops. Bar-Lev, in attendence at the fest, boasted before the screening that he and his crew utilized the original individual instrumental tracks of many of the band's studio recordings to provide a musical bed for the film, and it sounded great through the Carolina Theatre’s Cinema One speaker system.

A must see for Deadheads and those curious about the band, but maybe not recommended for haters as such a lengthy breakdown of the ethos of Garcia and company is doubtful to win them over. For the folks in the audience I saw it with on Friday night, some of whom shouted their appreciation for individual gigs being mentioned, it was a delight from beginning to end.

Coming soon: Coverage of Days Three & Four. And be sure to check out coverage of Day One, if you haven’t already.

More later...


Sadia (Movie) said...

Great Post ! I have read your other posts which are really informative. Thanks

Phillip K. Mosier said...

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