I look at the Cinequest short documentaries as an opportunity to travel the world and learn at least a few new things in 90 minutes or less. You don’t always get a whole story, sometimes you leave wanting more, doing your own research on the topic, and sometimes you are totally satisfied with the sound bite of information imparted and the vehicle in which it is delivered. This year the curated shorts were very fulfilling for the most part and I left the cinema with my eyes a bit more open as well as my heart.
American Lawn – The really diverse group of well-made films started out with an absolutely (unintentional according to the film maker) hilarious look at the LAWN. American Lawn was exactly what it sounds like, people talking about their very strong feelings about the lawn. People apparently have, very strong opinions in Washington about the upkeep standards, social implications and impact of the lawn and consequently very often judge people by… their lawn. Honestly, very interesting, not something I thought about, and clearly an important piece of what appears to be largely American culture. Good times.
Disarming Falcon – While I loved the shots of the birds in this film, and the gentlemen who owned them seemed to treat them well and respect them, this is a film that was a bit of a draw for me. A mixed bag if you will. It took a look at the business and sporting side of falconry, specifically the use of falcons by Arabs in the hunt for an, elusive dessert bird. The falcons do all the work and the thrill of the hunt is an odd juxtaposition between letting a bird of prey do its thing naturally and keeping what essentially should be a wild animal in captivity. There was a brief mention of the illegally trapped falcon trade in Pakistan and other countries being discouraged now, because the wild population is threatened. I would have loved to hear more about the conservation effort which the business men who own the falcons seem to be actually spearheading. A good topic, I’m not sure I hear all the sides of the story to the extent I wanted.
Etched in Skin – This film was an exploration of the Quebec tattoo industry. I love a good tattoo expo but this one fell a bit flat for me. They don’t seem to be a population of artists with any specific edge, history, or tradition that stands out amongst other documentaries I’ve seen on the art or the industry, the subculture or the storytelling power of the art itself. Lacking I thought in-depth and I spent more time looking at the subtitles than being able to enjoy the tattoo art and the artists.
Fabia Debora, A Life for Art – Get your tissue out and make room for your prejudices to be challenged and your heart to grow three sizes. This film took a moving look at a former gang member in Los Angeles and how he was able to change an entire community by changing himself; through art. I LOVE this film and think it should be required viewing. This is such a heartbreaking, difficult and absolutely affirming story. So well told visually and it thoroughly investigated, explored and dug down into the personal stories. The possibility of change, even in what seems to be the most difficult situation, is a fascinating topic and so very touching in the presentation. This was the one film I could have seen even more of, I easily would have been riveted with a full length feature. Just a tremendously important film that has the power to CHANGE neighborhoods and the world. In a word, hope.
Herd in Iceland – Not only did I super enjoy this films gorgeous capturing of the rural Icelandic landscape, this short was full of lovely twinkling people, lots of fluffy horses running free, sheep and even massively happy, tail-wagging , herding dogs. It had all the great ingredients of a perfect film if one were making one just for me. It told a unique story in a wonderful way and even found a way to tell some of the harder parts of the story in a gentle, balanced, informed way. This was probably my second favorite of the lot and I think inspired the entire audience to sell their worldly possessions and head for the horse breeding Nordic country sides. This was such an intelligent, gorgeous and insightful film! YAY and YAY again!
Margo – This film took a very sad and ironic look at a hospice nurse who found herself in hospice, dying of Ovarian Cancer. This would have been a tough topic anyway, but the fact that I wasn’t sure what the angle was, challenged me. I wanted to know more about her process prior to being in the situation she found herself in, the same she helped so many with in her professional life. It felt a bit unorganized, and shallow in a way. It didn’t dig deep enough into how her thoughts, faith, or process may or may not have changed from before her diagnosis to the end. Sadly, I felt there were just too many missing parts about this film.
Sticky – This film explored in a nutshell the extinction of a large stick insect native to an Island in Australia. While the topic was informational and cautionary, the WAY in which the information was relayed was really interesting. All in animation with audio from the scientist involved in the story, I found it to be creative and well-rounded.
Overall the collection of these films offered a great journey with varied topics and method of storytelling. A successful screening with more YAYS than NAYS. 4 out of 5 jewels in the review tiara for the collection.