Saturday, April 14, 2007

Day 3 of 4 of Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

Full Frame is winding down quickly - it goes by too fast! We started off today with a 9:15-11a film, The Ants, about Japan's imperial past. It is a documentary about a man who served as a 20-year-old in Japan's WWII army in China. The Japanese were brutal warriors, and he relates awful things he had to do, like practice bayoneting on innocent peasants. His country didn't have some of their China-based forces stop fighting even after the war's end and he didn't return to Japan till, as I recall, 1953; this shows his attempts to use the Japanese courts to get his country to acknowledge the sacrifice and apologize. It was well presented and powerful.

I saw Revolution '67 preceded by the short Conjure Bearden next. The short was a lovely 17-minute retrospective of the photography of an African-American and African-American neighborhoods near Charlotte, NC from 1938-1941. The main film was a shocking narrative of the Newark, NJ riots and how injustice, lack of opportunity, corruption, and lack of concern grew into the calamity and continues in many ways.

Power of Ten: A Conversation had the ten curators, including Michael Moore and Mira Nair, of this special series in a panel moderated by an NPR radio figure dicussing their work, documentary film, and their films they were screening. It was a good and lively discussion.

I watched the first 45 minutes of In the Shadow of the Moon, a film with Apollo astronauts talking about their experiences in space flight and lunar landings. The clips, including President Kennedy's inspiring moon speech and fabulous rocket film, were great to see again; hearing the astronauts thinking back to what they were feeling at the time helped to personalize it.

As good as that film was, I left to see the unique Helvetica. It was all about typefaces, focusing on the Helvetica font. Many typographers and designers were interviewed in a lively paced and fun film, with a delightful soundtrack, that makes one more aware of the fonts used all around us; many said that Helvetica is the face we see most often and is timeless in its beauty, but some argued for more unconventional fonts. The film was just completed, as I recall from the Q&A session afterwards with the filmmaker, 3 weeks ago and has already been shown in 7 countries; it is apparently the only film about typography and is going to be shown at design conferences, museums, other film festivals, ... - there are something like 45 screenings in the near future lined up.

I saw another film about Japan, but on a diametrically opposite theme, next - The Great Happiness Space. This fascinating and enjoyable peek is into the life of a club that has men who cater to clients in Osaka as in-house companions. They give company, express (lying) confessions of love, and sometimes have sex with the lonely women who come at something like $100 an hour - and when the women order champagne, that adds another $200, 500, or even $1000+ to the tab. It was sad to see how the men string the women on to keep them coming, though they have no intention of marriage or proper dating with these clients.

My wife and I both ended up at Blockade, a striking almost-silent, black and white documentary about the Siege of Leningrad taken from the Soviet side. Seeing the depravations and dead bodies was quite sobering.


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