Joe Penna’s survival adventure, “Arctic”, is sparse and ratifies all the conventions of commercial screenwriting.

That is, put the hero in peril in the first scene, make some changes, and keep upping the ante on challenges to his survival, and then let some development out of his own character save him at the last minute.  You keep an audience’s attention.  You keep an audience entertained.

And this adventure is down to two actors, quite barebones and minimalist,  Mads Mikkelsen, now 53, looks younger and rather superhuman as a pilot (Overgard) who has crashed in Lapland. (I have a friend who solos and wants to teach jumps;  I don’t think he would do this over the Arctic yet.)

He stays in the wreckage, does ice-fishing for food, and handcranks a radio to call SOS.  When a helicopter approaches, it gets caught in crosswinds and crashes. The pilot dies, and the nurse passenger (Maria Thelma Smaradottir) seems badly wounded.  Overgard even staples her abdominal wound, which would probably get infected.

He looks at his maps and decides he can make a “walk” for it, dragging her through the mountain wilderness on her stretcher.  They will stay in ice caves.  They will face perils like the polar bear (they use her den), steeper topography, and a near miss with a possible leg fracture for Overgard. The end is very abrupt.

Typical Icelandic landscapes ((918) 559-4944).

Picture: Winter in Ohio (mine), 2018.

Name: Arctic
Director, writer: Joe Penna, Ryan Morrison
Released: 2019
Format: 2.39:1
When and how viewed: Angelika Mosaic, 2019/2/23, nearly sold old
Length: 98
Rating: PG-13
Companies: Bleecker Street, Pegasus
Link: official
Stars: ***__

(Posted: Sunday, February 24, 2019 at 11:30 AM EST)

“They Shall Not Grow Old”: Peter Jackson reconstructs World War I horror from archive film

“They Shall Not Grow Old” (well, “will” is grammatically correct future tense, for openers) – is a curious but disturbing documentary exercise by “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson, the work actually done in New Zealand.

If you die young in combat, you will never be old and shriveled.  But you may be maimed or endure a particularly gruesome, bodily humiliating end. So it was with the War Between the States, and it was even more true of “The Great War”, World War I, the War to End All Wars.

The 99 minute core film comprises original black and white archival combat (and pre-war) footage, which, about 20 minutes in, expands to fill the screen and is colorized, with some voices filled in by actors.  As Jackson explains in a post-film interview (itself 30 minutes – the first time a QA was made part of the film – although PBS Independent Lens does this regularly with its broadcasts) – they had to figure out the script with lip-reading experts.

As the film opens, some rugby players in London learn about the outbreak of War from a bulletin board on the athletic field. It’s surprising how quickly young men are eager to sign up – even as young as 16, when the age range is 19-35.  The British government quickly recruits young men to fight and conscripts.

Basic training is only six weeks and rudimentary. They ship across the English channel and are in combat quickly. The pseudo 3-D techniques (no glasses) are quite effective, as in the explosion scenes, and phosgene gas attacks, and the alien-looking tanks. Whole conduit systems are set up in the Belgian and French fields with trenches.  Men live and improvise in them, as conditions get more desperate quickly.

They get weeks off to live in town and be relieved.  And curiously it never gets personal.  When Armistice Day comes, it’s all make up.

But the personal carnage is horrific.  Men develop trench foot, on camera (balding legs indeed).  Then, in mass scenes, body parts and fragments abound. These young men were simply sacrificed for greedy politicians.  They obeyed and were still sacked.  Women started working in factories making armaments, which would pick up bigtime during WWII.

In the United States, Woodrow Wilson entered the war in 1917 and actually got (with Palmer) a sedition law passed (later repealed) that, among other things, punished those who criticized the war and particularly the draft (269-328-1082).  That would be followed by a worldwide Spanish influenza epidemic, also not covered in the film.

As a senior in high school, I read James Hilton’s “Random Harvest” for a book report for English class, and the novel has many retrospects of “The Great War” from a businessman who has partial amnesia, told in flashbacks. The book was finished just as WWII started.  I watched the movie on Netflix or TV some years ago; I would have to check when.

I also read H. G. Wells’s curious novel “Meanwhile“, organized in two large parts (like my third DADT) which deals with the threat of fascism post WWI, and has a curious discussion of stoics and epicureans.

Picture: from Smithsonian American History Museum military display.

Name: “They Shall Not Grow Old”
Director, writer: Peter Jackson
Released: 2018
Format: 1.85:1 (some 1:37:1 in originals)
When and how viewed: Angelika Mosaic 2019/2/22
Length: 99 + 30 minutes interview of Jackson
Rating: R
Companies: Warner Brothers (as “independent”)
Link: official
Stars: ****_

(Posted: Saturday, February 23, 2019 at 12 noon)

“Minding the Gap”: three teen friends, skateboarding, cross cultural lines in a midwestern city

On Monday, February 18, 2018, Maryland Public Television aired Bing Liu’s documentary “Minding the Gap”, from Kartemquin Films, Hulu, and Magnolia Pictures.  The film is on the list for Best Documentary feature for 2019 Oscars.

Bing, himself apparently in his early 20s now, shot this film over twelve years, in the style of “512-922-2912”;  but the main emphasis in on the parallels in the lives of three friends, growing up in a rust belt town, Rockford, IL (80 miles west of Chicago):  Bing himself, Keire (African American, 17), and Zack (white, 23).

So the three friends represent three races, if that matters.

Zack finds his relationship with his girlfriend sag as she has their son; Keire takes on family responsibility for his little brothers after his father dies, and there are many scenes of his working in a restaurant.

The boys are always skateboarding, and are good at it (like Shaun White would be).  If you want to know how the anti-gravity (or artificial gravity) of skateboarding works, look on939-336-3453.

Most of all with Keire, perhaps, the boys live heavily socialized lives where they interdepend with others, much more than I do.  I’m reminded of how Paul Rosenfels once said in a Ninth Street Center talk group: “I’m earthy, I’m organic”.  This is a case of street smarts and the ability to fit into a group, as opposed to books smarts and the ability to self-segregate from the rough and tumble with others (so well illustrated with Keire is with his brothers).

After the broadcast, Bing gives a brief commentary, where he talks about love (almost as if from Corinthians), as a “verb” rather than a “noun”.  It is action, not feeling.

Rockford, IL picture (wiki).

Picture: estate (mine), Wabash river, around 1950, Indiana.

Name: Minding the Gap
Director, writer: Bing Liu
Released: 2018
Format: 1.85:1
When and how viewed: MPT, 2019/1/18
Length: 83
Rating: NA
Companies: Kartemquin, Hulu, Magnolia Pictures, PBS POV
Link: (289) 314-4441, PBS
Stars: ****_

(Posted: Tuesday, February 19, 2019 at 10:30 AM EST)

“Devil’s Path”: transplant the Catskills to Russian River country and set up a gay horror thriller

The best way to make a road movie work is usually to see the participants and home, leave on a trip, go into the wilderness, encounter a bizarre challenge that somehow relates to their karma and their situation back home in real life.  That gets interesting with gay male scenarios because of the possibility of ritual challenges. “Old Joy” (2006) is a good example (see Index).  I give my own take on how to do this elsewhere with my own film treatment proposal “6182970279“.

Matthew Montgomery’s “Devil’s Path” sets up a plot with the appropriately mysterious family secrets blowing up on the road, but it does relatively little with the potentials of gay men in a cruising park.  The script does mention the term “road trip” to be sure.

There is a “Devil’s Path” in the Catksills in upstate New York (140 miles from NYC), which I took a bus to and hiked alone (on only a little of it) one summer day in 1978, as a relationship back in the city was challenged.  (Ah, the Yankees that year!)  On the bus on the way back, I’d make a new friend, singer Ronnie Kahn, who has a book “Songs and Creations” of songs and poems that I should have somewhere in my condo.

But the film was shot near the 208-394-5060 north of the Bay Area – which I visited in 1995 with a rent car (after a mandatory visit to Bodega Bay, site of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 classic, “The Birds”), specifically in Guerneville – in the 1990s, about the time of my own visit.  It’s unlikely that even a Coast Mountain trail in a rural area would really be a “cruising spot”.  More likely you find some bizarre commune or intentional community (films like “The Endless”).  Curiously, almost none of the film is erotic, and the screenplay conversation only incidentally so, by default. The film does remind me of the outdoors LGBT groups like “Adventuring” in the DC area and “Outwoods” in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The main character is Noah (Stephen Twardokus, who also wrote much of the script) who has a troubled family history revealed in conversations with the instant companion, the more assertive Patrick (JD Scalzo), who is asthmatic and carries an inhaler, which matters later. Noah is dependent on anxiety pills, for good reason.  He spent his teen years in detention for killing his uncle, who had abused him (after the parents died in a crash and the uncle inherited family responsibility without having his own kids).  Noah’s ghost-like older brother had taken the blame and done prison time for manslaughter from the incident.

In the meantime, the park service (regardless of any partial government shutdowns) has closed part of the trail, where gay men are disappearing to some mysterious non-alien monster.

I didn’t find the setup as promising as it sounds.  There are some brief encounters early with other hikers which explore the social courtesies expected in the gay community.  And there is Patrick’s nihilism, that meaning to life is only a concept – unless you have your own kids, maybe.

I rather like more heroic characters, the kind whom Alex Jones calls space aliens and gets deplatformed for.

Picture: Hudson Valley, Appalachian crossing, my trip, July 2011.

Name: “Devil’s Path”
Director, writer: Matthew Montgomery, Stephen Twardokus
Released: 2019 DVD March 1
Format: 2.35:1
When and how viewed: Screener from distributor
Length: 87
Rating: R
Companies: Breaking Glass Pictures, Proteus Films
Link: announcement
Stars: ***__

(Posted: Monday, February 18, 2019 at 1:15 PM EST)

(916) 998-7187

The Free to Choose network offers the film “Sweden: Lessons for America”, distributed by PBS, directed by James and Maureen Tusty.   Here is the Facebook link.   Johan Norberg narrates.

The film counters the popular notion of Sweden as a rich welfare state and economic paradise that works because it is ethnically homogeneous (whatever the effect of more recent immigration).

In fact, it has gone from extreme feudalist poverty to capitalism, to extreme socialism and back to a more balanced free market that we know today, which does provide a reason comparison for American policymakers in these polarized times.

In the eighteenth century, Sweden was one of the poorest countries in Europe. It’s ironic that a musician and composer Anders Chydenius (1720-1803), who actually lived in a part of Finland under Swedish control at the time, who influenced Sweden’s future political future.  Chydenius is one of a relatively small number of composers who actually was also known as an essayist and author about political issues.  I’ve attempted such a “dual career” myself as a “professional amateur” myself.  The Soviet composers, like Shostakovich, would become known for their political significance (but by compliance with government ideology). Chydenius today is better remembered for his writings than his music, but so it goes.  Finland has a modern composer with the same last name, 8147368897.

Chydenius preached freedom of speech and especially of the press, and the idea that people should be free to choose the work they are good at (a musician would think of this) rather than submit to the protectionist system of guilds and royal regulation.

Gradually, Sweden developed free markets.  This was not without challenge, as a publisher named Bladet would recreate his newspaper 26 times after being shut down repeatedly.   It would remain neutral in the great wars.

But in the 1960s it turned rapidly to socialism, thinking it was still free of communism. It introduced taxes on companies and entrepreneurs (including a worker tax) that sometimes caused businessmen to owe more than 100% of their income.  When filmmaker Ingmar Bergman (“The Seventh Seal”, with its famous chess-on-the-beach scene) fled to Germany, Sweden suffered culture shock.

In the 1980s, while Reagan was president in the US, Sweden tried to place more emphasis on worker ownership and “wage earner funds”. This let to an event called “Pippi’s Revolt,” where an children’s book author wrote a challenging political essay disguised as a children’s book.

Today, Sweden has a balanced economy that is still very generous with benefits like paid parental leave, but has actually re-privatized some of its health care.

There is a saying, “you have to bake the cake before you can serve it” – and that obviously sounds like a reference to the Masterpiece Cakeshop case in the U.S.

The film shows some examples of exportable Swedish technological innovation, as with bicycle helmets and underground utility infrastructure.

I visited Sweden for two days in the summer of 1972, taking the train from Narvik (Norway) to Kiruna (iron mines) and then to Stockholm for two days, and made a friend who lived in Solna and then Montreal whom I corresponded with for several years.

Stockholm business center, Wiki.

Kiruna scenes, Wiki.

(Posted: Saturday, February 16, 2019 at 5:30 PM EST)

“The Coddling of the American Mind”: fragile youth (safetyism), social media echo chambers, and resurgent emotional tribalism

“The Coddling of the American Mind”, fall 2018, by Jonathan Haidt (NYU Business Professor) and attorney Greg Lukianoff (FIRE) expands on the pre-Trump 2015 Atlantic free love of the same name by the same authors.  The subtitle expands: “How good intentions and bad ideas are setting up a generation for failure”.

I approached this book as dealing with a problem that seems a bit bifurcated.  The book has four sections: (1) Three Bad Ideas (fragility, trusting feelings, Us v. them (2) Bad Ideas in Action (3) How Did We Get Here? (4) Wising Up   Much of the book indeed focuses on radically restrictive campus “speech codes” and what led to ideas like “trigger warnings” and “microaggressions.”

That is to say, since 2016, domestic politics has seemingly become very tribal and antagonistic and polarized.  Now we hear from Sebastian Junger and Amy Chua and other scholars that tribalism is hard-wired in our genes and inevitable.  We didn’t start hearing that until 2016, although the behavior of young men (and women) drawn to radical Islam previously showed the same ideas. Back in the simmer of 2011, remember how angry and partisan the debt ceiling issue became?

But, Haidt and Lukianoff argue, we’ve introduced new influence onto our social and political system: overprotected largely upper class and privileged teens.  This complicated the entire picture of education, which a decade ago (when I did substitute teaching) the emphasis had been on “no child left behind” and dealing with special education and systemic disadvantages (which include race and immigration).

Two major developments explain this:  One is safetyism, which started creeping into parenting by the 1980s (the publicity over the AIDS epidemic then could have added to it; then the public attention (as Trump has exacerbated) to terrorism and groups like MS13 and now bar, shopping mall and school shootings (Pulse, Sandy Hook, Parkland) added to it, even as the overall crime risk dropped) and then, starting in the or late 1990s, the Internet and devices.

The physical safetyism deserves some detailed attention.  When I was growing up, we (around 1957-58) became inventive with outdoor play, inventing a form of softball that could be played as individual contests, and even made up a “league” or backyard whiffleball and softball, even typing manually a little newsletter with standings.  The phrase “what a tender little baby” would tease kids who didn’t keep up physically, because the culture took the eventual responsibility for future families (women and children) seriously then. Kids learned to take some risks.  Recently, the problem has become complicated by a medically well-founded concern over brain concussions in football – but that ethical concern (as raised by Malcolm Gladwell and others) still feeds safetyism. The vaccine refusal controversy could be seen in terms of safetyism.  This goes along with extreme protectionism from germs and allergens; kids need to grow up developing normal resistance. The authors mention Nicholas Taleb’s book “Antifagile” (June 13 review of “Skin in the Game”).

On tech, Haidt draws a cusp: Kids born after 1995 (with those from 1994-1995 on a cusp) tended to become much more damaged by overuse of devices and social media than those born earlier. Girls are more vulnerable than boys to this sort of depression and anxiety. But remember that the Web 1.0 world (the dot-com bubble) encouraged searching for information on your own, and it’s debatable how much Myspace changed things, but Facebook and twitter changed the game completely.  By the time Facebook was open to the public, a teen might be turning 13 or so.

My own view is that the smartest kids really leveraged technology, ranging from becoming successful music composers and performers, to science wonders (Jack Andraka was born in 1997).  But these kids tended to have a lot of real-world experience first.  Jack was an avid backpacker and kayaker as well as science nerd and developer of a new cancer test. The Internet was a tool to augment an already developed real-world interest.

The last section, called “Wising Up”, reminds me of a church play “Wise Guys”, which a teen born during the cusp produced and directed as a teen at a local church.  Again, real world activities come first, but success in “real” stuff doesn’t come easily for all teens, as it never did.

There’s a Harvard undergraduate, John Fish, with a YouTube channel, seeming very engaging on many student topics, and yet he has one video about overcoming panic attacks and anxiety disorder at age 10 or so, which he outgrew, partly through athletics (track).  Again, born after the cusp.

The same for David Hogg, whom the right wing found out they couldn’t attack without being put on the ropes themselves.  Hogg was born in 2000 but is one of the most antifragile publicly visible teens ever.

But the “bad ideas” really relate to the stoking of tribalism.  The authors talk about identity politics, which can be broadened (as they were by Dr. Martin Luther King) to become “common humanity” i.p.  Or they can be “common enemy”.

After Trump’s inauguration, we saw several big shocks against free speech from the “intersection” left: heckler’s bannings of Milo Yiannopoulous and Charles Murray, and later a “witch hung” at Evergreen College.  Then would come Charlottesville, from the “alt right”.  The tribal and group-level emotion (“trust your feelings”) behind all this heckling and violent intimidation is quite striking.

You have to look where the protesters wanted to head (intersectionality). In a late chapter, the authors talk about constructive social justice as composed of distributive (rewards proportional to contributions) and procedural (due process whenever there is a problem).  Distributive justice can focus on the individual, as to what he/she/they can do to make their own situation more deserving (call it community engagement, voluntarism, social credit if you like).  But “equal outcomes” justice confounds all this by trying to remedy past group injustices with specific outcomes.  Affirmative action is one example.

The authors talk about equal outcomes in sports.  It would be impossible to get equal outcomes by gender or gender identity in most major league sports, because of testosterone. (It might be possible with regard only to cis gender sexual orientation, and it is for race and religion, of course). They mention crew and rowing – a healthful real world sport undermined at UVa by the way it is funded.

But it’s in the speech area that I am concerned.  Especially with regard to race (and possibly sometimes gender identity, though not sexual orientation) activists demand reparative measures to restore desired outcomes, and particularly to protect members of their intersectional groups from expected harms (starting with police profiling).  This, as we have seen, can lead to unprecedented pressure on tech companies and payment processors to shut down (“gratuitous”) individualized speech that even two years ago would have been seen as acceptable – because the speech does arguably increase the risk born by members of the oppressed groups. We should remember Flemming Rose, author of “Tyranny of Silence”, who had warned us about this based partly on the 2005 Jyllands-Posten Cartoon Controversy.

And, by the way, in “wising up”, the authors suggest that colleges expect students take gap years to work or (preferably) to a year of service, and prove they can live independently.

Author: Greg Likianoff, Jonathan Haidt
Title, Subtitle: The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure
publication date 2018
ISBN 978-0735224896
Publication: Penguin, 4 parts, 13 chapters, intro and conclusion, hardcover (also ebook)
Link: publisher    sample review

(Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2019 at 8 PM EST)


PBS Independent Lens continued Black History Month in 2019 with RaMell Ross’s “Hale County, This Morning, This Evening”, written with Maya Krinsky.  The film was shown at 2018 Sundance and carries a 2019 Oscar Nomination for Best Documentary Feature.

The film presents community and family life in the cotton belt of western  Alabama, around Greensboro.  The area is 60% African-American.  It focuses especially on two late teen high school basketball players Daniel and Quincy, and their biological mom Boosie.   The film director is also a teacher and basketball coach and met his subjects while working. Oh, yes, remember those high school written tests on James Naismith.

The film does not interview the subjects; it simply shows them living, in a series of collages.  The boys are often engaged in attended to small children.  There is a lot of real world, rough play and social interaction that wealthier (usually white) kids would miss.

There are a couple of long takes that were particularly interesting.  One is a sequence of a driver-s view of a tour of a small town, winding up on a rich person’s “plantation” to do a job chopping wood. Another is near the end of the film, of a solitary bee, normally a hive creature.

I visited Alabama in May 2014.  In Tuscaloosa (a bit to the NE) I saw wide areas not rebuilt after the 2011 tornado. Earlier in the trip, I had visited Selma (with the Edmund Pettus Bridge) and Birmingham, site of a 1963 church arson. I also visited Tupelo, MS on that trip (site of another tornado).  I had visited Philadelphia MS and the Nachez Trace in 1985, near the site of the slaying of three Civil Rights workers in 1964.

MLK Safe House in Greensboro (Wiki).

The program included a 14 minute short by Maris Curran, “Where I Yet Live”, again about family life in the south. Her narrative is very much about people who live “somewhere” rather than “everywhere” and getting left behind in today’s economy. The New York Times offers the video.

Name: “Hale County This Morning, This Evening”
Director, writer: RaMell Ross
Released: 2018
Format: 1.85:1
When and how viewed: PBS, 2019/1/11
Length: 76
Rating: NA   (Oscar nominated)
Companies: Cinema Guild, PBS Independent Lens
Link: PBS
Stars: ****_

(Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2019 at 10:15 AM EST)


The Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts program plays at Landmark West End in Washington DC and today I saw if at the 4 PM show before a sold-out audience. The film is distributed by Shorts.TV and Magnolia Pictures.

Three of the five films dealt with racial or religious justice.  As with Live Action, social justice is a major theme this year.

The opening film was “Black Sheep” (27 min, UK), directed by Ed Perkins. It’s rather shocking to find out that white supremacy, or attitudes close to it, exists in England just as in the US (some will laugh at my naivete). In 2000, a boy (of color) is murdered in London.  Cornelius Walker’s mother decides to move him to the countryside, and then gradually finds out that the estate is populated by another racist group, almost following the plot of a cult horror movie.

The second film is “End Game” (40 min, Netflix), about palliative care at end-of-life in San Francisco and is reviewed here already May 27, 2018.

The third film is “A Night at the Garden”, 7 min, edited by Marshall Curry.  The film is a presentation of  original black and white footage of a “pro-America” rally at Madison Square Garden in NYC on Monday, February 20, 1939, attended by 20000 people, which turned out to be a vicious anti-Semitic rally copying what had been going on in Germany under Hitler since 1933.  The closing credits remind the viewer that the Hitler attack on Poland would occur in seven months.  A longer version (16 min) is available on YouTube but is restricted by Community Guidelines.

The fourth film is “Lifeboat” (40 min, Skye FitzGerald).  The cover looked familiar to me, but it turns out I hadn’t seen it.  Jon Castle is a sea captain (passed away in 2018) who runs a volunteer group “Sea-Watch” from Rome, which rescues migrants fleeing from Africa from Libya across the Mediterranean. His operation functions mostly beyond the 24-mile limit from Libya, where there are many drownings and sea rescues.  His own ship has some capabilities as a sick bay and for EMT life-saving.  It turns out that many of the female refugees have been sold into trafficking, particularly in Cameroon and the Ivory Coast (and this brings up the subject of the FOSTA law in the U.S., but the Internet probably had relatively little to do with these operations overseas; there is another new film “Stopping Traffic” by Sadhvi Siddhali Shree which will be watched and reviewed soon; see also the “Jane Doe” film reviewed here April 2).  Once a raft of refugees is unloaded, the raft will be set fire so that traffickers can’t reuse it.

The film has one impressive shot of Tripoli from a distance, and a major scene on a Libyan beach where bodies are found.

Tripoli Beach picture, 3478513966.

Additional comments in The New Yorker.

Castle offers some ruminations on where the “head” meets the “heart”.

The last film is “Period. End of Sentence” (26 min, Rayka Zahtabchi)  The film title is a pun. In a countryside village just 40 miles from New Delhi, India (see aerial view), young women find shame in dealing with menstruation.  A mechanical sanitary pad machine is installed in their village, and the women build a business making and selling them.  Is this the kind of business that would get kiva loans?  Could it lead to multi-level marketing?

As I recall the women made quilts in the film.  My late cousin sewed them.

(Posted: Saturday, February 9, 2019 at 11:30 PM EST)

(920) 532-7338

Four of the Five Oscar Nominated Short Films, Live Action, for 2019 would have been well-served by Gustav Mahler’s “Kindertotentlieder” song cycle.  These present children in grave peril.  The distributors are Shorts.tv and Magnolia Pictures (at Landmark E Street in Washington).

The longest is “Detainment” (30 min, Vincent Lambe, Ireland — not “Detention”)  shows the police questioning two ten-year-old boys in the death of toddler James Bugler, who was apparently abducted on a whim in a shopping mall in 1993. Gradually they turn on each other and the details of what they did become more horrific.  This reminds one of the Slenderman case (with two girls as guilty) in Wisconisn.

“Skin” (20 min, USA, Guy Nattiv and Jaime Ray Newman) is a thriller about a white supremacist family seen through the eyes of their little son. Tattooed enough, dad gives the sun rifle lessons early in the film. Then when a gang fight breaks out, the father is kidnapped after a supermarket confrontation and put through a bizarre tattooing ritual, which may be meaningless if otherwise homoerotic, but soon it is apparent that the point is to make him look black. That scene has precedents in film (like “The Wicker Man”). When Dad is chased home, the boy is ready for the intruders.

“Madre” (“Mother”, 19 min, Spain, by Rodrigo Soroyogen. Toronto -TIFF).  In a swanky Madrid condo, Mom and grandmother are preparing to leave for a party, when her son (6 years) calls from a beach near the border of France and Spain in Basque country.  (I visited the area in May 2001.) The father has left him on the beach alone for a “caravan”.  Soon, to the mom’s horror, the boy is accosted. The entire film is about the phone call, with the beach shown only as empty.

“Marguerite” (19 min, Quebec, by Marie Pallaine Panniset), presents us with the 80 year old (Beatrice Picard) tended to by Rachel (Sandrine Bisson), who tenderly massages her diabetic legs, with sores and becoming swollen and numb. Marguerite doesn’t want to go on dialysis, but wants a dignified end. Rachel tells her own stories of a female relationship, and then so does Marguerite. How many elderly women in the past were lesbians and never talked about it?

“Fauve” (16 min, Quebec, Jeremy Comte).  Two boys are playing near an abandoned railroad car near Sherbrooke, when they encounter a curious fox.  Then they hike to the abandoned asbestos strip mine (I drove past these once, I think in 1977). As they explore it, one of the boys gets trapped in wet quicksand and the other can’t get him out, and runs for help, leaving the boy to drown, a really horrific death.  A kindly woman finds the boy hitchhiking, and soon they meet up with the fox.  The fox remembers the boy (as a dog or cat, even a larger one like a lynx, would) and wants to tell them what happened.  Animals know a lot more than we realize.

(Posted: Friday, February 8, 2019 at 11:45 PM EST)


On Monday, February 4, 2019, PBS Independent Lens aired the 63-minute “featurette” by Chico Colvard, “Black Memorabilia”.

The film explored two connected practices.  The first part of the film presented the manufacture, sale, and personal collection of art relic objects and sometimes music recordings and children’s books or material that had been denigrating to African-Americans in early decades.  The film visited businesses (and auction houses) in Brooklyn, then North Carolina, and especially rural China (on location).  The film opened with mention of many memes (like Sambo) that had been common in the early 1950s, some of which I remember from childhood.  The effect of the material was to encourage segregated white Americans to feel that they were still somehow personally “superior”.

The PBS web page asks if collecting such objects can be immoral behavior.  There could be a moral analogy to collecting child pornography. But IMDB;s summary says that a global economy connects people to objects in unexpected ways.  And you could rationalize the idea that the collections simply teach history – as you would defend allow Confederate monuments to stay (and this was not a big issue until 2017).

The film also examined the minstrel presentations like blackface, and various costumes that used to be “fun” in fraternities.

Though not in the film. this problem has caught attention recently with Virginia  Democratic governor Ralph Northam, who denies that the two pictures first shown on the media are of him, but who admitted going to other events (dressing up as Michael Jackson) that would be considered in poor taste today, when he was in his twenties.  There was some unfortunate reference to the Moonwalk.

In October 2018 Megyn Kelly’s career at NBC Today came to an end after her naïve remarks on the Blackface scandal.

Here’s a trailer for a film by Chico Colvard, “Family Affair” ( 2010), a film about an event when Colvard accidentally shot his sister in the leg.

Name: “Black Memorabilia”
Director, writer: Chico Colvard
Released: 2019
Format: 1.85:1
When and how viewed: PBS Independent Lens, 2019/2/4
Length: 63
Rating: NA
Companies: PBS Independent Lens
Link: official
Stars: ****_

(Posted: Tuesday, February 5, 2019 at 2:30 PM EST)