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Film Festival Day 17: Sunday, 12/08/2012

The final day of the festival.  Due to careless programming, a whole lot of running back and forth between venues today  And back to work as normal tomorrow.  I’m relieved.  I’ll miss it.

Film #83: Pink Ribbons, Inc.

This was a really interesting film. For example, did you know the original breast-cancer awareness ribbons were a salmon/peach sort of colour, and became pink only because the campaigner who created them refused to let corporations market them? They decided to make their own, and focus-groups told them that pink was the best, most appealing colour.

There is a lot of this – Avon splitting off a charitable trust that shares its name, to sponsor runs and other fund-raising… which goes towards “cures” (that is, treatments, which means pharma dollars) and early detection (which leads to treatments, which means pharma dollars), rather than research into how to prevent cancers from occurring in the first place (like banning various chemicals from use in cosmetics).

Pink ribbons are being used as cross-marketing opportunities for things like grilled chicken from KFC, draining off anxieties by pushing women to choose one brand over another, rather than getting them to push for research about what is causing cancer, or to change laws to remove known carcinogens from products. A side affect of telling women, “You can beat this, if you try!” is that those that don’t beat it mustn’t have tried hard enough. And the lack of coordination and large buckets of money sloshing around means that there are significant amounts of repeated and redundant research, the film contends.

I’m not sure I agree with everything in the film, but there were certainly a bunch of interesting things in it

Film #84: The Last Ocean

A film about the campaign to stop the catching of “Chilean Sea Bass” (or Patagonian toothfish) from the Ross Sea. Basically, there’s good evidence that the area is being just as overfished as everywhere else, with scientific catch-and-release sampling falling from hundreds caught a month prior to the fishing fleets, to just five a month now. (Although the nations involved, including New Zealand, claim that it’s incredibly well managed.)

One interesting contrast to the previous film was the role of the chain store Safeway. Someone inside the corporation decided that, despite having official approval as sustainable, this wasn’t a fish that they were willing to stock. This seems to me to be a better use of corporate power than the examples in Pink Ribbon Inc.; it gives the corporation publicity for doing the right thing, it reduces demand directly, and gives publicity to the cause.

One thing that it refreshing about this protest is that it can actually happen. I mean, politicians and the affected industry are being self-serving and/or evasive, but it’s all out in the open, where people can see it, and no-one is going to get arrested for holding an unpopular opinion (though they might get pulled up in front of the press council by a complaint). After seeing all these other films in more repressive countries, it’s refreshing to not have to worry about the safety of the film-maker.

The film had beautifully shot footage, plenty of relevant information, and was well put together. The issue is still unresolved, though both New Zealand and the United States have (limited) proposals to reduce fishing. There’s a website with more information available.

Film #85: A Bitter Taste of Freedom

Unfortunately, the film-maker was present for the previous documentary, and the length of his introduction meant that I was 15 minutes late to this film, even though I ran from the Paramount to the Film Archive (and didn’t stay for the Q&A). This is a real shame, because all of the film that I caught was really good.

Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in 2006. This is a fact that colours the whole film. She was a journalist, and had a special interest in the disenfranchised, including refugees; this is a dangerous interest to have in Putin’s Russia, especially since she became famous for her advocacy for Chechnyan refugees and victims.

The documentary didn’t exclude her critics, though it wasn’t particularly kind to them, insofar as their idiocy wasn’t edited out. For example, one author criticized her book for having only evil Special Forces soldiers and good and noble Chechnyans; and then said something like, “But what can you expect? Women cannot write objectively about war, and will always get emotionally involved.”

I wanted to give his smug face a good slap.

She seemed funny, smart, passionate, and human. The bits of footage where she talked about meeting a boyfriend in Norway (or where a colleague described her talking about him) were heart-warming, and it is a real tragedy and loss that she’s dead.

I think I might try and find this, so I can get to watch the first 15 minutes. It was good.

Film #86: Mantrap

This was the silent film of the festival; another quick run back got me there in time to hear most of the pre-show ramble, and to watch A Better Man, the 11-minute short where the stereotype of the shifty Mexican is thoroughly subverted.

But to the plot of the main piece – a divorce lawyer is sick of the sort of woman he has to deal with at work, and agrees to go on a trip into the northern wilderness with a neighbouring businessman. Meanwhile, Clara Bow’s character, an incurable flirt, marries a keeper of a general store in the remote town of Mantrap. When the store-owner separates the two businessmen (to keep them from beating each other to a pulp after two weeks of forced cohabitation), the young woman immediately starts her campaign to charm the lawyer, so that she can get back to civilization.

Laura Bow is adorable. There are plenty of amusing bits, the common-place props (like celluloid detachable collars, used in a minor gag) are cool, and the offensive stereotypes of the Native Americans are a reminder of a different time. And the music was well done, too, though I’d be interested in hearing a more traditional arrangement as well.

I enjoyed this.

Film #87: The Sapphires

A pretty typical girl-band-makes-good story, except that the place that they make good is Vietnam, and the prejudice they face is as Aborigines, rather than African Americans (though that is referenced as well). The abduction of Aboriginal children is a plot-point, and the assassination of Martin Luther King turns up as well.

It was funny, friendly, and fun, as well as being based on a true story.

Film 88: Holy Motors

I could just about make a coherent sci-fi backstory for what we saw – something along the lines of a group of people who are employed to enact little slices of drama, coming together in different combinations to act out various bizarre or mundane scenarios, which are watched by hidden cameras for an unseen audience (and/or passers-by, possibly). But that doesn’t account for… well, a whole lot of stuff.

There were numerous sly touches – the headstones imploring you to “Visit my website”, with names that (I believe) turn up as later characters; or using a Kylie Minogue song at a party and as a ringtone in one “appointment”, and then having the singer turn up as another… actor? Operative?

I think that it was a clever film, but I think I’ll need a break before I’d want to watch it again.

* * *

And that’s a wrap for another year.

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